The anatomy of a soulful life

A book, a newsletter, a metaphor

As a girl, I thought my soul was a bone in my body, and I thought I knew exactly what it looked like. Most medical professionals seem fairly certain I was wrong, but the metaphor feels so right.

I drew my soul bone one Iowa afternoon, sitting at the kitchen table while my mother made dinner. Statistically speaking, she was probably mashing potatoes or making pickles. My brothers and sisters were all at school, but I was too young for that kind of thing. Not too young to have had a vision, though, I guess. Although I didn’t think of it as a vision. I just thought I knew exactly what my soul looked like and assumed this was as normal as my love of butterscotch pudding.   

The idea that it was like any other body part didn’t seem unreasonable because the best way I can describe my vision is that my soul looked like a side of beef with a hole in it about a third of the way down, off to one side. A thinner, more sculptural side of beef, that is — delicate but solid. Delicate as a wrist bone, maybe, and solid as a muscle. I figured it was my soul bone, and that hole looked like just about enough space to cradle my heart. I mean, I’ve already mentioned I was an Iowa girl, right? No drama or halos here, just another bone.    

What's all this about then?

If you arrived on this page directly, you may not know that I grew up an earnest evangelical fundamentalist Christian in American’s heartland. In addition to multi-weekly Bible studies and church services, I attended summer missionary camps and weekend prophecy conferences. I also picked up a few conspiracy theories at the Baptist school I attended. That school also required a Christian charm class, where I learned to equate Bible-reading with calorie-counting. Neat!

Anyway, that’s all behind me now: the beliefs and the underlying system to boot. I un-converted myself. Like, all the way. I didn’t want to let go of the beliefs but hang onto the patterns — become a judgmental atheist, for example, or a dogmatic yogi. I dismantled my life, and then I put myself back together, bone by bone.

And one of those bones was my soul bone — even if it is just a metaphor. Although it’s silly to say something is “just” a metaphor because I’ve learned that metaphors are way more powerful than any literal thing. Marion Woodman writes in several of her books about how finding the right metaphor transforms one kind of energy into another. So now I’m sharing this metaphor with you too.

That notion I had of my soul as a kid, that it belonged in my body, seems just about perfect. I want to fully engage with this world: mind and heart, sure, but also body. The soul bone metaphor feels to me like a deep mystical teaching about embodying my soul instead of merely striving to transcend this earthly plane in one way or another.

Soul Bone is the name of the book I've been writing, and it's the name of a newsletter I send each month at the new moon. The letter is a dispatch with lists and links, usually about life after fundamentalism, sometimes also about notebooks or lip balm or neutron stars or toasted marshmallows. I hope you'll join me! You can sign up anytime you please.  

Sign up for the Soul Bone

Get a free "un-conversion" map when you sign up for the Soul Bone monthly newsletter.