I returned on Sunday from a 10-day solitary retreat at Llannerchwen, a retreat centre in the Brecon Beacons that I visited for the first time last year. Here is the cottage I stayed in and the view across to the Beacons from my window (click to enlarge).
One of the books I took with me was Care of the Soul by the American psychologist and theologian Thomas Moore. He subscribes, he says, to the Renaissance approach of not separating psychology from religion.
He says of soul:
“Soul” is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart and personal substance.
He writes about engaging with the activities of everyday life in a creative way, making something for the soul out of every experience. I wondered what it would be like to replace the term mindfulness with soulfulness? The latter term, to me, has a roundedness to it, a recognition of the depth of human experience, that the former term, mindfulness, perhaps lacks. When I remind myself to engage soulfully I feel more of a relatedness with my task, my environment and the people around me than when I simply try to be mindful. Perhaps it is just the novelty of a new way of looking at things, but I think it can be valuable to challenge one’s understanding and practice of basic Buddhist concepts, such as mindfulness, from time to time.