Soulful

Whatever’s good for your soul, do that.

– Unknown

Definition of Soulful

I looked up the meaning of soulful after a friend recently asked me, “How do you make a home feel soulful?” Webster’s definition of soulful:  full of or expressing feeling or emotion. In thinking about her question, one of my mantras came to mind – it’s not just the way a home looks, it’s the way it feels.

I suppose the feeling of soulfulness is different for everyone. But I think it has something to do with what’s in your heart –  what you treasure in life and what gives your life meaning. Creating a feeling of soulfulness in a home is very personal. But I do believe there are universal threads of soulfulness that unite us, that we all share or relate to.

 Layers of Soulfulness

Nature, art, animals, handmade objects and ancient hand worn objects, things that hold memories, books, photos of friends and family, and sacred objects are the layers I feel add soulfulness to wherever you live. A dear friend who lost her home in the Northern California fires last fall defined a soulful home as one that doesn’t look temporary. A home that shows the beauty of the passage of time where people live out their lives surrounding themselves with the essence of who they are and what calls to them on a deep level.

Sacred Art

There’s something about sacred objects that represent a bigger picture to life that hold a special place in my heart. I have filled my home in Northern New Mexico and Northern California with objects I’ve collected over the years from both areas as well as from my travels.  I do not regard these as religious objects but rather as spiritual icons that serve to comfort and inspire me by what they represent.

The entry to my casita in Santa Fe, where the spiral staircase curves to meet the second floor, had a nicho in the wall when I bought the adobe. I hung a light over it and placed an antique statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of Santa Fe and animals, both of which I greatly revere.

St. Francis greets casita guests in Santa Fe
St. Francis greets casita guests in Santa Fe
An antique Mexican angel embellishes this simple kiva fireplace
An antique Mexican angel embellishes this simple kiva fireplace

The small family room fireplace is adorned with an antique hand carved angel from Mexico. In my home, I love the presence of angels who have intrigued artists, writers, and ordinary people of every age and culture for centuries. I found the unusual contemporary bronze cross adjacent to the fireplace in a Santa Fe gallery crafted by a local artist.  Its unexpected lighthearted shape surprises me.

The antique brass Hindu god Ganesh, who is the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Good Fortune, sits on an altar at the top of my stairway in California. He reminds me to be grateful every day for the good fortune in my life.

The antique brass Hindu God Ganesh stands for good fortune
The antique brass Hindu God Ganesh stands for good fortune

Spiritual Symbols of Mindfulness and Compassion

Buddha at peace sitting in mindfulness
Buddha at peace sitting in mindfulness

The ancient black and white marble Buddha originated in Burma (now Myanmar). It occupies a place of honor in my dining room in California encouraging mindfulness of the present moment.

In Chinese Buddhism, Kuan Yin is the bodhisattva or goddess of compassion, mercy, kindness and love. Who would not be served to be reminded of these high-minded virtues to aspire to in everyday life?

This Ancient Kuan Yin has a hollow compartment in her back where prayers are placed
This Ancient Kuan Yin has a hollow compartment in her back where prayers are placed
Spiritual icons remind me to revere the sacred in life
Spiritual icons remind me to revere the sacred in life

A porcelain statue of Mary, a gold-leafed Russian icon of Jesus and a small wooden Buddha from Laos stand beside a primitive wooden cross with a rusted metal heart from New Mexico. A handmade African mud cloth covers this Tibetan Buddhist High Llama altar adorned with bittersweet, candles, angels and sacred icons below a painting by renowned watercolor artist Tom Noble of Taos, who passed in February last year.

A Soulful Home

The soulful presence of altars in my home reminds me there is a bigger picture to life

A soulful home can be filled with layers of objects that represent what has heart and meaning to you, whether it’s a book, a cat, a painting, a view, a spiritual icon or all of these. Look deep inside yourself to find what you treasure in life and then live in it authentically. Fill your home with objects that touch your soul, inspiring and reminding you to stop just for a moment to appreciate and revere the sacredness of life both inside and outside of where you call home.

Yours in Soulfulness,

Toby and Linda Applewhite
I'm not crazy about the cat but I am soulful
I'm not crazy about the cat but I am soulful
Showing 4 comments
  • deborah healy
    Reply

    Lovely. I always try and have bittersweet where ever I live,…and a statue of Kuan Yin. Why I love everything you design. Thank you.

  • Liz Nichols
    Reply

    I wholly endorse the concept of a spiritual, soulful house. I hope readers/followers don’t think that (any type of) religious icon/s are necessary. I do like them, I just don’t focus my home around them. Collected items that have meaning and that we are drawn to are a must for a soulful home. Ditto a sense of the inhabitants’ history. When we follow popular, high visibility designers on TV and in print, everything is shiny and new, and generally anyone could live there. Soulful to me indicates who lives in that home, rather than a newly decorated house from an upscale store.

  • Sherrie Glendening
    Reply

    I don’t think the typical follower of Linda Applewhite is a person who would follow another’s personal style unless that style personally resonated with them. Linda stated that she doesn’t see these items as religious symbols, but rather spiritual pieces. Perhaps favorite books or artwork is spiritual to someone. If a religious object doesn’t speak to you, don’t include them in your decorating. Some houses are beautiful but don’t seem like home because they reflect a designers vision instead of the homeowners. I have a small altar in my bedroom that has natural objects such as a found bluejay feather, leaf skeletons, interesting rocks, and shells, and small photos. I also have my grandmother’s crucifix hanging above it because it has a deep personal meaning to me. These objects all mean something to me and help me to focus deeply. Linda’s style is warm and glowing, and that is what I love about it. A soulful home is one that reflects the owner’s best self. If that includes religious objects, it’s a personal decision, not a “fangirl” attempt to mimic a popular designer.

  • Liz Nichols
    Reply

    There is a risk in interpreting what someone else said and misunderstanding. There most often isn’t only one way of approaching something, depending on the quality of thinking. I like options. It occurred to me that as we work hard on making our homes beautiful to us, from us, from our hearts, as our sanctuaries, we are making the whole residence our altars. Soul and spirituality must come from inside each of us first, then we can explore ways to manifest them in our homes, if we still need to.

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