I think this post will be a bit meandering and not perfectly composed, but my spirit has something to say, so I’m sayin’ it. There’s a lot of soul-suffering and it’s time to shift to soul-satisfying.
It’s World Mental Health Day (October 10th), and I’m reflecting on what I see in our nation and our planet. I could talk about anxiety or depression, the epidemic of loneliness, and mental health tips to feel better.
But all I can think about is our souls.
I see a lot of soul-suffering here in Silicon Valley. People feeling alone and disconnected. Some are feeling lost, without a sense of community. I sometimes feel this, too. It’s hard to connect with people that are too busy, too tired, have too long of a commute, that work all day and then come home and work from home into the evening. People who, in other parts of the country would be doing quite well, but here struggle to make ends meet in a very expensive place to live. It’s stressful and discouraging.
Life has become out of balance. We’ve bought into the idea that we need to be busy and “successful”, whatever that means – or at least look like it. Our self-esteem has become based on this appearance of being busy and important. Our schedules are constantly overloaded with things to achieve, not to mention taking care of a family or trying to get to the gym. We have defined ourselves by outward appearances. Then, we’re so wiped out that we choose even more soul-draining activities because they’re convenient, like TV or our devices.
Do all of our “doings” check the boxes for our self-worth? Do we ever feel truly fulfilled by this busy-ness, by our job title, by our long list of to-dos? Or does this simply serve to stress us out, never exiting the hamster wheel?
You know what my answer is. Our souls are sitting by, wondering when we will come back to ourselves, each other, and The Divine. Our souls are suffering, my friends. And it’s time to redirect ourselves to what truly fulfills our soul and brings us inner peace. These are the questions I sit with, and I answer in my life.
Yes, I have struggled with being too busy. I feel that pull that many of us have, to do more and accomplish my goals. I’ve achieved a lot by some standards. But I am also well aware that doing more doesn’t bring me peace or sustainable happiness. It just gets me addicted to doing more. The hamster wheel rolls on, and I remain constantly out of breath.
So every once in a while – OK, more like several times a week – I take a step back and remind myself of things that are soul-satisfying. That heal my heart and spirit, and connect me to something greater than myself, something meaningful, beautiful, and inspiring.
Our spirit needs us to stop. Not from ever doing anything, but to just stop, be, in the present moment, and feel. When we’re here in this present moment, opening our heart, and feeling our place in the Universe, we can feel belonging and wholeness that nothing else will provide.
What are the things that bring a feeling of inner fulfillment and peace for me, that have little or nothing to do with more “doing”?
- Sitting outside, listening to and watching birds
- Planting seeds and tending my garden
- Feeling the sun on my skin
- Watching trees blow in the breeze
- Feeling waves touch my feet on the beach
- Quietly sitting together with a loved one
- Laughing with my daughter
- Hiking through a redwood forest
- Listening to a good friend, and being listened to
- Doing my own yoga practice, quietly attentive to my body and breath
- Dancing with abandon
- Drawing mandalas, or scribbling recklessly
- Expressing gratitude to the Earth and to the Divine
- Feeling love in my heart
- Offering service to others
- Sitting in a circle of others of like mind, sharing from our hearts
- Hearing wisdom and inspiration from a teacher
I realize that, as I connect to my heart and soul, I could continue to add more to my list. So my question to all of us is, why do we spend so much time doing things that don’t really fill our souls? Do we believe we “have to” in order to survive?
Are we living, or just surviving? Is that what your soul wants?
We can still keep our jobs and businesses, but reorient our lives in a way that makes more sense. An unending to-do list and working 16 hours a day isn’t sensible, healthy, or fulfilling. We are here to live and thrive, not to survive and torture ourselves.
Your soul doesn’t have to keep suffering. You can choose to reorient your time and energy to bring more joy and meaning to your life. To focus on the simple things that are truly fulfilling, that bring you alive, and put your life back into balance.
It may not be easy at first. It may even take a systemic change, where our institutions and corporations need to be challenged. Working more hours isn’t necessarily productive and isn’t sustainable. The cost of living has to be addressed, so that people don’t have to work 2 or 3 jobs to pay the rent. We may have to find ways to set boundaries around our time and energy, and present a new paradigm: that people who have more balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lives create productive, effective workplaces.That kind of change will take a while, but it can be done.
And there is much we can do in the meantime with what time we have, and our choices with what we do with that time and energy.
I invite you to make a list of what fills your soul. You can call it your Soul-Satisfying List, or whatever works for you. Think about what makes your heart sing, what brings ease and calm, what fills you with a sense of connection and meaning. Choose things that aren’t really about achievement and doing, but focused more on being. Being in your heart and soul. What deepens your sense of Oneness and relationship to something greater than you?
Keep your list nearby to remind you of what matters. Attending to these things will do more for your mental health and overall well-being than doing the long list of “shoulds” that you probably have in your head.
Your heart and soul are calling to you. Listen and respond. I’d love to hear what is soul-satisfying to you.