Soul Work

“Soul” is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves.  Thomas More, Care of the Soul I’m in a soul searching group.

It’s disguised as a food optimizing, weight loss, slimming group.  But, really, it's a soul searching group.

Kind of a high-falutin' term for a weight loss group, you say?

Could be, but, I’m sticking to my terminology.

I’ll try to explain.

Soul work and truth work are close relatives. Writing and soul work are Siamese twins.  Over the last several years, I have been writing, commenting, observing on paper (or whatever this medium is) on subjects ranging from theology & spirituality, raising children, marriage, growing up in an Irish-Catholic New York City community with all the gifts and baggage that entails and bringing that with me to a suburb in Dallas.

And all the while ignoring the scale.  Refusing to look at the number when the mean nurse made me stand on the truth device for a doctor visit.  Hiding under big blouses until they were no longer big.  Then having to buy the next size, just to be decent.

I was ignoring the truth.  I read all sorts of ‘soulful’ subjects, like spirituality, mythology, literature, psychology.  But that was stuff that went on between the ears.  Soul work takes place in the body, in the real, tangible, hot, cold, freezing, stifling, bright, dreary, windy, rainy world where our bodies reside.

The ‘salvation of my soul’ was drummed into me courtesy of the Baltimore Catechism.  I thought it had to do with sins and bad thoughts.  I had no idea that it had anything to do with groceries.

When I first encountered the teaching that Catholicism was a ‘sensual’ religion, I was taken aback.  I was raised in a more ascetical version of the faith, which turns out to be not so kosher. The use of very ordinary elements of life raised to be vehicles of the holy: the bread and wine, the olive oil, the beeswax candles, the incense, the lighting, the kneeling and the standing, all have to do with body. They are the ‘smells and bells’ of Catholicism of old and of scary movies of Hollywood.  Body in the service of the sacred.  Body in the service of soul.

As a student, I studied theology.  When I was a new mother, I learned what theology meant.  Theology, body/soul/spirit work, happens when you care for someone.  When you change diapers, stay up all night, rock a baby to sleep, prepare meals, put off your own plans for the good of someone else, make sure they are healthy, safe, happy.  When you give yourself away without counting it as sacrifice.  And then, do it all again someday with elderly parents who once did all that for you.

You have to be conscious to do soul work.  Eating whatever was handy or tasty or filled a need, just for the moment, was not being conscious.  It was a form of oblivion.  Like drinking.  Or and other kind of addiction.

So, yes, I am doing soul work.  In the kitchen.  It’s as good a place as any.