“When we regain our spirituality, we will again learn to laugh from our hearts and play because “those who know how to play can easily leap over the adversaries of life. And one who knows how to sing and laugh never brews mischief.”

~ Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley with quote from an Iglulik Proverb

In “How Negative Emotions Impact our Moods,” retreat coach Judith Geiger writes about how her African Grey Parrot started becoming irritable and mean after being in a room daily with a TV tuned to cartoons. (And we’re perplexed when kids are cranky and cantankerous after a cartoon binge.) I’m not surprised. In fact, I think that one of the greatest challenges of our times is to create soul-nurturing environments. . . places and spaces in which we’re free of “modern conveniences,” unhooked from our hectic schedules, and allowed–or, more correctly, we allow ourselves–to simply BE.

Is your soul suffocating or soaring?

Most people I know live in hurry-scurry suburbia. They’re deluged by the drone of TVs, radios, and even modern appliances. Conversations and concentration are regularly interrupted by ringing cell phones, vibrating Blackberrys, and instant messages flashing across their computer screens. Rather than having the chance to soak in our surroundings, we’re more often assaulted by the environments in which we’re choosing to live.

“Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.”

~ Anna Quindlen

In the first chapter of my book, Live the Life You’ve Imagined, I write about ways in which you can “awaken your spirit.” Specifically this chapter presents 10 specific strategies for reintroducing spiritually-nurturing energy back into your life. Four ideas which I think are of particular relevance to creating soul-nurturing environments are below.

  • Live in healthy environments. Like Judith learned from her parrot, the environments in which we spend our time impact our state of mind and our emotional mood. Begin to notice which environments (places, people, energies) support you and which leave you feeling drained, despairing, depressed, or disconnected. Then start choosing nurturing spaces and eliminating the unhealthy environments from your life.
  • Be nurtured by nature. We are animals and we are part of the natural world, even if many of us think of outdoors as “foreign territory.” Put yourself back in nature and take a break from human-made-habitats. Bring more nature into your regular environments (plants, flowers, pictures of beautiful environs, music of birdsong, forest sounds, or ocean waves). Find ways to reconnect yourself with your wild, untamed roots.
  • Get quiet. Though I do mean “quiet” in the sense of blocking out outside sources of auditory bombardment, I also am referring to a silencing of the near constant chatter coming from our critical minds. It’s imperative that we find ways to lower the volume of the messages being foisted upon us 24-7, 365, so take the time to learn what methods of silence-making work best for you.
  • Have a haven. Though I’m fortunate to live and work in a wonderfully nurturing environment, it’s still invaluable to have special places I can go for even more soul satisfaction. Find retreat centers, parks, and cozy bookstore corners where you can go to when you need sanctuary for your soul. Then, once you know the places to go, make sure you make your visits regular respites rather than merely Septennial sojourns.

Remember, if it’s important for a African Grey Parrot to have a healthy environment, it’s good enough for you too!