W're living in soul-crushing times. Our fearless leader has been implicated in multiple felonies, his racist and scandal-ridden administration is in fierce denial of climate science, and women's rights are under a heightened attack in which government may soon be empowered to force us to bear unwanted children into all sorts of unhealthy conditions.
This surreality is exhausting for everyone, but is especially hard on mothers. We mamas have a lot of superpowers, but one of the most impressive ones is the cultivation of a special psychic channel or antennae that enables us to constantly and unconsciously monitor our environments for situations that might need our attention: How many bags of gummy worms has he eaten? Is she torturing the cat? Are they going to crash that thing into the house?
When functioning well, these antennae also enable several modes of multitasking which make them a critically important resource for an over-scheduled mom. But a these channels are by definition open beyond our awareness. These can get really gummed up when there is a bunch of category-five bullshit wafting around the ether. Before we know it, the soul-crushing toxicity begins to leak in to our unconscious, chipping away hope and resilience.
Care of the Soul In his book Care of the Soul, author and psychotherapist Thomas Moore suggests that we can reap great benefit from attending to our souls. "When the soul is neglected," he writes, "it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning." What do we mean by soul? Moore doesn't even bother to define the word, as soul prefers the imaginal and unconscious realm to the logical and precise. Metaphors, creativity, dreams, coincidences, and symbols are all languages of the soul. Soul is non-linear and multidimensional. Parker Palmer describes the soul as being "like a wild animal -- tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy." Intentionally engaging our souls, connecting to the part of us that can experience life more deeply is the antidote to the brutality and injustices. Our souls enable us to take in beauty and purpose; depth and meaning; grace and hope. They also allow us to grieve more completely and with more meaning. But to engage our souls we must be patient, and nurturing, and gentle and determined. Or as Palmer says, "[I]f we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge."
So for all the moms who are feeling depleted by 21st century modern life -- and I include myself in this -- let's take a few minutes today (or more if you have them, what the hell!) and connect to the soul. It's like putting on the oxygen mask before we can help others and fight bullshit. Here are some ideas to get started. I encourage you to find your own and develop a practice that is intended to nourish your soul.
Notice beauty...and then really take it in. There are some incredible rose bushes in bloom in my neighborhood and one in particular smells incredible.
Turn off the phone and be in silence. Try this one the next time you're waiting in line at the grocery store. Leave the phone in your bag; instead become an observer and take in a moment from someone else's perspective, or from all perspectives simultaneously. It is ridiculously hard to do but feels amazing.
Play with your breath. You're going to do it anyway, right? Might as well practice longer, deeper breaths, or using the breath to soothe sore spots in your body by breathing into them. This is another great one to do while waiting in lines, or in the car. When the body is enlivened it can be more sensitized to the needs of the soul.
Pray. It's a weird loaded word especially in the context of nurturing your soul, but the essence I am trying convey here is to reach out and connect with an animating force that is larger than yourself. It could be creation, or the universal life force, or a divine being, or God, or the flying spaghetti monster. The soul craves connection beyond the mundane.
Go see (and/or make) art. The soul speaks in metaphor and creativity; it stands to reason then that it will glow with joy when you feed it art, music, dance theater, that resonates for you. I have a lot of blocks around creating art, but I've recently started drawing mandalas that represent how I'm feeling on any given day with colored pencils on printer paper. It's fun and gets me out of my head. #Overthinker
Create a ritual. The soul loves to make meaning. Rituals help us do that, especially around big transitions. I have a good friend whose daughter is graduating high school and going off to Europe for college. After the big graduation parties are over, they are planning a small celebration where they go to a lake cabin where they vacationed a lot when the kids were young. There they will look over old photos and recall memories, and make a set of intentions for the future as individuals as well as a family.
Create a soul journal. I am in California so I can say this kind of thing. (It's all about the journey, baby.) Identify things that will nurture your soul (e.g. see Lizzo live, feed the ducks, clean your closet) and then do it. Write about the whole thing. You will soon have a master class in caring for your soul within those pages.
Get support. Mamas are the supporters. We are not used to asking for -- let alone demanding -- support. We need the men in our lives to step up, whether they're working to fend off the apocalypse or doing the dishes. Men, ask the mamas in your life how you can help.
Tell the negative voices in your head to shut TF up. Mamas, we can be so hard on ourselves. Listen for that inner critic and once you're aware of it being there, send it on its way. If it keeps coming back, sit it down and have a visit. It probably kept you safe somehow back a long time ago. Thank it for its loyal service but now it's time for it to go.
Find the others. Nobody can do this alone.
Motherhood is a ride that's fierce and joyous; maddening and terrifying. Now more than ever, we need to clear away some time and space for ourselves so we can deepen our own resilience and strength. We are holding the next generation at a time when the future looks perilous. Caring for the soul is not only good for you, it's an act of resistance. Best wishes for a soulful Mother's Day.