Spiritual Practice vs Soul Practice

So, there I was on Twitter, ‘tweeting’ my little heart out even though nobody is listening (yet) while trying to figure it out and learn my way around. Going through a list of authors in my head and seeing which ones might be on Twitter to follow, I stumbled across Thomas Moore’s profile. He wrote the bestselling classic, Care of the Soul (over a million in print), along with more than a dozen other books regarding the soul. That’s a hefty amount of soulful words, I say.

CareOfTheSoulBookIn one of his most recent Tweets, he posted: “You need a soul practice to complete your spiritual practice: home, family, friends, animals, dreams, poetry, sexuality, love, food…”

At first I thought, yes, I completely agree. Then a moment later, I changed my mind and thought, I completely disagree. Well, sort of. Let me explain.

My first impulse was yes, we absolutely need a soul practice alongside our spiritual practice. In a sense, that’s exactly what my entire book is about, and one of the key ideas that I put forward in those chapters is that a soulful life doesn’t simply happen of its own accord. It is cultivated. So, on that level, I do agree with Moore.

All too often, a person’s spiritual practice is something that is somehow segmented from the rest of their life, as if was separate or only unfurls on Tuesday afternoons or Sundays. But a spiritual practice doesn’t just happen when we are meditating, or walking in a forest, or going to church. Ultimately, it must suffuse every aspect of our being. It’s the way that we view the world, and the way we respond to people and situations in our daily life. It is our personal commitment to self-growth, awareness, and creative evolution, and our communion with the ‘more-than-human’ world.

The everyday and the sacred are not separate. And if we think of our spiritual practice as only a facet of our ‘being’ then, yes, we do need a soul practice, as well… something that grounds us into the reality of a spiritual path, every day.

Most spiritual approaches are very transcendent: God, Spirit, or Higher Mind is something ‘out there’ with which we seek to connect in moments of stillness, silence, enlightenment, heightened states of consciousness, reverence, or open-heartedness. The Holy tends to be very disembodied and not integrated (either in daily life or our actual bodymindsoul), and I wrote about this in an early blog post, ‘The Sacred Spiral’.

The main reason that I felt some disagreement with Moore’s statement is that a soul practice is a spiritual practice. Ultimately, they are two sides of the same coin: soul serves spirit and vice versa. As I responded to him in a tweet, “A ‘soul practice’ is the art of living. It’s an embodied spiritual practice.”

Really, that’s the heart of it for me: embodiment.

The essence of a soulful life is bringing our awareness to our daily existence, and the breath and somatic awareness are unsurpassed tools for this. The more frequently that we descend from our heads into the body, and the more that we recognize our patterns and responses as they play out (there is always a somatic component to these responses), and to the extent that we open our senses and heart to the relationships around us (physical environment, included), the more deeply we are ‘embodied’ in a meaningful way.

The more fully we are embodied, the more we are ensouled. Soul loves the body. Indeed, as I have written in my book’s chapter, ‘Ensouling the Bodyt’, the body is the soul’s prayer. More than simply through transcendent or deep stillness, it is through our expanded senses that we perceive the Holy and our place in the interwoven relationship of creation.

The everyday and the sacred are entwined as lovers. Recognizing that, it is our level of awareness and mindfulness that determines the quality of our existence, and infuses our experience(s) with grace. Are we paying attention? Or too busy sending text messages…?

I define soul as our most creative, authentic essence. As we discover our soul’s gift to the world and begin to bring that forward as our ‘giveaway’, we automatically begin to live a more soulful life… one that is integrated with a spiritual practice (because they are really the same thing). We more fully embody the Soul Artist.

So… really, I do agree with Thomas Moore. Being limited in a ‘tweet’ to 140 characters or less, I think he’s essentially saying that we need to bring our sense of the sacred into our daily lives in more ways than simply a disconnected practice. In the same way that the body is nourished by proper care, the soul is fed and sustained by both the physical and the intangible: environment & sanctuary, conscious relationships, lovemaking, meaningful work, creativity, Nature, music and harmonic sound, authentic movement, natural rhythms, etc. When we bring the quality of attention to our habitual patterns and daily life, we begin to transform our existence into a soulcentric one. This is the way of the Soul Artist.

it’s been fifteen years since I read it, so perhaps I’ll revisit Moore’s classic Care of the Soul and reabsorb the full measure of what he had to offer. His insights and wisdom deserve far more than a ‘tweet’, I’m sure.