Last summer, I enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime journey to South Africa, where I toured the country performing with my chorus and experiencing moments of awe, joy, and connection that will last me forever. This summer I took a different journey – inward – to process the recent death of my father and some other personal losses and endings. As grief forced me to slow down and attend to my deepest needs, I made space to nurse my aching heart and sagging spirit. I took time off from teaching and marketing while continuing to work with clients, which kept me connected to my passion for helping others tend to the needs and callings of their own souls and spirits.
The result, my “Summer Soulcation,” taught me more about what truly nourishes me. I’m sharing some of what helped me here, in case you, too, want to put more soul into the rest of your summer:
Music – Most mornings, I would listen to acoustic guitar music as I read spiritual literature and wrote in my journal. Sometimes I swapped in the traditional music of Mali, which can be hauntingly beautiful and full of desert longing. In the evening, my favorite reggae artists often inspired dancing in the kitchen as I prepared dinner. Other nights it was piano jazz and a glass of wine. My summer splurge was a weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival (in torrential rain and blistering heat, but the music was worth it and it made for a good story), and I sometimes met friends in bars to hear blues, soul and R&B bands.
Q: What music stirs and satisfies your soul? Play some, and maybe even sing along.
Movement – I walked the nearby bike path most days – faithfully, if not always briskly – to move my body and process grief in a physical way. As mentioned above, I sometimes danced at home, and one night I joined friends at an open air dance party in the center of Cambridge, covered in sweat and soooo not caring. I did some gentle yoga and stretching on my bedroom floor, trusting the wisdom of my body to move and release as needed, including tears. I also swam whenever I could, letting the water bathe me inside and out.
Q: What movement does your body crave these days? Do it.
Nature – The big reason I walk the bike path near my home is that it offers a cathedral of trees, a bevy of birds, an array of flowers and plants, and green grass and blue water in the nearby park. On days when I felt particularly empty and alone, Mother Nature was a soothing companion, and I swear that loving spirits often rode on the wings of the bees, butterflies, and dragonflies I encountered nearly every day. I also brought nature’s gifts inside in the form of mini bouquets that provided cheer and beauty, and herbs and veggies from generous gardens. The ocean, my happy place since I was a child, was a priority once a week if I could swing it. Sometimes my own tears merged with the salt water.
Q: Where in nature do you feel soothed and inspired? Go there.
Connection – As time went on, I realized that I needed real connections and friends more than social media interactions, so I limited my Internet presence to posting helpful things on my business page and account. The extrovert in me became more of an introvert this summer, as I chose one-on-one visits over most parties and gatherings, save for my women’s circles. When I needed companionship, I chose people with whom I could be authentic and accepted for who I am in all my messy humanness. My therapist and minister fell into that category, too.
Q: Who helps you feel most seen, heard and loved ? Connect with them, in person.
Solitude – Being single and self-employed, and working from home quite a bit, I’m used to spending a lot of time with myself. I took it to a new level this summer, trusting that it was just what I needed. Sometimes my solitude included prayer and meditation. Sometimes it found me staring up or out at trees, sky, and clouds, and sometimes it involved crying. In any case, I learned that I really do enjoy my own company.
Q: How can you enjoy your own company more? Try it.
Reading – I dove into fiction and spiritual memoirs with gusto this summer. I also read People magazine cover to cover when I needed something easy and entertaining. I find that other people’s stories help to inform my own sometimes, and books took me to places my feet could not this summer. Summer reading also takes me back to the innocence of childhood. And yes, there was also plenty of cinema therapy in my summer.
Q: What kinds of books take you on the journeys you most need these days? Read them.
What’s on your list of soul-nourishing activities? If you don’t have such a list, I suggest you sit yourself down somewhere lovely, with a cup or glass of something delicious, and make one. Then follow what it recommends, this summer and beyond.
Kim Childs is a Boston-area Certified Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity, soulful living, and midlife transitions. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in her Arlington, MA, office or from anywhere in the world via phone or video chat.