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Modern Life or a Life of Soul--
Can They Co-exist?

by Joy Lynn Freeman D.C. Ph.D. (cand.)

These are crazy times we live in—people expressing their rage with no constraint, suicide rate among teens has tripled, and we are moving at a faster and faster pace but seemingly going no where, like a dog chasing it’s tail. We have more modern conveniences than we could have ever imagined a few years back, and more quality products available in every category under the sun, but still mental and physical illness is more rampant than ever and inner peace seems to be far from a reality for most. What is wrong with this picture?

One huge part of the problem lies in the fact that our modern westernized culture, with it’s fast pace and sometimes questionable values, is moving farther away from a life that nurtures and feeds our soul despite all the apparent improvements. In addition we live in a day and age where unrealistic standards set by media and the culture make it impossible to ever feel completely satisfied with who we are, what we have, or what we do. This constant barrage of internal and external criticism results in a culture that values what somebody else decides we "should" do or be, rather than listening to the truth of our soul. Consequently, on one extreme, a few express this repression in violent acts, while most experience it simply by never living a life of soul— where life expresses who you are, including giving your natural gifts to the world around you.

It is my contention that experiencing inner peace is coincidental with a living a life of soul. Living a life of soul is a combination of living in alliance with our deepest values, which equates to the ability to speak and act on our truth as well as integrating a good dose of what feeds and nurtures our soul into our daily lives.

We need to find a way to reconcile the way we so often live due to cultural norms with what is true to our heart and soul. With all the complex superhighways taking us where we think we want to go in life, the question to ask ourselves is, what is the simple path that leads back to soul? It starts with learning ways and tools to reconnect with the essence of ourselves such that we are able to counterbalance the effects of modern living.

I believe that we can in fact take advantage of all the good things our times have to offer with out getting sucked into the whirlwind. The path to this involves two main things. First, by engaging in as many "soul feeding" activities as possible—those things that nurture our soul and that we do for the sheer enjoyment of rather than for achieving a goal. Second, by learning to hear and know the inner messages of our soul, acting on them and ultimately expressing them. Thus we begin to live in accordance with our natural rhythms and be who we really are rather than what has been dictated to us from without. Living in this kind of balance along with regular participation in soul feeding activities ultimately leads to greater health, inner peace and feelings of fulfillment.

Examples of soul feeding activities are: walking, hiking or connecting with nature; playing an instrument; creating art; writing poetry, stories or thoughts; participating in ritual; meditation practices; singing, dancing, or drumming; creative cooking or baking; certain sports depending on the attitude or motivation; and the list is endless. Though there is great variation in what one can do, there is a common theme. It is about being fully present in the moment and letting go of judgments and goals. Any of these activities lose some of their soul feeding quality as soon as we add rigid demands, unrealistic expectations or any other internal pressure to perform, which sorry to say, is all too common in our culture. The more we can allow the pure expression of what is showing up in the moment, the more these type of activities have the ability to feed and nurture our soul.

Engaging in many of these soul feeding activities in the manner I have described has been an inherent part of indigenous cultures for centuries. It has only been in more recent years and in westernized cultures that expression of this nature has become a low priority or designated for only the "talented few." Older cultures recognized the value of these creative and in-the-moment activities for channeling the stress of day to day living, expressing ones deeper nature and for bonding people together—in essence for connecting to the "soul" of life.

The second aspect to creating a life of soul involves having life be an expression of ones natural soul qualities and inner urgings rather than following a pre-determined formula. There are six foundational steps to experiencing life in this way.

  1. Becoming Emotionally Literate
  2. This involves being able to identify what you are feeling, know how it feels in your body, and refrain from discounting, ignoring or otherwise denying any of these physical or emotional sensations. Part of becoming emotionally literate is learning the fine art of surrender and letting go of control. This open way of being is essential for inviting more soul into your life as it softens defenses, creates more ease, and allows for more authenticity and intimacy.

  3. Knowing Your Personal Truth
  4. As you learn to know what you are feeling and allow those feelings without judgment, the communication between your daily self and your deeper feelings, senses and intuitions beings to improve. You begin to become more clear about what works for you or what doesn’t, who and what feels right to you ,or what you need to steer clear of. In general you become in touch with your needs and desires and learn not to judge or negate them..

  5. Accepting and Love of Self
  6. This step is about being able to accept all aspects of yourself, even that which you may have previously judged as unacceptable. It is about letting go of idealistic standards picked up from upbringing or society and forgiving yourself and others for things you have judged as wrong. Learning to tame the inner critic and engaging in self love practices are essential to this step.

  7. Developing a Relationship of Trust with Self
  8. The three steps listed above lead to this. Once your inner being and deeper self feels safe that you will honor its feelings, pay attention to it’s needs and wants and make it a priority in your life, it begins to trust that you, the daily self, will be there for it, where perhaps no one else may ever have. This builds a foundation of strength within yourself, which gives you the courage to take the risks to express yourself or make appropriate changes in your life.

  9. Expression of Truth to External World—Taking Risks
  10. The previous steps have been about coming to know your own truth, and gaining a positive and solid relationship of trust within yourself. This step is about expressing it to the world around you, which most often involves taking a risk of one form or another. This might mean expressing your truth to someone regardless of how they may feel about it, setting boundaries with others, engaging in an unfamiliar creative act, or taking risks to do something new or scary in the world.

  11. Life Reflects Back Truth of Who You Are—Living a Life of Soul

As you engage in all the other steps listed above, eventually you find that you attract people into your life who appreciate you for being you rather than an image you have to uphold; relationships are more open, honest and intimate; you are doing work that is more fulfilling; and you are making more time for soul feeding activities. In addition the desire to creatively express arises and you begin to engage in a creatively activity that you may have dropped or never dared attempt before. All this creates more passion, energy, and enthusiasm for life.

To live a life of soul is to live a life of balance which fosters our inner peace—where we have the time to slow down; to pay attention to the simple things; things of nature, of the moment, of the heart, of the emotions. Where every place we think we must go, are but places we choose to go, or choose not to go. Where the process becomes more important than the goal. Where time stands still because in the moment time does not exist.

To live a life of soul is to dance and sing in joyous revere or to weep and moan in heartful grief. It is to feel all of life with a great passion and fullness, whether on the light side or the dark, and to bear it all with a sense of equanimity, compassion and heart. It is about living a life that expresses who you truly are rather than who you think you should be.

This life of soul is available to all whether rich or poor, white, red, yellow or black, wise or simple. Yes, even in this day and age of "having it all", it is possible to let go of some of all that we have and go for the more sacred, the simple, or that which embodies the heart and the soul of life. It is possible to express our truths and live life as an expression of our soul promptings. It is only for us to decide it is important and take the necessary steps.

© Joy Freeman. 2000. 

To learn more about how to actualize the steps spelled out in this article read Joy’s book Express Yourself: Discover Your Inner Truth, Creative Self and the Courage to Let It Out and listen to her music CD Let It Shine. For more info go to www.SoundStarProductions.com.

Joy Lynn Freeman, D.C., Ph.D. (cand.), has been a pioneer in the healing arts for over twenty two years, as a physician, speaker-facilitator, expressive arts therapist, and life transition coach. She has lectured and offered workshops and retreats nationwide and is a frequent guest on radio shows. Joy is the author of the book, Express Yourself: Discover Your Inner Truth, Creative Self and The Courage To Let It Out, a companion music CD Let It Shine, a series of five yoga videos and a creator of Quantum Shift Retreats—transformational retreats incorporating expressive arts, psycho-therapeutic process, ritual & nature. She also expresses her creativity as a singer, dancer, and musician.


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