A friend has asked me to define “soulful living,” since it is a phrase I used in a comment I wrote for one of her poems. Below is a brief sketch I developed as an answer. Needless to say, I need to develop these ideas much more systematically, but I would like to think my answer below is a starting off point for further reflection. Here is what I wrote her:
Question: What is soulful living?
Short Answer: Pursuing what your soul finds blissful.
Long Answer: Pursuing what your soul finds blissful. This is easier said than done. The hardest part at first is discernment. What really does my soul find blissful? Can I distinguish what my soul finds blissful versus what I have been socialized into thinking will make me happy? For that matter, can I distinguish between soul bliss, which is the highest possible state apart from what is attainable through the gift of divine grace, and the lower conditions of “happiness”? All of these are questions we can start to answer only with greater discernment of our soul. There are several methods for advancing discernment, including meditation, prayer, and ascetic discipline. If and when we really start to acquire discernment, we shall start to grow in wisdom. With wisdom comes perspective on truth – not just learning what is true, which we can learn from philosophy and theology, but actually developing our own perspective of the truth. Perspective should not be confused with cultivating a subjective truth. Truth, if genuine and meaningful at all, must be objective. Still, we can start to develop what is our own inner perspective on that objective truth – how we relate to it, how it calls to us, what we may be called to do (or not to do) in response. Once we acquire our own perspective on truth, we may start to act on that, assuming of course we have the courage of our conviction at that time to buck the socialization which likely will be contrary to our own perspective on truth. This is what I call soulful living: Acting in the world (“acting” in the broadest sense, which will include concrete action, but also talking, writing, thinking, etc., basically any kind of personal physical, mental, or emotional push in any one direction) in accordance with ones own perspective on the truth. This is what the soul wants, and this is how the soul finds bliss.