As the naked rocks gather in the night
A summer mason chisels the blackest, the smoothest,
A while ago I wrote a piece on the soul and what the soul is. (You can read that piece here) In this article I want to talk about how we can find the voice of the soul and learn to let it guide us. My views are of course entirely my own and I share them to inspire, not to preach.
We have all heard it being said: Listen to your heart/gut feeling, follow your instincts, etc. But what does that really mean? To follow your heart or the feeling in your gut can be easily interpreted as following your emotions, as it is in the stomach and in the heart (here I mean the actual organ) we often feel things like fear and excitement first. Following your instincts is a little trickier. Our instincts are our survival instincts, the guidelines provided to us by nature in order to live and thrive and survive, these instincts are often the driving force of the ego which is, I have to say, not always a negative thing, but can lead to a less compassionate outcome. Some people also talk about the intuition, that mystic force that forewarns us about danger and gives us a good feeling about a positive outcome before it has happened. One can argue that the intuition is closely related to our moral sense, our values, life goals and desired achievements. But perhaps I am being too pragmatic here. My point is just that not all such life advice or guidelines are connected to the soul. They have more to do with moral, emotional health and life goals.
When we attempt to find the voice of our soul, or our eternal selves, we need to abandon our ego completely. We cannot try to influence the inner sounds by wishing for something to happen, or logically analyzing an event or occurrence. We have to try to stop thinking within the limitations of time and space and solid matter. It will feel a bit like reading between the lines without attempting to do just that. Yeah, I know, it sounds very cryptic. Let’s try using some examples.
When you look at a piece of art, for example an abstract painting, many times something vague, like a feeling you can’t quite put into words, might awaken in you. The same goes for a poem written using one or many metaphors. It might not appeal to your rational self, but if you are open to it it will still awaken something in you, something you can’t quite grasp, but it is still strongly present. An example is Zen poetry. Zen poems are mystic and often irrational, yet holds within something so vast that it will tickle your sense of eternity and enormity. It is a riddle where the answer cannot be comprehended by logic or “common sense” and hence it attempts to steer you away from this way of thinking.
Surrealism is another perfect example of such a means of communication. A surrealist painting breaks free from the bonds of conventional form and creates a completely senseless world where nothing follows the laws of physics, yet there is something there; a coded message just for you that you might not be able to fully understand, but it moves you and gently nudges you in a new direction. And such is the voice of the soul.
The Hindu god Krishna says in one verse in the puranas that none of us need a teacher to teach us anything. All the answers we need is right here in front of us if we only learn to see with the right eyes. He is talking about the natural world. When you look at a tree, do you only see a tree with leaves, bark, trunk, roots etc. or do you see something more hidden within the form that you have learned to call tree? Is a sunset just a beautiful scene where the sun moves away from your part of the world and rises in another? As poets, as artists, as musicians we learn to put these contemplations into words, images and rhythms, hoping that they will inspire others to see those hidden motions too.
When we learn to hear this silent movement, to grasp the vast vagueness within, our life opens up to a whole other dimension. We are moved by secrets we take joy in keeping secret, by quests without solutions and pilgrimages without sacred destinations, we learn to open doors others cannot see and delight in finding another door behind the first one. When we move through the world with this awareness it is like moving in two worlds simultaneously, one concrete and visible world and one shadow world.
To bring this back to earth a little…have you ever prayed for something or wished for something so hard you feel like all your happiness depends on it coming true? For instance, becoming an artist or an actor, or finding love, or moving to another country. Have you ever tried to listen to an answer? Not an answer given in words, but a wordless one, a vague sense of something that may or may not manifest into a metaphorical answer? Your desire will almost always have two sides to it. To put it into a more concrete and comprehensible answer, ask yourself this: Why do you want to become an actor? Why do you feel like you need to find a romantic partner? Listen to the silence within. Perhaps it has to do with needing to feel loved more than it has to do with romance. Perhaps it is not about acting but about your need to be seen or to express yourself. Perhaps you want to be a writer not because you love words, but because you feel you have something important to say? Perhaps you want to move away because you want to discover new sides to yourself? Even beyond these answers there is another door, another truth, more tunnels to follow.
Living with the awareness of this depth or this shadow world is not only inspiring and exciting it also makes you more flexible and makes happiness more obtainable. You learn to find purpose in everything, even watching a flower open its petals or the sound of waves crashing upon the shore. It will also expand your artistic and creative horizon, inspiring you to always look just a little further when you hear a piece of music or study a painting or read a poem.
Learning to find the voice of your soul is hearing eternity whisper back to you, it is about gaining access to your soul-memory, the memory that goes all the way back to creation and even beyond that, it is about always being on a pilgrimage without a destination, a pilgrimage that did not start with the birth of your body and will not end when your body’s journey is over.
Who nailed my life to the night sky?
Who made me a watchtower of naked light
In the middle of the black sea ?
With memories frozen into my face since dawn
and words rumbling like thunder among unfearing stars.
I am like that stranded boat on a snowy winter beach.
Without luggage, without pilling threads
I collect deconstructed rubies like red stormlights
From fishing trawlers.
How everything must wander so nonchalantly
Through me I question
Not just the traces of you, but the entire debris
Of unfearing stars
Shattering in the enormity of the sun.
I fear the deafening quiet
Of hungry light.
My lawless longing walking
An abandoned beach,
The sound of thoughts
Like waves intruding,
Washing out its own image
I can see it in the afterimage
Of a dream
A pathway of stars like paw prints
On the washed out surf
Showing me how to decipher
The unsilhouetted silence
Hiding behind all things born
The red tint of myself gleaming
Weakly on the broad wordless
Today, the strong focus on wellness, physical beauty, health and fitness can be so overwhelming that it can turn into either an obsession or a source of anxiety, having us spending an exaggerated time and mind fuel on our bodies and appearance. It can sometimes even seem as though our worth, success and capability as human beings is measured in how physically fit we are. Secondary to this comes the wellness of the mind. Thankfully in the last twenty years, mental health has been more focused upon and given importance. Mental health has also somewhat been commercialized in the form self-help books, self-help podcasts, different types of therapies etc. These self-proclaimed gurus are often coming from a background of no specific education or training in the field and their success is dependent on advertisement and hashtags in the social media. We are seeing more and more young people looking for someone who can define their identity for them and point them in the direction of financial and emotional success. Image and self-branding has become crucial for this social media generation, and image is often “shopped” from different sources of media. Needing a diagnosis, and someone to provide that diagnosis seems to be important for generation next. So is this really so bad? We are taking better care of ourselves, mentally and physically, we are living longer and becoming more prosperous. The question is, who are we doing this for and why? Where are we letting ourselves be lead?
I had an interesting discussion with my cousin a while back. We talked about what happens after you die. I told her that what I believe is that the soul goes on. Then came the obvious question: but what is the soul? In my cousin’s mind the soul was a ghost-like second version of herself, the only difference being that it could fly and wasn’t solid. I told her that my idea of the soul is very different. To me, the soul is the eternal part of me, the life-giving part that has nothing to do with my body, appearance or my personality. My cousin then said that if that was true dying would be just that dying, because for her her body and personality was who she was and if she lost that she did not exist any longer. Her body, her mind, her thoughts, her face, her emotions, that was what she identified with in order to define herself. I think she speaks for many.
The soul has become a very washed out word without any definite definition. Many people, in fact most people I know, use the word soul the same way they talk about their heart and how we should always follow it. The soul becomes the sum of our emotions, thoughts, values, dreams etc. But is that really what the soul is? Of course there is no real answer to this. Spirituality is not science. Speaking of science. My brother is a theoretical physicist. He lives and breathes science. Religion, to him, is humbug.
In a discussion with him I defined the soul as the energy we are made up of, the atoms that cannot be broken down, the force that breathes without lungs and moves without solid form. Then I challenged him, telling him to imagine that these tiny particles had memory. Like cells carrying within them the recipe for a human being. It is not an impossibility, is it? Not entirely illogical? Well, that essence is what I define as the soul.
Imagine if you could tap into that essence, that bank of memories and pure life force, with your human senses, for in it lies also the memory of the creation of the universe, if something like that really exists. Imagine the richness of that knowledge! This is not a finished “product”, it is an ongoing process, a continuing deposit of experiences and new knowledge that you are now taking part in with your life, and whatever you add to it will be carried on after your body is gone.
This awareness is what spirituality is to me, knowing and understanding that everything in the universe is made up of this soul-essence, and that we, that you, can learn to become aware of your own soul and letting it guide you through your life, instead of a self-proclaimed social media guru, or a readymade “store bought” image, or a package deal given to you be an image consultant or a life coach.
When we learn to be aware of our souls we will also learn to identify with this ancient immortal force rather than our impermanent bodies and vulnerable minds. Not to say that our physical and mental health is not important, of course they are! It is through our bodies we experience the world and with our minds we learn to interpret and make sense of it, without these two components we can not add to the memory bank of the soul. But these are just tools, they are not who we truly are.
Imagine an entity of pure light floating through space, it is invisible to everyone but itself, so in order to confirm that it truly exists it changes form. This new form allows it to experience its own existence in symbiosis with other entities and so it learns new things about itself and about life every day that goes by. Then one day the solid form it has taken starts to wither, it learns that solid matter has an expiration date, but it is far from tired of this amazing learning process so when the solid form finally expires it takes on a new form and to its delight this form is different! It experiences itself and the life around it in a completely different way! And so the learning cycles continues. It keeps growing and expanding for each new form, for each new way of experiencing existence. And then it takes on the form of you…
Let us not invest too much in that which comes with and expiration date, let us rather pay a little more attention to that which is eternal, never ending, that which only becomes richer, more beautiful and wise with time. For that is, in truth, who we really are.