Caring for your soul isn't often discussed in conjunction with therapy. Generally therapy is thought to be the province of the mind, a path toward better thinking which is supposed to lead to better living. But the human machine runs on something more than thought and action. And that is spirit, that part of all of us that is beyond words and even beyond thought. No one with a heart or intuition can look at this world and not wonder what brought it into being in the first place. The green movement taps into this eco energy by trying to preserve what is essential to the healthy functioning of our natural world. Well.....people have a natural world, too. People are a perfectly balanced and sustainable eco system, a system that can maintain wellness or sickness. And part of maintaining wellness within ourselves is to nourish our spiritual being.
In the same way that exercise is critical for maintaining a healthy body, the mind needs quiet. Within that quiet there is a kind of awareness that nourishes us from within. We each have it but it gets drowned out by the hustle and bustle of life, the constant need to get somewhere, do something or be someone. But life is not lived in a straight line. In fact this linear mentality that makes life seem like a straight line is exactly what keeps us from dropping down into our own inner depths, let's call it our vertical being. What we need to do is to create quiet space in our day just to be. We need to walk in nature or in parks, we need to sit or lie quietly and let our minds wander. We need to turn off the TV, the computer and the phone and disconnect from the three dimensional world so that we can connect with the invisible dimension that puts us in touch with what it means to be human and alive. Most of us know the relaxing effects of a day lolling around the beach or a picnic in nature. Nature invites us just to be with it and to be with ourselves, to relax and unwind with no particular agenda, to enjoy who we're with in an easy and natural way. We can go to a soothing beach or to a bucolic field in our minds any time we want to. This dropping down nourishes us spiritually so that we can sustain and renew ourselves from within our own self system. It draws from that same invisible, life giving force that is part of the mystery of the natural world, part of bringing forth life.
When we lose track of this inner, self sustaining route, we may need to use a variety of props to shore ourselves up. Maybe we depend on what we wear, who we know, where we live or what we do to sustain ourselves and these things become more or less who we are. Don't get me wrong, what we do, who we keep company with and where we live are all very important life choices and do contribute to shaping certain aspects of self. But self is more than the sum of these parts. All of these can become hollow and disappointing if we put our faith in them rather than in the power of life to rebuild, repair and renew itself on a daily basis. When we feel empty inside and the only way we can figure out to fill up again is by acquiring something from the outside we're heading down a slippery slope. Within us is the perfect life awaiting to be born, to be experienced, to expand and become sustaining. Without this daily conscious contact with our own inner being, with our spirit, with the spiritual or creative force that lives within each of us therapy can only take us so far. Therapy should remove the blocks that keep us from living in the present, the personal traumas and conflicts that keep us so preoccupied with the past or worried about the future that we can't relax and live in our own bodies.
If we want therapy to be sustainable we need to learn to find that place within ourselves that renews us each and every day, that place of quiet, prayer and meditation that goes to our core and draws forward what is life enhancing within us, that makes us feel personally renewed.
Dr. Dayton will be starting an "Ask Dr. Dayton" column.....please send any questions that you have that are appropriate for a psychologist to answer to firstname.lastname@example.org....possible subjects might be parenting, anxiety, family of origin issues, advice on relationships, depression, addiction, codependency etc.