More Thoughts On “A Feast of Mysteries…”
Last month, I wrote about the care and keeping of the soul in Fathom Magazine. The gist of that article is that our souls feed on mystery. This is in contrast to our bodies and minds which feed on substances that are far easier to define and access. In fact, we often tend to our bodies and minds to the neglect of our souls, and I thought I’d share some more thoughts about that below.
When was the last time you spent an hour (or three) lost in a book? The last time you listened to a podcast or music album—and really listened, not as background noise while your hands and mind were occupied with other things—but with headphones on, eyes closed, sprawled on a couch, or bed, or the floor? When was the last time you abandoned your phone and went for a walk in the wild with only creatures of feather and fur for companions? When was the last time you sat in silence?
I admit I’ve often gone far too long without such engagements. Not because I don’t know their value, but because I’ve been pressured into placing more value on other things. It’s likely you have too.
We’ve been told there is great value in hustle, in the daily grind. In the urge to be always on and always responsive. We are consumed with the heat and rush of going places and doing things to make money, to obtain a position or platform, or to keep material possessions.
What we’ve not been told, however, is that if we run this course, we’ll end up with full hands, but famished souls.
How Too Much Activity Works Against Us
Most of us wear busyness and “productivity” as a badge of honor. In fact, research has shown that there is a link between people maintaining “busy” lives and having higher self-esteem. What we often miss, however, is that a constant state of physical and mental activity becomes detrimental to our deeper inner lives.
Our bodies have an involuntary response to threats of any kind. When the “fight or flight” instinct kicks in, the nervous system floods the body with adrenaline. Psychologist, Dr. Sherrie Carter, says this occurs “whether we’re trapped in a ravine with a hungry mountain lion or trapped in our office with a ferociously overflowing inbox.”
Perpetual busyness keeps our bodies in a constant state of battle-readiness—always on alert, ready to grapple with one more crisis, one more emergency phone call, one more after-hours email. Carter explains that this leads to exhaustion because the body can’t keep this up indefinitely. “Exhaustion results when the body’s resources become depleted by stress. On a physiological level, the body basically burns out, which is why exposure to chronic stress can lead to serious health and emotional problems.”
Plenty of research like Dr. Carter’s has proven that overwork and constant activity is bad for the body and the mind. But what about the soul?
What Makes the Soul Different?
The soul is a delicate animal. While it is our most essential self, it is also like a second being within us—an infant being that must be well-taken care of in order to thrive.
Our bodies depend on physical food, sleep, and healthy exercise in order to thrive. Likewise, the state of our minds is determined by a healthy balance of positive mental activity and mental rest. Our souls, meanwhile, depend on fuel that is spiritual in essence. Spiritual fuel is that which communicates to us in ways that cannot be quantified by time, space, or any other material measurement. Our souls gain nourishment on an entirely different plane—one which is far too easy to neglect.
Have you ever felt the thrill of a good story, whether read or told? Have you ever experienced moving emotion when listening to music or a song? Have you ever delighted in a sunset or a horseback ride or a romp in the yard with the kids? Have you ever felt the peace of prayer come over you and calm you in an hour of anxiety?
Those feelings, those experiences, are what feeds the soul. Yet, those are the very things we often neglect in favor of reaching yet another deadline or notching another hole in our belt of accomplishments. When our schedules are full, our souls often starve.
A soul sapped of its necessary meat will begin to bleed out. And the effects of a deprived soul will branch into other aspects of our lives. Depression, dissatisfaction, and discontent are often symptoms of a malnourished soul.