Let's do some soul talk. I've always been captivated by that word. So much so, that I included "soul" in the two healing modalities I've created, Shake Your Soul and SomaSoul. Over Labor Day weekend I taught within the program, Mystery of the Soul, at Kripalu Center with Thomas Moore and Sera Beak, and I'm filled with inspiration about soul.
Before I begin, I suggest you read some of Thomas Moore's work if you feel curious and interested about the nature of the soul. Thomas Moore has spent much of his life wrestling with that word, that idea, that experience. His seminal work, which I read 20 years ago and that I'm re-reading now, Care of the Soul, is wonderful.
Here's a quote from Care of the Soul. "The great malady of the twentieth century, implicated in all our troubles and affecting us individually and socially is 'loss of soul'. When soul is neglected, it doesn't go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning...The emotional complaints of our time, complaints we therapists hear every day in our practice include: emptiness, meaninglessness, vague depression, disillusionment about marriage, family and relationship, a loss of values, yearning for personal fulfillment, a hunger for spirituality."
Do you see yourself in this excerpt? I know I do at times, and often I am NOT thinking that this moment of depression has to do with a loss of my soul. So let's begin to consider what recovering our soul might require.
A soulful life is one rich with meaning. There is a sense of connectedness with oneself and with others. There is a depth, a realness or genuineness about us. We are connected to our creative self and our emotional self. We know what we value as well as what we need. We feel present in the moment and yet connected to our personal history. These are all elements of what, for me, "define" soul.
This word, soul, can be a tough one to put your finger on, and yet we know when something or someone has soul. We instinctively know that piece of music that moves us, something someone shares with us that touches us deeply, that moment in time when we feel like we are really participating in life from a genuine place, a deep sense of belonging with others. This is the experience of soul.
As I've been reflecting since the program with Thomas Moore, I've been seeking to know my soul more intimately and invite it more frequently to participate and guide my life. I'm aware that I want to listen to my soul and feel it more. My intent to live with soul has grown stronger.
I've been exploring key questions that, for me, open the doorway to inviting soul in. I share these with you with hope that they might inspire you to get to know your soul. I also invite you to share your questions and thoughts so that we may start a stimulating dialogue in pursuit of soul.
Go to my facebook page and share your thoughts. Here are some of my questions that may touch your heart and help you find your soul:
- What moves me, brings tears to my eyes, or joy to my heart?
- Right now, is my ego in the way of my soul? Ego is my sense of separateness from others, my defenses, fears, and preoccupations.
- What can open me up and take me beyond my ego's prison and help awaken my soul? Maybe specific music that moves my soul, journaling where I share my deepest thoughts and feelings, a particular place that touches my soul, an activity that feels soulful, smells, and tastes awaken my soul
- What is the way to my soul? Is it through opening my heart? Opening my mind? Might it be through letting go of my opinions and judgments and being with life as it shows up?
- How does my soul speak...in words, images, feelings, urges?
- How do I discern the voice of my soul vs. the voice of my head or ego?
- Is there a difference between being connected to my soul vs. connected to my spirit?
I'd like to speak to the first and last question right now. Being attuned to what moves me, or touches my soul is central. I've noticed when my motor is running fast and I'm buzzing through my life there is NO WAY I can be touched. Soul is like slow cooked foods, not fast food. To experience soulful moments we have to be in the moment.
For me, the first thing I do when I wake up is to journal while sipping a cup of coffee and listening to Pandora radio set to one of my favorite jazz pianists, Lynne Arriale. I often begin my journaling with the following phrase, "What are my deepest thoughts and feelings?" I got this question from a particular psychologist and researcher named James Pennebaker who in his research found this question opens up what he calls "confessional writing" and is powerful for helping individuals process and clear trauma, and I've found it to be a gateway to meeting my deeper self, my soulful self. Over the past two weeks I've added this reflective question as well to my journaling, "What is stirring in my soul that wants expression?"
Now onto the last question, "Is there a difference between connection to my soul vs. connection to spirit." Let me quote one of my inspirational teachers, Pema Chodron, as she points us in the direction of soul, or soul awakening (even though she uses the term spiritual awakening): "Spiritual awakening is frequently described as a journey to the top of a mountain. We leave our attachments and our worldliness behind and slowly make our way to the top. The only problem with this metaphor is that we leave all others behind. Their suffering continues, unrelieved by our personal escape. On the journey of the warrior-bodhisattva, the path goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move toward turbulence and doubt however we can. We explore the reality and unpredictability of insecurity and pain, and we try not to push it away. If it takes years, if it takes lifetimes, we let it be as it is. At our own pace without speed or aggression, we move down and down and down."
So, Pema is pointing to the descent into our body, into our everyday feelings and emotions as we take on the warrior attitude to let our experience "be as it is." For me this requires heart, a heart that can help hold our pain or someone else's. For me this is a key that unlocks our souls.
To a soulful life,