Thursday, April 10, 2008
Sustainable. We hear that word a lot nowadays: sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture, sustainable development… but a sustainable soul? What’s that?
Imagine you’re standing in a forest. It’s gorgeous. Green and lush, full of life! Left undisturbed and unpolluted, it will continue indefinitely, drawing energy from the sun, growing new trees to replace the ones that fall and decompose, feeding its animal denizens, changing all the time but remaining stable. If disturbed by a natural disaster or parasite, it will grow back if given half a chance. The only real danger to it is the logging company over there at the forest’s edge that would clear-cut the trees and walk away, leaving only bare earth behind. The forest needs to be protected if it’s to truly be sustainable. This forest is your soul.
When I say soul I mean the spirit-heart, the core from which everything else flows, the deep center within. So, what makes it sustainable? Think about that forest again: dynamic but stable, self-renewing, able to heal, creating new life and new paradigms, but needing protection from forces that would destroy it. Sounds pretty spiritual, doesn’t it? Having a sustainable soul means being connected to something greater than yourself. It means being both adaptable and grounded at the same time. It means not becoming so depleted and drained that you feel as though you’ve been clear-cut. A sustainable soul is resilient and able to heal from life’s storms.
Whether we realize it or not, our families and relationships also have a soul, a collective spirit-heart that blends and transform its members into something other than just the sum of the individuals. What defines a sustainable soul for one person also applies to these. Connectedness, adaptability, being grounded, the ability to self-renew and heal, along with some healthy well-tended boundaries…all these help define “sustainability” for a collective soul.
It’s not easy to nurture a sustainable soul as an individual, in a relationship, or as a family. At times, it seems like the culture itself is lurking at our edges chain saw in hand, ready to cut us down. Healthy boundaries are essential! Even so, we can and will grow strong if given half a chance. Add a little spiritual sunlight and water and we heal, grow and flourish!
The Sustainable Soul is all about sharing that “little sunlight and water” with each other. In future columns, we’ll explore what it means to live with intention and deep connection to something greater than ourselves. We’ll share ideas for making life more meaningful. We will guard our borders, and learn how to consciously interact with and challenge contemporary society. We will not give the clear-cutters free access to our deep center, our soul’s ground.
For now, just take a look within. How’s your inner forest? Is it healthy? Does it need a little sunlight and water? Is it growing, or experiencing a dry spell? Worse yet, have the clear-cutters been through lately? If they have, be gentle with those places, and think about planting some new trees.
Rebecca Hecking is a writer and managing editor for Primal Parenting Magazine. She contemplates the Big Questions as she plants trees in her own soul’s forest.