7 Tips for Living Soulfully
“The purpose of our lives is to give birth to the best which is within us.”
– Marianne Williamson
Acutely aware of the preciousness of time, I am determined more than ever to suck the nectar dry from this human spiritual experience and live a life that is deep, consequential, and flushed with joy. Simply put, my soul wants more and I believe yours does too. I’m thankful you have decided to come along on the journey. All you need is an open heart, a curious spirit, and a desire to live your best life. Let’s begin with seven tips for living soulfully.
Number 1: Spend time in Nature
As Meister Eckhart said, “All of nature is a book about God.” Find the silence. Time in the trees puts life in perspective, reaffirms the sacred reality available to us. There is a reason the Bible opens in a garden and closes in a garden. Jesus himself chose nature as a place to teach, to speak to God, to eat, to pray, to bless, heal and perform miracles, to refresh himself for the demands of his mortal life. Do not underestimate or take for granted the simplicity of a bird’s song, a walk through a tall pine forest, the speed of a hummingbird in flight, or the sound of the evening owl’s soliquey. The delicious silence, the greenness, the blueness, the warmth of the sun, they all heal us, even save us, one vignette of beauty at a time. Do as they say in Jackson Hole, WY and, “bring the outside in.” Run to the trees. It is your chapel, your confessionary, your evergreen altar, your chance to have a close encounter with God. When the world is too loud, too secular, too harsh, find a square inch of green and reset. The beauty and peace will save you.
Number 2: Relationships
Unhealthy relationships taint the spiritual well. Engagements with other human beings, whether related by blood or life circumstance, expose our flaws, our insecurities, our fragility and our surface-faith. In the same breath, our relationships can reveal the best in us and in others and as Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “allow us to see the face of God.” We must mend, lift up, forgive, nurture and sacrifice for the relationships that are integral to who we are and who we desire to become. Remember to walk in another’s shoes so you know where they have been and where they desperately hope to be going. Take all of this information into account and then engage. The goal is less duels and more prodigal homecomings. Show up at the door of someone who has hurt you or you may have hurt as well. Say the words and mean them, “I forgive your trespasses, forgive me mine.” Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, and an inability to let things go are all spiritual quick sand, when all God wants for us here is a lightness of being.
Number 3: Food and Fellowship
Something Jesus took very seriously! Eat one of my dark chocolate love muffins, peel a South Caroline peach and let the juice drip from your chin, smear some of my just-harvested honey on a baguette and you imagine you have just tasted Eden. But it is more than that. Something transcendent happens around the table. When we set the table, pull up more chairs, illumine candles and serve one another a roasted chicken, a special homemade pesto, a ripe melon, a luscious peach cobbler, what we are actually serving is love, mercy and hope. Souls are fed.
Number 4: Find your purpose and go after it
Joseph Campbell said the ultimate hero’s journey is to follow one’s bliss. There is something, many things that you are here to do that only you can do on behalf and for God. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Soul joy is found when you get busy and plain go after something, a dream, a hope, a love mission. It might be teaching, cooking, speaking, parenting, singing, healing, whatever turns your soul on.
I recently participated in the funeral for Dr. Roy Elam, a mentor and friend. We had so much in common, our love of nature, the poet Wendell Berry, our interest in healing, and especially spending time on the Mountain at Sewanee. He founded the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine here in Nashville, a place focused on healing the mind, body and spirit. Fifteen years ago, I was just beginning to find my calling and he was my great encourager. Dr. Elam said, “You know Farrell, in the deep Appalachian mountains, the poorest of poor, they don’t say, “can I help you?” They say, “Can I hope you?” “Can I hope you?” Somewhere, somehow that has to be part of your personal mission and destiny: To give hope to another. Marc Chagall, my all time favorite artist said, “if life inevitably moves towards its end, we must, during our own, color it with our own colors of love and hope.”
Number 5: Grow and Evolve
Picasso said, “We don’t grow old, we ripen!” Forget the number! We are here to discover who we are and all we can be. Life is a classroom that stretches, tests, breaks, mends, refines, improves and expands. We must participate in many personal resurrections over our lifetime. Fail and then rise. And then do it again. It is in our soul DNA to be resilient. Life is an adventure. Live in expectation of what God is going to do in your life next! Be brave. Trust God to help you. Live soul-first and soul-full!
Number 6: Fall in Love
Fall in love with people, places, new experiences, but especially with God. Ultimately, we are a soul having a human body experience. And the soul craves the “divine” and the “transcendent” here on earth. It proclaims, “You are much more than dust.” Get to know your inner self, the part of you that resembles and reflects God. Daily you have to pick up the conversation in prayer, in silence, in action, in confession, in hope. God cannot be an asterisk in your life, or the footnote at the bottom of the page that reads: reach out to God only in a crisis. Faith at it’s most simple and profound is a daily mutual declaration of love between the soul and God: I am yours. You are mine. Make this your inner truth.
Number 7: Participate in the Larger Picture: The Love Mission
St. John of the Cross said, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” We are here to not only recognize but lift the soul of another. It requires selflessness, a fierce will, pursuit of justice and genuine love for others. Our soul knows what is right and true. Ultimately, we are here to love. How much love can you and I give away?
Live in Hope,
Antonio Vivaldi was an 18th century Italian Catholic priest, world-renown Baroque composer, musician and violin virtuoso. Many of his classical pieces were composed for an all-female music ensemble living at the Ospedale della Pieta orphanage where he worked. This particular piece, arguably his most famous and beautiful, captures the beauty and soul-fortifying gift of nature. Listen to all four seasons. It will surely fill your soul.