Thomas Moore is one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time. His many books on the soul have both defined and illuminated our understanding of this mysterious and powerful lifeforce that lives within all of us. And for those who classify themselves as SBNR, A Religion of One’s Own should be required reading for those looking to start or enhance a personal spiritual practice.
Thomas Moore’s latest book is Soul Therapy.
As its title implies, the book explores therapy, a field Moore has practiced in for decades. But more than a professional guidebook, Soul Therapy teaches the layperson how to offer wise counsel to anyone in your life who might need it. Moore believes there is a therapist in all of us, no fancy degree needed. He explains:
The word therapy means care or service and not cure or fix. It is a matter of the heart, the desire to care for another person in distress or someone trying to make sense of his or her life.
Moore reminds us that the most important thing we can offer a fellow human being is to be a good listener. This is especially true “at the death of a loved one, just before a marriage, at the loss of a job, when depression hits.” He continues, “there are many times when the sheer company of a caring friend gets you through a dark night of the soul.”
3 Insights from Soul Therapy
There are a ton of valuable insights to be gleaned from Soul Therapy. Here are 3 of my favorites, with Moore’s exact words appearing in quotes and italics.
Insight #1. It starts with the soul—your soul.
Do you know how when you’re on an airplane and they announce that in the event of an emergency, make sure your own mask is on before you try to assist others? It’s the same with soul therapy. You can’t effectively help others if you don’t take care of yourself first. That means making sure your own soul is being cared for. Moore tells us:
If you care for your soul, you will be more human, able to relate better and find your way through life, discovering your purpose and calling. Care of the soul is not always about dealing directly with problems but solving them indirectly by discovering your deepest self and making a beautiful life.
Moore teaches us that “the soul is embedded in ordinary life and prefers intimate experiences like home, family, and close friends.” It requires daily nourishment which can come from “friendship, creative work, community, good dining, conversation, humor, a spiritual perspective.” It is from these activities and experiences that we often find a sense of our own purpose and destiny. Moore continues:
Care of the soul does not mean becoming a better person or being free of neurotic tendencies. It means that you open your heart and care for yourself and your world, including friends and family members.
Insight #2. Your job and your lifework are not the same thing.
Your job is how you make money. But your lifework is whatever is done in the course of your lifetime that makes you feel like you’ve made a contribution. Your job or career can be a part of that lifework, but, as Moore says, “so are avocations and service done for your community.”
Moore offers three questions to ask yourself about your job. They can help determine if it is really fulfilling your purpose and nourishing your soul:
- Does your job have the deep meaning you need?
- Does it take you along a path to your own fulfillment?
- Does it allow you to make a contribution to humanity, no matter how small?
Find yourself answering “no” to all of these questions? Moore advises us that one way to find new meaning in your job is to deepen the conversations you have at work and see how you might better assist others. Is there specific knowledge or life lessons you might be able to pass on?
Insight #3. You are a therapist.
I once wrote a story for Wake Up Call titled “You are a Lifeguard.” Moore has a similar refrain here. If you are not swallowed up whole by your own internal troubles, you are a therapist and have the ability to help others. He offers the following guidance:
- Listen closely to what she has to say and let her know that you have heard her. Keep your solutions for another day.
- Don’t think of your friend’s life as a problem to be solved but as a complicated experience she is trying to sort out and do well with.
- It’s not about converting people to your beliefs or values but helping others through deep conversation.
- Stay open to her story and let it show itself gradually. When it comes to issues that spring from the soul, it is not so much a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be unraveled, one small step at a time.
When we engage in therapy for those around us, we can also serve as spiritual guides, whether it’s for our children or grandchildren, our friends or our neighbors. We have the inherent ability to help people “reconnect with the power that helps resolve problems and restore happiness.” Some parting guidance from Moore:
You can live a therapeutically oriented life, bringing deep care wherever you go. You can be therapeutic when you write a letter or email, or when you speak to a business associate or customer, or when you say good night to your children. Therapy is appropriate every moment of every day. You are not fixing the world, but you are giving it the care it needs to thrive.