This is part two of my series, 4 TOXINS OF THE SPIRIT. If you’d like to read part one, it’s here for you. I’d love to know what you think.
If you’ve ever been in grad school or around someone who is enduring it, you know that it is a total stripping of the mind and soul from the moment classes begin. I’ve watched people I know re-arrange their brains to understand new ways of thinking, to take on new challenges and goals in their classes. And I’ve read articles that expound on the importance of soul care in “long night” seasons like these—it’s essential, or the toxin of exhaustion becomes degrading at the very core of a person.
But it’s not just in the dark nights that this happens. We see people who appear to be healthy and normal every day, falling apart because they are not connected to their inner purpose or listening to their inner voice. It may be that the din of society overshadows our own needs, and we lose who we are to work and social pressures.
Or is it that we are so clouded by the din of our religious rhetoric we forget what it means to care for the soul? I think Jesus had his moments of escape, when he ran to the hillside or the mountaintop and asked in the quiet what it was his soul needed most to get through the day. He built things with scraps of wood and cooked in the kitchen with his mom. He knew what it meant to connect back again, to engage and live and breathe with meaning and purpose.
We get that wrong when we fill up the spaces with more noise, because what is so particular about the outdoors and wide open spaces is that we find ourselves in the company of sacred, years-old created things. When we get it right, we realize that the grasshopper in the field can teach us something about God, just as the pine tree in the back yard does.
In Native American culture this is not animism, but a connection, through creation, with the Creator. So we fight the toxin of neglecting our souls when we re-connect with the pieces of this world that have carried people along from the beginning.
There’s a small habitat in the middle of our city where I take our boys or visit alone in between meetings on my work day. It’s got Christmas ferns and those towering pines, a harbor of bird feeders and a stage so children can use their imaginations as they engage with creation. I lay on that stage and look up through the pine trees’ arms and know that whatever happened when things were first created, and whatever happens today or tomorrow, there’s something solid in the prospect of a Creator who knows and sees and cares. And that reality can do nothing but fill our souls back up again.
Even there, I have to admit that talking to another person isn’t what can give me peace, either. There is something sacred about listening to the foreign language of the wind in the leaves and the birds in their chanting. Even if I do not understand, God speaks, just as God spoke to Jesus on those mountaintops and in those forests.
Personal soul care is more than engaging a new hobby or spending quiet time with Netflix. Personal soul care is finding a space in this created universe that reminds us we are not alone, that we are tethered even in our wandering. And the danger of letting the toxin of soul-neglect eat away at us is that we turn to the noise, to the isolating actions that strip us further of what we’re created for.
In our world climate, the best thing we can do for ourselves is acknowledge that true soul therapy doesn’t come from a quiet moment of Facebook feed scrolling, but looking out the window and remembering that the sky that hangs bright and mighty over us is the sky that says our souls have always been worth the steady and hard work of maintaining.
This is soul work with creation, an ancient and sacred work worth rejuvenating within ourselves today.
If you’d like to get this series and more in your inbox, be sure to add your email to my subscribers by clicking the Subscribe box to the right.
Thanks for all your support, friends. It means the world to me.