Soul Care is caring for the whole person. Every part of our lives matters. Everything about us needs care. Everything that is alive needs and requires care. Plants, animals, our bodies and our souls need care to thrive. You are not the exception. We cannot live our lives on auto-pilot—running our lives on empty feeling tired, depleted and upset and call this experience—the abundant life.
Soul Care is about sustaining life and providing ancient pathways to experience true life! We are not machines. For a life of meaning; a life that is sustainable; a life that is worthy to be lived—care is required. Care is the intentional practice of giving attention, grace, love and foster resiliency.Soul Care is the intentional practice of integrating all aspects of the human experience: physical, relational, emotional, sexual and vocational. These core aspects of our human existence form the real me—the real soul of a person. Each area needs care. Each area needs attention. As the Christian writer, C.S. Lewis says, “You do not have a soul. You are soul.”
If you are wondering why I did not list a "spiritual" category to our souls, please keep reading.
One of the reasons that soul care has emerged today as a compelling theme and mandate for people is because many of us are awakening to how running of lives on empty; living an over-committed and life dogged by the tyranny of the urgent is leaving us tired and depleted. We survive. Thriving seems too far off--not actually even possible. The exhausted life is not the abundant life. Life, as we are living it, is not sustainable. We’re feeling the edge is just ahead and we want to stop before we go over. We want to live before we die.
What is the soul? The soul has no silos. Everything within us is connected. No parts of our lives stand alone or exist in a box. One part of us affects the other parts. It’s as if these aspects of our lives are connected by rubber bands. When there is tension in one area of our lives, we literally feel it or sense it all over. Everything starts to shake a little. There are not walls within us dividing us up into pieces or sections. When the Psalmist said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me (Ps. 103:1), He was telling us that “all” that is within him rises up to bless the Lord. All is every aspect; every part; every faction of his being---all together in his soul.
As we know when we see images of an iceberg about 90% of the iceberg is not seen. The vast iceberg we see is only showing about 1/10 of it’s entire being. It’s the same for the soul. We are far, far more than what we see. Every person you live with, work with, play with and relate to has a life going on that we do not see initially.Take a look at this image of an iceberg showing that most of the iceberg is not seen. The visible me is what you see when you first notice or look at me or another person. But there is far, far more to a soul than the color of the shirt we wear or style of our clothes. As we know, looks can be deceiving. So it is in see the whole person.
The practice of caring for one’s soul involves unlearning and de-constructing a paradigm that says: “I go to church to care for my soul. I go to my lawyer to keep me legal. I go to a mechanic to keep my car running well. I go to my CPA to keep my on track financially. I go to the gym to take care of my body.” No, soul care is a whole other paradigm that views all of life as spiritual—all of life as connected. Just as David prayed, “Lord, give me an undivided heart that I might praise your name (Ps. 86:11), in the practice of soul care we seek to live undivided and see that our money or the lack of it affects our soul; our medical condition affects our soul and our healthy or unhealthy relationships affects our soul.If I’m not doing well in my marriage, then I’m not doing well.
If I’m not feeling well in my body, then I’m not doing well. If things are going poorly at work, then I’m not doing well.Seeing ourselves as a whole, integrated, alive souls is where caring for your soul begins. Otherwise, we will manage our silos while neglecting some aspects of our lives. We might work hard but might be gaining weight, have physical challenges and setting ourselves up for failure or danger, as is often the case. I might be awesome at work getting good performance evaluations but as we know, there are not performance reports at home, in parenting or in friendship. I might be broke financially but also be bankrupt in friendship. Caring for the soul is making the connection between the vital and important aspects of our lives and living as a whole, unified soul where everything is connected.Within each of us, we will find areas of our lives that we seemed to have been asleep to—not giving much thought, attention or care.
For many years, I think I was asleep to my body. I never really gave my body attention or perhaps the care my body needed. I’m late to waking up to this. In my awakening comes a deeper desire to be healthy—to live healthy and to work in a healthy way. These untended areas fester. We feel dis-ease. Our neglect, ignorance or living in a coma causes us to pay a hefty price in our souls. We may have a physical blowout in a disease. WE may erupt emotionally. We may stuff our grief and see the lava pour out of us even onto other people in unhealthy and inappropriate ways. The price we pay, soul wise is staggering. We are the most medicated people group in the history of the world yet so much unhappiness, social discord and conflict. Something is wrong.
The Inner Struggle. Perhaps, something or some event in our past story is giving us pause-- that we feel exorbitant shame and guilt about. We may feel stuck. We may feel dead inside or paralyzed, unable to move forward. It could be suppressed anger, on-going grief over a loss or death of someone or something important. We can fall asleep to our health and then get a medical report that jars us into turning things around. We can fall asleep to our marriages and coast for decades not giving attention or care to the most intimate of all human relationships. An affair, addiction, a slow drifting apart that one of the partner confesses can bring an awakening—can bring a renewed desire to care for the relationship. Wake up calls are all soulful calls and invitations to live in a better way. Look at these aspects of the soul:
Physical—your well being in terms of your health or lack of health
Relational—your close relationships, marriage, children, parents.
Emotional—your feelings of how you are doing inside.
Vocational—your contentment, satisfaction with work.
Sexual—your level of intimacy beyond the act of sex.
I am hesitant to put a “spiritual” aspect here because often, this is a box that we are most familiar with in our spiritual lives. Church and our spiritual lives are often equated with attendance and involvement. But are there not other categories we can awaken to that foster spiritual growth and intimacy with God? I think so. I know so. I believe that our spiritual life is the composite of each aspect of our lives and soul care is recognizing that each and every aspect of who we are needs care. Nothing can run on autopilot, remember?
The Violence Within. We are news savvy to hear reports of crime and warring factions happening around us and in the world today. Yet, as the prolific literary monk, Thomas Merton observed, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands; to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.” Soul care is the practice of care and attention to our inner violence and our inner world as much as the life we see above the waterline.Unresolved trauma and unexplored stress in our soul can intensify into toxic trauma, self-hatred and self-rejection. Something done to us or something withheld from us is labeled abuse but often we do not connect the dot that this abuse was done to us—our souls. When Jesus healed the woman who was hemorrhaging for years, we’re told that the woman told Jesus her “whole” story (see Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48). Knowing and telling our whole story helps us unpack the stuff that we have stuffed that might be affecting us emotionally, physical or making it hard to have and sustain healthy relationships. Telling our whole story is the genesis for healing, connecting the dots to a larger narrative going on in our lives that we may not have been aware or awakened to.
Waking Up to Our Soul. Growing in awareness to what the soul is starting point. We simply will not care for that which we do not understand. The more I understand the soul—the real me—the whole me—the more I will find the ground of motivation to start caring for my soul.Caring for the soul is not something that you add to our already crowded lives. The way we begin is by subtraction—not addition. We learn to take away things from our lives that are draining us; robbing us and holding us captive. Too much time on this—too much time on that. Too much of my nights spent on emails and too little rest.
Soul care begins with this one premise: I must create space for my soul to thrive. To create space means to give attention, time and care to see myself as whole and to live as a whole human being not just a human doing. Soul Care does not happen in a vacuum. It is the intentional choice I make each day to live with my soul in mind. To love my neighbor as myself and to give self-compassion to myself as I live my days, which become my weeks and years. It all adds up. Soul Care is a daily practice of waking up; giving attention and becoming intentional to live different and to be different. To live well. To lead well. To love well are all important ingredients in soul care.Spiritual growth is often misunderstood right here. We wrongly assume that we have to do more; do it better and keep getting caught up in the lists of ‘to-dos’. But soul care begins with another paradigm. What can you free yourself from to create space for your soul? This is the key question of learning to care for your soul. Less, not more is the way.Start with this: What can I subtract from my life in order to be more intentional about the care of my soul and the care of the souls of those I love and am living out my life with right now?That is the beginning. That is care.
To learn more about Soul Care, please consider the new streaming version of Soul Care 101. It's simple. Easy to use and practical. Each of the 8 session is 15 minutes with Gwen and me talking about aspects of caring for your soul. We recommend this highly for individual and group use.
Here's the link to consider and it is also available in a easy to use
if internet is a challenge for you. Here's a free introductory short video explaining Soul Care 101.