Over the past several months, I had the privilege of interviewing some amazing women for my book that is coming out in the fall: Awakening A Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life. As I’ve listened and transcribed their stories, I began to see patterns emerge. There was a common thread that existed between their stories and my own. There was a sense that they were hungry for something.

What was the source of this hunger that I’d heard over and over again in my interviews?

A few days later it came to me in the shower as I was conditioning my hair: It was soul hunger!!! Not only was it explaining what so many women have been describing to me, but it helped me to make sense of what I was trying to describe when I wrote the article: Is Your Life Lacking Meaning and Purpose?

It was soul hunger that lead me out of retirement to start The Compassionate Mind, and soul hunger that gets me up at 5 am to meditate, write, mentor and make a difference. I have come to understand that our souls, like our bodies, need to be fed in order to flourish and thrive.

I have also come to believe that soul hunger is an epidemic in our society. Large numbers of us experience it and yet we have no idea what it is. When I told my husband, Mark that my vision was to end soul hunger, he smiled and said, “that’s great, but most people would have no idea what soul hunger is.” And that is exactly the reason that it’s so important. I hear women say on a daily basis that “something is wrong and I have no idea what it is. I’m willing to make some changes, but I don’t know what to change.”

This notion of trying to hit a dartboard in the dark, reminded me of my many years working as a nurse. One of the foundational aspects of providing excellent care to clients was and continues to be the nursing process. The process includes the assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation of care and services. The challenge with soul hunger is that its signs and symptoms are so vague it is often misdiagnosed or missed altogether. Without the awareness to know what it is, it is virtually impossible to develop a plan and implement some changes in order to evaluate whether the soul hunger is being alleviated.

In order to fully describe and begin to explore this concept of soul hunger, I decided to determine how actual physical hunger is described. I came across words such as craving, desire, longing, urge, yearning, ache, emptiness, void, urge, vacancy, empty, lacking, and want to name just a few.

It became eerily familiar to me when I realized that these same words are what I hear on a daily basis from women who by no means are experiencing physical hunger. They are experiencing a hunger that is being described in the same way, but is not physical in nature and is from a different source.

I was then reminded that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Meaning we are both spiritual and human. Perhaps the physical hunger that people experience can help us explain the spiritual hunger. Perhaps those same words that describe how it feels to be physically hungry can help us understand when our soul is hungry.

I turned to Google to explore phrases that people used when they described a sense of physical hunger:

“My energy would desert me and weakness would take over.

I was so tired and lethargic.

My brain didn’t work properly and it was hard to concentrate.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

There was a nagging feeling of emptiness.

I had physical symptoms such as being irritable, dizzy, nausea.

Then I went to my transcribed notes and found the following from a couple of women. One was in a corporate job where she was miserable and the other woman felt disconnected from her husband of 40 years:

I felt tired all the time and would get sick with infections.

I needed a “brain restart” because it wasn’t working properly.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

I felt empty inside.

I had a longing for things to be different.

I was showing signs of stress.”

When I compared the above descriptions, I could see the overlap. We have created a society that values physical needs (and rightly so) and ignores spiritual needs. It’s almost as if we have developed a mindset that says, “If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” We can value and acknowledge physical hunger because there’s a tangible cause, but we have greater difficulty acknowledging soul hunger because the cause is not quite so obvious.

Soul hunger is a very real experience and just as physical hunger is a sign that we need nourishment, soul hunger is a sign that our soul needs nourishment. In my next post, I’ll share with you 10 Signs That Your Soul May Be Hungry Or Starving For Nourishment.