Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Soul Fuel

There are currently three daily practices that I consider essential to keeping my soul fueled and my heart fully awake and alive: Spending time alone with God in the morning; eating healthily and exercising my body during the day; and practicing my guitar in the evening before bed.

Unfortunately, right now I am doing only one of these well. My time alone with God each morning feels like breathing to me; it's so automatic I no longer have to think about doing it. I just do it.

The other two practices--living healthily and playing my guitar--feel more like war. Distractions, interruptions, waning motivation, frustration, and a host of other "-tion" words like that, all conspire on a daily basis to disconnect me from what's important to the vitality of my soul. Instead, I chase after the trivial and the urgent. And, at day's end, not surprisingly, my soul feels overdrawn. I actually start to die a little each day I don't live true to my heart.

Jesus once asked, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). I'm reminded again today of the imperative necessity of refusing to sacrifice the life and vitality of your soul for the urgent or the trivial. The spiritual practices that renew & refuel your soul are not luxuries; they are essential to life. In fact, without them, you soon find yourself in the numbing and confusing place of looking as though you are still living, but having lost all connection with what "being fully alive" is, or even means.

Don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of its bitter fruit

Hunger only for a taste of justice

Hunger only for a world of truth

'Cause all that you have is your soul

--"All That You Have is Your Soul" by Tracy Chapman
What "daily practices" do you do to keep your soul refueled and fully alive? How do you deal with the inevitable distractions that try to draw your focus away to the trivial and the urgent?


Michelle Brown said...

Great questions. Aside from journaling, which are my letters to God, I spend too of my time defaulting into survival "be strong, be efficient, stay sharp" mode. Otherwise, at the end of the day, I hit a wall and quit caring. I don't actually know what keeps my soul fueled and my heart fully awake.

Sara said...

I would like to know more on how you cut out distractions. Do you apply the same methods of editing to your schedule that you do to your writing to keep a cohesive life story? Also, could you speak to how extrovert/introvert personalities might play into what fuels us? So often it seems that "alone time" is touted as the golden key to a healthy soul, but to me it seems to be just that - lonely.

Michael D. Warden said...

@Sara: I love your intuitive insight about viewing your own life as a great story that you are writing through your choices every day...I think that's a really helpful metaphor for figuring out what's important to keep in the daily rhythm of your life, and what needs to be cut out...ruthlessly.

I say "ruthlessly," because I've personally found that unless I'm willing to be ruthless in guarding my soul-refueling activities, then they will always be overrun by other things. Of course, being ruthless in this way can feel selfish, but the counter-intuitive truth is that without that soul-refueling time, I end up running on empty and have nothing meaningful to offer anyone else...so taking care of my own soul is actually part of stewarding my own capacity to love others well.

As for the introvert/extrovert thing, I couldn't agree more. Solitude is touted as the "holy grail" of soulful living. But for extroverts, it's more likely to be activities that involve being with people. The real question to answer here is, "What fills you up?" Whatever the answer is, do that.

Sara said...

Hi! Thanks for the reply. I like your imagery of a ruthless guardian. I know what activities are life-giving, but the disconnect happens in my schedule (or lack thereof). Definitely food for thought here.