We live in a machine age where many people treat their bodies as machines and their emotional lives as output from machines. As a therapist, I have had many people come to me as though I were a mechanic and ask me to fix this or that which has gone wrong with them or their relationships. This fix-it-for-me positioning is a mechanical approach to life.
The approach which brings out our humanity is one which calls on us to be compassionate and empathetic toward other people. Our lives are shaped by that empathy and by that compassion, and we then become people who live with others—not as machines, but as loving, caring humans in a family, in a marriage, and in a community.
I have friends who exemplify this kind of commitment. Two who come to mind are the devoted parents of a child with a chronic illness. They have changed their lifestyle, finding work and a daily way of life that accommodate being with and taking care of their child.
A Consciousness of Prayer
Many of us may find ourselves in the kind of situation where children or adult family members, for one reason or another, shape our lives. As difficult as the challenge may be, it can bring us to make choices and reflect on what is important so that we don't just move along unconsciously in life. Even though it's painful and difficult and should not be romanticized, a life based on care for another person gives an individual or a family its humanity.
Prayer helps us in establishing and maintaining these intimate connections with each other. Through prayer, we make a connection with God and we connect with each other at a deeply spiritual level. We feed our own souls, and we also help to nourish the souls of others.
The traditions and practices and ideas of our individual religions feed our souls; however, it is important that our spiritual experiences also give us something that nourishes our hearts, our imaginations, and our lives. Then religion does not merely remain at the level of ideas; it becomes a spirituality that reaches to the depths of the soul.
There are many different ways to look at the soul. I follow the tradition from ancient writings that divides our experience into three parts: the spirit, the soul, and the body. The soul is at the center and has to do with our deepest feelings, thoughts, reflections, and memories. These are the things that bubble up from deep within us and, therefore, are precious to us. We are both inspired and grounded.
The soul is close to our individual lives. For instance, memories of certain music from childhood are soul experiences because they have to do with family or particular places or events. These experiences keep the soul alive. These deep feelings and pleasures keep us connected with our past and with each other and with families and special places.
In order to sense the immortality of the soul, we first have to see the soul as a part of our everyday experiences. The soul will find its way through both joy and suffering. I don't recommend looking for suffering by any means, but life gives us some extraordinary challenges—which can be of a physical, mental, emotional, relational, or financial nature. The goal in life is not to be at some level where there are no longer any challenges, but rather to be able to live through those difficulties and to rely on our friends and family and each other.
This, I think, is the way of the soul—the path we take in reaching spiritual fulfillment. The arrival to spiritual awareness comes as we move through the suffering—not by skipping over it or trying to get around it.
This, of course, is an easy statement to make, but a difficult one to live. Yet all of us in some way or another have to deal with difficulty and challenges. In a way, those difficulties are our grace. They are our means for becoming individuals who have the character and wisdom and sensitivity necessary to live in harmony with each other.
Thomas Moore served twelve years of monastic life in the Servite Order of the Catholic Church before receiving an M.A. from the University of Michigan. He later received degrees from the University of Windsor, Canada, and Syracuse University.
A former teacher and psychotherapist, Thomas now lectures and is the author of numerous books, audiotapes, and music CDs. His books Care of the Soul and SoulMates are bestsellers, and in 1996 his book The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life
was awarded a prize for the best book on spirituality.
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