Where in your life do you feel like something is missing? I encourage you to reflect upon this. Look closely at your life and identify what you need most.
You can begin by looking at four areas: personal alone time, family life, work life, and your connection to nature.
Recognizing depletion is the first step in soul retrieval — you need to know what is missing before you can retrieve it.
In any of these areas, are you lacking a sense of stability, comfort, inspiration, flexibility, or openness? Notice any feelings of discomfort, sadness, exhaustion, or disconnection.
Here are four areas of your life to assess to find out what's missing:
1. Look At Your Personal Life
Do you feel at home within yourself? One way to reflect on this is to notice how often you need to be distracted. Do you fill your free time by going online, texting, watching television, or napping? Can you go for a walk, lie on the beach, or take a drive without listening to music or talking on your cell phone?
Reflect on the last time you were with a stranger. At the time, perhaps you noticed a slight sense of restlessness, tightness, or discomfort in your body or your breathing. If you feel that same lack of ease when you’re alone, perhaps it’s because you don’t truly know yourself, and are therefore uncomfortable being by yourself.
Connection to the peaceful, joyful experience of who you are is directly accessible through the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of nature.
I know a woman who is always doing chores and caring for her young son, but never takes time for herself. Even when her child has a play date and she is free to do anything she wants, she feels she has to catch up on housework. Home could be a source of nourishment and healing for her, but like many people, she finds it hard to be still even in her own home.
Ask yourself: How do you feel when you are alone? Do you feel comfortable, connected, and renewed in the stillness, silence, and spaciousness? Or do you feel restless or listless? Maybe you have a negative self-image and seldom find a nourishing space within yourself. Recognizing your discomfort with yourself is the first step in the healing process.
2. Look At Your Family Life
Our family can provide a sense of belonging, a foundation that supports and nourishes our life. Some people are fortunate to have a stable, loving family. But this is not true for many of us. The pressures of divorce, alcoholism, financial difficulties, health issues, or a child's chronic behavior problems can pose serious challenges to the well-being of families. And when there is any change in the family dynamic, whether through marriage, birth, adoption, or death, every family member is affected.
Imagine a man whose mother is chronically depressed, and no matter how much he tries to help her, she pushes him away every time. He can’t stop thinking about her unhappiness, and at the same time he can’t process it, digest it, or deal with it. Thinking about it drains him. His whole life seems affected by it. It depletes his soul.
A woman moves in with a man who at first seems trusting, loving, and giving. Then he grows jealous, angry, and possessive, and starts to physically abuse her. Before this relationship, she experienced a lot of warmth when she was with people, and she was very much in touch with her creativity. Since entering into that relationship, she is no longer open and spontaneous, and has lost her trust in others and even herself.
The death of a loved one can be devastating. During a soul-retrieval workshop, a student told me that she finally understood the impact of losing her grandfather. Her grandfather had been more important to her than her parents, she explained. He had been like a father, mother, friend — everything. When she lost him, she lost her grounding quality, both in herself and in her relationships with men.
Sometimes collective family pain comes down through the generations. But when one person has the strength, confidence, and knowledge to recognize and open to this collective family pain, it is possible to cultivate love and harmony, and break the cycle. The soul-retrieval practices offer such an opportunity
While our stories may be different, their effect on us may be similar. Like many people, you may feel as if your family relationships deplete you instead of nourish you. Recognizing depletion is the first step in soul retrieval — you need to know what is missing before you can retrieve it. In this case, it’s recognizing how your family lives in you.
3. Look At Your Work Life
Some people are passionate about their work; others are at least satisfied with their jobs. But many others don’t like going to work each day. A recent Gallup poll found that more than half of all employees in the United States are not truly engaged at work: basically, they show up but aren’t inspired by what they’re doing. One in five workers is unhappy enough with their jobs to share their discontent with others. Doing something you dislike 40 hours a week is likely to affect you deeply.
On any given Monday morning, you can sense the collective pain of your fellow commuters. You can see it in their facial expressions or hear it in their tone of voice. When a customs official asks an international traveler, “Are you traveling for work or pleasure?” the question itself assumes that work is not pleasurable.
Imagine a health aide who spends the day dealing with patients who are suffering mentally or physically, and instead of being energized by the services he performs, feels exhausted and stressed. Every moment of his day is draining. He carries this burden home each night, and the pain spills over into other areas of his life.
Ask yourself: Do you look forward to working each day? Do you feel energized and enlivened by your work? Do you feel bored, or stuck in a dead-end job? Once again, recognition is the first step in soul retrieval. Reflect on how your job lives in you.
4. Look At Your Relationship With Nature
If you are fortunate, you have an intimate knowledge of the sacred and restorative power of nature. This connection may stem from a childhood spent playing in woods and streams, backpacking in the mountains, or vacationing by the ocean. But for many of us, our world revolves around technology and social interplay. We feel most alive amid the hum of modern life, and when not engaged or busy, we feel numb or disoriented. The inner space that resonates vividly with the natural world is unfamiliar to many of us, especially city dwellers.
When was the last time you experienced the unbounded spaciousness of a clear, starry night sky, the clarity of sunlight reflecting on water, the immensity of a mountain, the ease and flow of a meandering river, the warmth of a campfire, or the playfulness of a spring breeze? You may enjoy spending time in a café watching people come and go, feeling warmth and liveliness supported by the pleasant aroma of coffee, but when was the last time you experienced the liveliness and power of the wilderness?
Connection to the peaceful, joyful experience of who you are, is directly accessible through the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of nature.
Once again, recognizing the presence or absence of this source of nourishment is the first essential step in healing soul loss. Ask yourself: How do you relate to the natural elements? Do you regularly take time to replenish yourself in nature? Is the natural world as lively for you as a coffee shop? Or is nature divorced from your inner world? If so, when did you lose your sacred connection to the natural world? Can you remember a time before you lost that connection? How did that feel?