Sometimes, a sense of disconnection with who we really are sends us searching—for depth, for meaning, for reconnection. “Who am I?” is a question that has been asked since time immemorial. Too often it brings more questions than answers! Marni Sclaroff explores this question as she contemplates the concept of ‘soul’ and what it really means. In the following interview, Marni offers methods and practices to nourish and tune in to the soul.
Yogaville: You’re leading a workshop at Yogaville about nourishing the soul. Many people have varied ideas about the meaning of ‘soul’. How would you describe it? Could it have a secular meaning?
Marni: To me, soul is of the same essence as nature. It is basically the essence of a thing. All spiritual practices aim to give us an experience of our essence, because that is where we know that we are all connected with everything else. When we understand connection in an embodied way, we feel more safe, more grounded, more alive, more well, and we have access to deeper levels of wisdom. Soul is what makes us real and human. It is very easy to have an experience of soul when you are in nature and you really let yourself experience it. Natural things are always unutterably themselves, and even though we, as humans, are of nature, we sometimes forget who we really are. Yoga is the practice of coming home to that. I don’t see this as religious at all, because really we are just recognizing the deeper layers of our humanity. When we do that, we become more fully alive and well, and that is good for everyone.
Yogaville: What are ways that we neglect or fail to nurture our soul?
Marni: We live in a culture that is so disconnected from the wisdom of nature that many of us spend most our lives indoors. We rarely know what is happening outside. We have forgotten that we are here on planet Earth and that everything we do is affecting her—that we are inextricable linked. We wouldn’t be human without her.
Our bodies know this, but our minds can easily forget. I experience the body as an emanation of the soul. It’s like an avatar. It knows the rules of life, it protects, you, holds you, loves you, and it is your first line of defense here in the world. So, when we take really good care of our bodies, our souls are happy. They are intimate partners. They are both supporting each other. You can access great wisdom through listening to your body, because everything you will ever need to know to live a good life is in there.
When we neglect our bodies, the light of our soul gets dim. When we spend less time with nature, our soul suffers. When we ignore our dreams, our longings, and our intuition, the soul becomes weak, and we suffer from that. A lot of people come to Yoga, or any spiritual practice, as seekers. That seeking is really the soul moving you to learn how to listen to its wisdom. Then, hopefully, we find teachers and practices that help us to cultivate the stamina to live out its wisdom.
Yogaville: What are some healthy daily practices to help us tune in to our soul?
Marni: The simplest thing you can do is be with your breath. Allow the breath to move. Spend time outside, go for a walk every day to witness the seasons, notice the sky, and allow yourself to settle back into the slower rhythms of nature. Move your body every day. Yoga is a great practice, and anything that moves the body in an intentional and loving way is great. Take time for quiet. Meditation is one of the most profound and simple acts of self-care. Just learning how to sit with yourself in a non-judgmental way will teach you how to listen to your inner wisdom and connect you more deeply to your essence. When you allow space in your life for quiet, you can learn to hear all of the wisdom of your soul.
Yogaville: In your upcoming workshop, participants will explore archetypes. How specifically does storytelling and archetypal understanding help us to communicate with our soul?
Marni: Archetypes open us up to a bigger understanding. They help us to connect to a broader perspective. Myths and stories are meant to help us to see ourselves in a more symbolic and universal way. When we can look at our lives from a symbolic perspective, we can see how everything is here to further our evolution. An archetype is the opposite of a stereotype. A stereotype makes our world smaller, and an archetype makes it huge.
The soul exists in the bigger experience of the universe—it lives in the realm of infinite possibility. It knows that everything is connected. Yet, our minds do a great job of making things small and personal. Stories and archetypes help the mind understand universal concepts in personal ways, and that is how we can understand them much more deeply. Yoga can’t really happen unless we understand the concepts in ways that are relatable. We must be able to live it through our embodied experiences, and a great story can help us to understand a complex and profound truth in a way that touches our hearts. Then, it becomes a part of us, and our embodied experience is filled with more possibilities.