Sunday, April 10, 2011

5 Ways to Feed Your Soul

     What feeds your soul?  What fills your life with light, energy and joy?  Everyone needs something that recharges them - from the inside out.  For some that is exercise, for others meditation, yoga, music, church, prayer, dance, working in the garden, running, being in nature, swimming, floating.  It's simply not enough to check the boxes, whether there are many things going right in your life or not. 

     At New England Pet Hospice, we deal with many sad, difficult, heart breaking moments every day.  How do we keep from burning out?  How do we stay enthusiastic and passionate about animal hospice?  We are committed to recharging and feeding our inner life, our soul, our self.

     If you don't know what works for you, we encourage you to explore.  See what feels good.  There isn't a formula that works for everyone and it isn't something we can instruct you how to do.  But we can offer some ideas and suggestions for things that work for us and we have seen help others:

     1.  Music.  Music for my entire life has been a soul satisfying medium.  Now don't get me wrong: I have no musical talent, my voice could make mirrors shatter (and not in the good way), and my family claims they have never met anyone with less inherent sense of rhythm.  I don't care.  I love music.  I love to get into the car and crank it up so loud that I can't hear how bad my own voice truly is.  Singing until my voice is hoarse has long been therapy for me.  Don't let the fact that you aren't a musical prodigy stop you from enjoying the music, feeling it in your body, and singing to your heart's content.

     2.  Nature.  Where is the place you feel most at peace?  The ocean?  The mountains?  The woods?  The garden?  Go there.  And sit.  Feel the air, smell the sounds, become intensely aware of being in that space, one with it, every sound, sensation, smell and feeling.  Lose yourself in it.

     3.  Exercise.  This is not the exercise you are "supposed to do", the stuff that feels like torture or for which you have every excuse in the world not to do.  This is the exercise that you do because it feels good, because you look forward to going, because you can get lost there.  What makes your body feel good?  There was a time in my life when that meant riding horses.  Such an intense experience, feeling connected with every step, no time to obsess over my own problems.  The feeling of a partnership with an animal.  My riding days are over now, but I know my body craves that experience.  I love Yoga, but that wasn't it.  And then one day I woke up and decided I wanted to dance.  Now recall my inherent lack of rhythm?  My less-than-ideal body type?  My complete lack of coordination?  I just didn't care and I went for it, taking Nia lessons.  And I love it.  It's not about being good; it's about feeling good.

     4.  Art.  Can you remember how amazing it felt to finger paint as a child?  Before you were told that your painting had to resemble something - exactly - and you found you couldn't meet that standard?  When it was just about color and texture and mixing everything all together?  That is art.  Get yourself some finger paints.  Make a collage.  Purchase yourself some real clay.  Buy a canvas and paints.  Just like I woke up wanting to dance one day, I also woke up and wanted to paint.  Believe me, if you think  my dancing is bad, you have yet to see my artwork.  Stick figures were about as far as I ever got.  When I went to the art store and bought an actual canvas, real artist brushes and tubes of paint, I felt like a phony and wondered when someone would tell me to get out of this store intended for artists.  I almost didn't do it.  But then I found a quiet time and place with no one watching over my shoulder.  A place where the process of making my painting was more important than how it came out and I got lost in color and form, feeling and playing.

     5.  Spirituality.  I don't put this last because I think it is unimportant, but because I don't want to lose those of you for whom organized religion is not a significant part of your life.  Maybe you never had religion.  Maybe the organized religion of your childhood so traumatized you that now you disavow all religion.  Or maybe your place of worship is the center of your life.  But religion is not what I am talking about here.  I am talking about spirituality that fills and feeds your soul - wherever and however you find it.  That might be singing in the choir, attending service, participating in a drum circle, meditating on a mountian top, being with others who share your values, attending a music concert, talking to a spiritual advisor, reading texts that speak to you, or one of any number of other activities.  I grew up in a family for whom "religion" was a dirty word, a crutch used by weak people and those who needed justification for their otherwise abominable actions.  Yet there was always something in me that needed more than the secular.  I found a spiritual home in the Unitarian-Universalist tradition.  It's not right for everyone, but it is right for me.  When I am there, my heart and my soul are recharged, ready to take on the moments and week ahead.  Today, we had music Sunday featuring gospel music that gave me goosebumps and that I will be humming for a long time.  And I feel ready to take on the week ahead.  Don't let anyone, any religion, any experience steal from you your inherent right to be fulfilled spiritually in any way that works for you.

     Please, I'm begging you, take the time to find what works for you.  It may be one of these ideas, all of them, none of them.  It doesn't matter.  Give yourself permission to try, to play, to experience, to find what speaks to you in your life where you are today.  Let go of the pressure to do what others expect, what you are "supposed" find fulfilling, being good at it, meeting some expectation or standard.  This is for you and only you: feed your heart and soul regularly.

"Ain't no mountain you can't climb
ain't no answer you can't find.
All you need is a hand to hold.
It'll heal your body
and feed your soul."

~ excerpt from "Hand It Over" (song) 
words & music by Kevin Moore

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