We all need to find ways that help us keep centered. The way we do this will be different for each of us. What we all have in common around this is that whatever we choose to apply ourselves to will put us in touch with such feelings as excitement, wonderment, contemplation, imaginativeness, peacefulness, etc. Each of us will have our own needs which require tending. For myself, I have identified five things that I need in order to feed my soul.
- My friends and family: This includes the adult people in my life who I can depend on to be there for me, and I for them. We share many memories going back to childhood with some. They know of my struggles and my achievements. They know who I am, and will not let one failure on my part depart from their overall knowledge of me. They remind me of my strengths, and put my failures into perspective. It also includes the younger folks in my life. The one’s I knew when they were babies. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have my own children, but I have been close to my niece and nephews, my younger step sister, and my great nieces and nephews. They give me a sense of continuity, a sense that something of me will continue long after I am gone. They have touched my heart many times over the years. They can make me sentimental. For instance, I still have the Pokeman socks that my twenty-four year old nephew left at my house when he was three. I just can’t give them up……..
- Nature: Sometimes nature soothes me like nothing else can. To walk among the trees and hear the wind in the leaves; to sit on a dune overlooking the ocean beach as I listen to the seagulls; the times I have climbed a mountain path and looked over a vista. These experiences make me feel a part of something greater than myself.
- Learning: I have loved learning all of my life. I loved going to school as a kid, and I enjoyed going to college and graduate school as well. I continue to take courses to keep learning new things about my profession, but I also just enjoy learning everyday things. Like recently someone taught me about using sheet rock screws because they are extra sharp, and you can screw them in without a starter hole. I just loved learning that! Learning stimulates my brain, and helps me make new connections.
- Creativity: When I was ten I started playing the flute. My involvement grew over the years. There were parades, concerts, lessons, junior symphony, honor bands, a solo competition. For many years it was my life. But music faded out as I got older, and I discovered other creative pursuits. The first was macramé. For you young folk, that was a craft popular in the 1970’s where you tied knots in cords and made wall hangings, plant hangers etc. I went through a black and white photography phase, I made coil pots and small clay sculptures, and in recent years, I have done some collages. Throughout my life I have engaged in writing. This includes journals, essays, and fiction. These pursuits help me get out feelings that I might have trouble verbalizing. They take me outside my everyday life and connect me with a larger self. A spiritual self.
- Being compassionate towards myself and others: I chose to be a clinical social worker because I feel a lot of compassion for people, and it makes my life feel meaningful when I can do something to help. I enjoy connecting with people at a deep level. I like to listen to them carefully so I can express true understanding of their thoughts and feelings. I feel that if we were all compassionate a lot of things in the world could improve. I am trying to use my compassion more actively now. In the past year I have been in marches for single payor healthcare, Martin Luther King Day, and for a group of homeless people who’s camp was eventually dismantled. I am also trying to be more compassionate towards myself. I am trying to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes, and I should be at least as forgiving of my mistakes as I am of others.
So, these are the five things that feed my soul. When I start feeling less centered this list is a good starting place to figure out what’s missing so that I can reconnect. Feeding the soul is helpful in preventing and fighting depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I encourage you to think about your need to feed your soul, and to work on including this important practice in your life.