Art of Soulmaking, Finding Our Shared Humanity

by Rachel Regan

For the last three years I have been a volunteer coordinator in the Prison Monastery volunteer program and for that same amount of time I have been grateful every day that I have had that as a touchstone of my day, my week, my month. Together with incarcerated participants we navigate The Art of Soulmaking workbook and write to each other, sharing our experiences along the way. The Art of Soulmaking lays out principles for how to nurture and build a relationship with the soul. It takes what is hard to put to words, gathers the whispers in our hearts, acknowledges and holds valuable the parts of us that we believe unlovable and then gives us a practical, on-the-ground way to work with it all. In the chaos and the often mundanity of everyday life, or when I just can’t seem to get out of my head, I’ve found refuge in this book, this practice, and the exchange of lived experiences with my pen pals.

My friend Sofia texted me one weekday morning and asked, “You wanna join a book club with me?” I was immediately intrigued, not only did I think, “Are book clubs even a thing anymore? But I thought, “Well, what the hell, I love books.” It turns out that it wasn’t just any old book club, it was The Art of Soulmaking Book Club. Each week, we would join the co-author of The Art of Soulmaking, Beth Wareham, as we moved chapter by chapter, lesson by lesson. Beth would share some insights and nuggets from her writing, and we would discuss the impact and application of the book in our own lives. Guests would join us in our discussion.

Like most things I’ve experienced on the Soulmaking path, things can often look one way, and then deeply move everyone in a whole range of ways that I would never have expected. We have had soft moments of tenderness, we have had bright moments of joy and humor, we have had gravitational moments of wake-up and broadening perspectives and most importantly collective desire at the end of each week for our next one!

We are now six episodes in, and each week has been so rich with discussion and heartfelt experience from people with lives and backgrounds so extraordinarily different on the surface of things but so deeply connected in other ways. One of my favorite weeks so far has been around the topic of forgiveness, what it actually is, what it looks like in practice, and its extraordinary impact. Our panel was a former pastor, a business manager, and a formerly incarcerated gang member turned peace activist, an editor and former media exec, and me—a single mum in Ireland. Inside the topic, our coming together around it, our sharing of lives in relation to it, there was a feeling of logically we would never be connected, and in this work we get to see where and how we really are connected, the shared humanity of our experience, regardless of how it is expressed in the world. At one point we were discussing the impossible situations people face in their lives, where things can appear so grave that it would seem like the most inconceivable task to even consider forgiveness. Jay Davis was describing that moment of light, that moment of brightness that occurs when your soul says, “I must do, I must be something different here, someone has to end this distorted sense of justice,” while describing his life as a gang member. In the moment we all felt our shared humanity, we did not have to have been gang members, but we all knew exactly what he meant and had all had that moment, regardless of the circumstance. That’s been the most eye-opening take away I’ve had so far from The Art of Soulmaking, there is no us and them. We all inhabit this world together, we are all connected, we are all experiencing emotions that elicit behaviors and patterns and for the most part, we are all seeking the tools to work with it all and to get free from our prisons, whether that’s literal prison like our incarcerated pen pals or the internal prisons we build for ourselves. The Art of Soulmaking, gives us the map to work with it, regardless of circumstance.

Rachel Regan is a business consultant whose passion is infusing all business arenas whether for profit or nonprofit with connection. Currently she’s serving as the Prison Monastery Volunteer Program Coordinator and on a mission to reach 700,000 Art of Soulmaking practitioners this year.

The Rehumanization Magazine

newslettersGet access to the monthly Rehumanization Magazine featuring contributors from the front lines of this effort—those living on Death Row, residents of the largest women’s prison in the world, renowned ecologists, the food insecure, and veteran correctional officers alike.