“You’ve got to feed your soul.”

This observation came from a neighbor I was talking to not long ago. He had just commented on a few of my recent columns, and asked about my work in Uganda. His company has sponsored some projects and programs in Africa, and we were talking about how satisfying and fulfilling it can be to take part in such activities. We also talked about how people can be drawn to different types of projects or problems or missions or cultures, and we noted that sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to what it is that calls out to each of us.

“You’ve got to find what feeds your soul,” he said.

I’ve been thinking about that ever since.

Feeding our soul is different than feeding our body, although they do have some things in common. One is that for the best results, feeding both our body and our soul is a two-step process. The first step is learning what to eat and what to avoid. The second is actually doing it.

For feeding our bodies, step two is the tough one. But I think it’s just the opposite for feeding our souls. Figuring out what to feed it is more difficult than actually doing it.

I’m not talking about “soul” in religious terms, by the way. The word is defined differently within different faiths and philosophies, and I’m not referring to any one of these in particular. Instead, I’m simply talking about that intangible essence in each one of us – the place where our deepest feelings reside. Our soul is what generates our greatest sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, and is the source of our motivation, our values, and whatever it is that makes each of us unique.

So how do you figure out what to feed it?

I think it’s a trial and error method that we are all always working on, whether we realize it or not. When people spend time searching for happiness or significance or meaning in their lives, I think they’re really looking for whatever it is that feeds their soul.

A friend of mine once said that our lives are like a battery, and we need to realize that some activities energize and recharge us, while others drain and deplete us. I think that when we find whatever it is that feeds our soul, we discover that it does both – it exhausts us and energizes us at the same time. We hear a calling that we don’t quite know how to answer, but we know we have to pursue it anyway. And when we do, we feel a sense of passion, peace, and power that we can’t explain and never knew existed. That’s when we know that our soul is well-fed. And very, very satisfied.

If you don’t know what it is that feeds your soul, keep searching. Pay attention to what makes up a good day for you, as opposed to a lousy one or an ordinary one. Notice when you feel proud of something you’ve done, whether or not anyone else notices or appreciates it.

When you discover something that gives you a really good feeling, even if you’re not exactly sure why, you’ve probably found something that feeds your soul. Take part in it as often as you can and see the difference it makes in your life – and in the lives of others.

Bon appetit!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March 7, 2013.©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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