In the Joni Mitchell song “Woodstock”, Joni sings about how she’s “got to get her soul free”. For many months, I’ve also lived in the pursuit of getting my soul free. I grew up walking barefoot in the woods and lately I’ve been getting back to building up those callouses at a nature preserve near my home called The Marshlands. For minutes at a time, I’ll dig my toes into the earth and stand still as a rock and try to breathe in the trees towering over me.
I walk to to ocean and stand in water up to my knees and let the salt wear away at me. At the New York-ness that’s clogging my pores. The rushing, the rude drivers behind their horns in their insular, sheltered little cars. The sea laps away my constant comparisons to other artists, the yearning to be the best and “make it”. Water is a meditation to all the inhabitants of the earth. The patterns of light rippling on the surface, the feeling of it heaving gently but resoundingly back and forth against me in the warm shallows. It’s September and I want to be submerged in the ocean. There’s really nothing like it.
All of this is a method of getting my soul free. I leave my phone at home and wear no watch. What I am looking for, am fighting for, is a complete detachment from time. From “checking”, from immediately addressing my worries and being on the clock to answer anyone’s requests, calls, emails. From refreshing my emails, waiting for the message that will deliver me, pull me up the ranks, change everything, be the big break I’ve been waiting for all these years.
No, I need to escape from all of that. Tempting and as shallowly satisfying as all that is, the “ping” of a new follower or a kind comment is just another shackle around my soul. My soul is never free when I’m connecting vaguely through these impersonal means.
It’s not my intention to vilify all technology because a long phone call with an old friend or a thought provoking film can also loosen the grips on my tired little soul, but it’s the fragmentary nature that breaks me down. The suspension I feel. The glances between 100 attention snatchers at once. Zoning out of what’s going on around me to scroll, refresh, react. Pulled in all these directions, my soul can’t relax or let down its guard.
How do I get my soul free? Maybe by living completely in the moment, even if it’s just for a few hours. Ideally days and weeks at a time could be spent that way, but even a few minutes of meditation of any sort (art, music, being in nature, or straight up sitting cross legged and connecting to the breath, noticing your senses one by one) can free your soul a little bit.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble lately reconciling my career with this desire to get my soul free. I think that if I spend time being completely committed to and engaged with these escapes, I can get my soul free to some degree and carry that gentleness into other moments. Build up the reserves and hold them close. The strength and patience to ward off addictions such as the craving for attention and validation. Breathe in the salty air. Feel the burning in my bare feet on the hot, sharp rocks. I’m going to get my soul free.
Feel free to share what methods you use to get your soul free!