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Filling your Soul

empty street at night

Like a moth fluttering towards the moonlight, we often find ourselves drawn to the artificial; our search for meaning obfuscated by the overwhelming glow of success. 

In the first days of the pandemic, it was silent. The skies unlaced with contrails. The roads ghost-town empty. We felt a post-apocalyptic frisson of uncertainty. We masked. We sprayed our groceries with disinfectant. We stopped looking one another in the eyes. We spent hours shifting our ways of doing and being. We watched as the world grieved. We imagined whom we loved would be lost. And in our darkest moments, we wondered what it would be like to die alone.

If anything the pandemic has taught us that life is uncertain. What we take for granted can be whisked away. For many of us coming back to our over-full lives after a period of bone-chilling uncertainty feels overwhelming. We find ourselves waking at night in a hot heavy sweat. We find ourselves complaining about the way our students are simply not showing up. And deep down we too wonder what it would be like to cocoon in bed. We wonder what we have been doing and why. We wonder how we can move forward and at the same time how when we are faced with the notion of dying the only thing we do is the same thing we have always done. Before the pandemic, we assumed that if life were limited we would savor every moment. We would notice the ever-shifting clouds. We would see the leaves shimmering, always greener after a rain. And we would find meaning.

Some of us did.

Many of us are still seeking.

Poet Mary Oliver writes, “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Before the pandemic, we thought we knew. But when the world settled into stillness it became clear that many of us were living lives not illuminated by the moonlight. 

In the autumn of 2021, as the days grew darker, the Provost’s office sent out an email entitled “Filling your Soul”. The email recognized the disconnect many of us were living. The exhaustion we felt. The healing we all needed. The email encouraged us to find ways to fill our souls. From this email, a workshop was created. Together, Dr. Kimberly Henderson, who teaches the class the Art of Happiness, and Lecturer Elizabeth Barnes, who is fascinated by positive psychology, asked what filling the soul would actually look like. Using the research behind positive psychology the workshop helped participants find a daily action to help them truly live their “one wild and precious lives.”

For many, it was a small step in a long journey toward living in alignment. It was a gathering of people searching for something more. In the space of that workshop, we shared our imagined lives. In that imagining, we found what was missing, and in the missing, we created an action. A solitary action that if repeated daily would help us find our way towards a life bathed in moonlight.

If you are interested in the steps participants took to find a daily action here is the Filling Your Soul workshop worksheet. Please check out the workshop offerings from the CTL for future workshops around this theme.

-Elizabeth Barnes