When people speak of “living soulfully”, of “soulful routines” or “listening to your soul voice” we may sense on some level what they mean but it’s perhaps a difficult concept to get our head around because of the intangible nature of soul or spirit.
Much like our thoughts, our soul doesn’t exist in a physical sense - we can’t hold it, touch it, smell it or taste it. But we can feel it and through this felt sense - we can listen to it.
Many of us know all too well the impact that thoughts can have on our physical body - we only need to look at the physiological effects of stress and it’s pretty clear. As with thoughts, our soul can have a very real impact and presence in our physical reality - if we open up to its subtleties.
I want to describe what soul means to me because the word soul is becoming a big part of my offerings as a coach. It’s about going deep within to notice and listen to our inner life. Just because something is invisible doesn’t mean it doesn't exist. We are so distracted by exterior, visible realities that we may only be dimly aware that anything is going on within us.
In my own experience, connecting with this invisible but very real part of myself has taken place through my physical body. I acknowledge this is not the only way to get there. By living in an embodied way through the practices of yoga - that is, being present for the sensations, feelings and aliveness that are happening in my body moment to moment - I can notice the subtle changes there.
The Bhagavad Gita says:
‘Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self’.
To the soul. To the truth of who we are.
When I’m feeling energised, grounded, calm, or expansive in my body and mind I KNOW that I’m aligning with my soul and with the creative energy that animates us all. I know and feel in these moments that I am a small piece of the Divine whole. Just as we all are. I remember where I came from. In these moments I am awake and aware of what's going on at a subtle level in my energetic body. For me at this point in my journey to the self, energy and emotion are the language of my soul.
When I’m feeling “off” - disconnected, scattered, moody, contracted, low in energy or stressed I know I’ve ventured away from my soul. I’ve been ignoring its whisperings to go within and it’s having to shout louder - through my body. It’s at these times that I’ve perhaps been living with an external focus - on doing, achieving, striving and competing - without enough time for stillness, contemplation and just being.
If you’re feeling disconnected (in whatever way that implies) here are some suggestions that may help you re-connect:
Switch off: If we want to deeply listen inwards - to what our soul is trying to tell us - we have to make time to be still. To do nothing. Just breathe. There are so many ways we look outwards and distract ourselves so that we can ignore what is going on within our heart. It can be uncomfortable so we run from the discomfort via numerous means. By turning off screens, sitting with our breath, noticing sensations as they arise in our body we can start to hear its messages.
Notice what you're doing that creates a sense of expansion and uplift, of connection and creativity - then make time to do these things as often as you can (outside of sitting still!). For me these things are yoga, meditation, surfing, chanting mantra, being in nature, connecting with others and eating wholesome foods. Notice the impact in the hours after you do the activity too - some activities initially make us feel good / give us a rush but actually leave us feeling depleted and further from our soul in the aftermath.
Create Rituals of Connecting in: Simple practices each day can help us journey inward to become aware of our inner life. This might be such things as sitting in stillness, pranayama (breathing practices), lighting incense, saying a prayer or blessing, chanting or listening to mantra or standing in nature each morning or evening. Only you can know what suits you best - start by noticing what makes you feel alive and connected to the planet.
Become aware of feelings of longing or yearning, of moments where you feel overcome with emotion - without perhaps really knowing why. This might be in certain places, when you hear words that you deeply connect with or a piece of music that stirs you within. This is your soul reaching out to you. Trying to get your attention. Trying to get you to come home. This longing for me, for many years, was almost a feeling of home-sickness (despite physically being in my own house). I wasn’t “at home” in my body or mind nor connected to my breath. Our breath is our link to the invisible.
Surrender Outcomes and Live in Trust: For me this is the most difficult practice and one I am still very much working on! When we can release our worry about the future, knowing that we are okay whether we achieve what we desire or not and live with complete trust that we are looked after and loved, releasing the outcome and living in the present moment, in a spirit of service, we are truly living from our soul - the place of all-knowing surrender.
When we connect with our soul we can live and make decisions from a place of love rather than fear. We listen to what our soul is telling us we need - to fill ourselves from within, to live with more ease and connection to ourselves, others and our world. We begin to feel content in a busy world that has us looking outside of ourselves for this.
I would love to hear what ‘soul’ means to you or how you connect with your soul on a daily basis. What challenges do you face in doing this?