From the Heart: Food of the Soul

I share a lot of myself in this blog. I share my fears, shortcomings and struggles. I share my dreams and passions. I share my memories — both cherished and charred.

Sometimes I do it to put my own thoughts and feelings in perspective; sometimes I do it with the hope that there is at least one other person who may identify.

This week I share my love of learning. Plato said: “Knowledge is food of the soul.” I must have heard that somewhere along the way and taken it straight to heart.

I was a nerdy kid who loved to study. I couldn’t wait to receive the syllabus and book list for an upcoming class. Every assignment was a new opportunity.

When my family purchased our first set of encyclopedias, I could get lost in them for hours. I still often prefer the company of a good book to some people I know.

I have never bought into the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I believe that old dogs can see beyond the tricks for the true treats and treasures.

As I have gotten older, I learn in a different way and for different reasons. Maybe you do, too. I no longer worry if the knowledge will make me more marketable in the workplace. I want to do my best but am definitely not driven to get straight As.

I learn to love. That might sound sappy and sentimental — but it’s true. I don’t just gather knowledge to massage my ego, expand my mind and raise my earning potential; I learn to expand my heart, feed my soul, and raise my consciousness.

There are things that are far more important in this world than money and status. I say that humbly knowing that I am in a privileged position to be able to do what I love without worrying about how I will survive. Not everyone is in that position.

I have been fortunate to have good jobs with good benefits. I was born with the instinct to save and invest wisely. Barring unseen financial disasters, I should be able to live in (semi!) retirement comfortably. Not everyone can do that either.

However, we can all use what we learn to somehow make the world a better place. The four years I spent at One Spirit were transformational in helping me to do that.

One Spirit has a unique way of teaching that takes students on an inward journey to prepare them to share what they have learned with the outer world in a deeper and more committed way. As a lifelong learner, I know this is not always the case.

Not too long ago, I asked my Saturday morning power of intention group to hold the following thought for me: How am I meant to share my love of writing and passion for the written word with the world? How can I make a real difference with what I write?

The following week I just “happened” to come across an online master’s program in theopoetics and writing offered in conjunction by Bethany Theological Seminary and the Quaker-based Earlham School of Religion. According to both schools, the program is “designed to enhance students’ ability to write and think at the intersection of creativity, faith, and meaning. Along with academic study, it trains students in various forms of written communication and other media that bring spirituality into public conversation with the whole of life.”

The more I learned the more I knew that this is a program for me. I immediately applied for the fall semester. Like One Spirit, these two schools approach teaching as both an inward and outward journey. They know that who we are as writers is just as important as what we write and how we write it.

As someone who avoids debt at any cost, I worried about the full cost of tuition. However, I prayed that if it was meant to be the resources would appear. As luck would have it, based on my undergraduate GPA and how well-endowed one of the schools is, I will only have to pay the base tuition of $1,100 per semester.

Of course, there are concerns and fears. Will I be able to keep up with the demands and rigor of a graduate program? Will my writing be good enough to justify my place in the program? What unexpected bumps along the way will cause me to stumble? How will I be challenged in ways that won’t always feel comfortable?

At the same time there is immense gratitude and excitement about this gift from the universe. I carry the humility of knowing that my words can both hurt and heal. The stars have aligned for me with this opportunity to continue to learn how to use my writing for the highest good. It is up to me to shine.

What each one of us does in the world matters. Who we are and how we do it matters even more.

Doctors without bedside manner are really just scientists working in a lab. CEOs who worry more about the bottom line than the people who help them earn it are likely to have lots of wealth but little spiritual capital. Home painters who think they are just doing a job are missing out on the beauty of knowing that each one of their wild and precious strokes improves the places where our hearts dwell.

We need to go within and work on ourselves before we can make a real difference out there. That isn’t always easy or comfortable, and we won’t always be successful, but learning to do it with just a little more love and compassion matters.

As the poet Mary Oliver asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” And how do you plan to do it.



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