Gathering the Presence of the Divine in You, Through You, and as You
By Janet Conner
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC Copyright © 2015 Janet Conner
All rights reserved.
Meet Your Soul Vows
the seven deep soul explorations
The seven deep soul explorations you will move through to discover, declare, and live your soul vows parallel the seven chakras. Because the energy and purpose of each exploration mirrors the energy and purpose of each chakra, the chakra system is a wonderful map to help you see where you are in the process, where you are going, and why you're going there.
Each of the seven chakra explorations will be explored in depth in the coming chapters, but let me give you an introductory taste, to inspire you to trust the natural progression of this sevenfold adventure and excite you to begin. Then, before you dive in, let me also give you some tips for how to get the most benefit from your journey.
Soul Vows and the Chakras
The concept of the chakra system is ancient, and, at first glance, these explorations may appear to be a new and rather modern application of the chakras' wisdom and grace. But with deeper reflection, I think you'll agree this is not new at all; indeed, this is a re-remembering of the mystical way we are constructed. Or as Hafiz, the great Sufi master, puts it:
Your body is my prayer carpet,
For I can see in your eyes
That you are exquisitely woven
With the finest silk and wool
And that Pattern upon your soul
Has the signature of God
And all your moods and colors of love
Come from His Divine vats of dye and Gold.
excerpt from "Exquisitely Woven," I Heard God Laughing,
translation by Daniel Ladinsky
If Hafiz were alive, he'd nod and laugh in recognition upon reading how Anoeda Judith describes the chakras in her classic book Wheels of Life:
The Tantric philosophies, from which the chakras emerge, are a philosophy of weaving. Their many threads weave a tapestry of reality that is both complex and elegant. Tantra is a philosophy that is both pro-life and pro-spiritual. It weaves spirit and matter back into its original whole, yet continues to move that whole along its spiral of evolution.
"Spirit and matter back into its original whole." That's it! That's what we want and where we're going. That's how we create heaven on earth. So how perfect that the chakras can carry us there.
The chakras are the universal and very beautiful story of the soul seeking union with the divine Beloved. In the ancient Vedic tradition, Shakti, who represents the divine feminine and the soul, longs for union with Shiva, who represents the divine masculine and the One. Shakti awakens with a feeling of longing and begins to travel through six experiences of duality, resolving each one as she goes, until at last she reaches the seventh plane, where she is reunited with her Beloved, Shiva. You will begin, as Shakti began, in the first chakra, and you will arrive, as Shakti arrived, united with the One in the seventh. The journey is a thrilling and holy deep soul adventure.
It is not an accident that the chakra system has seven distinct energy fields, and you will experience seven distinct deep soul explorations to reach sacred unity with the Divine in your soul vows. Seven has long been recognized as the number of totality and divinity. Consider the seven days of the week, seven seas, seven continents, seven colors in the rainbow, seven sacraments, seven days of creation, seven veils of Salome, seven candles on the Menorah, and many, many more. In Numerology: The Power of Numbers, Ruth Drayer tells us "the number seven represents spiritual completion." In The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, Cynthia Bourgeault explains why seven is such a profound and necessary number: "[E]very developing process whatsoever must pass through seven distinct stages before it reaches its completion."
First Exploration Honor Your Longing to Be One
In this initial exploration, you will awaken to your dual, royal lineage—fully human, fully divine. To create a container big enough and strong enough to support your journey through the chakras to become one with the One, you will begin to take loving care of yourself, feed yourself with high spiritual ideas, and become best friends with several vibrant spiritual practices. As you complete your exploration in this root chakra, you will know in every fiber of your being that you are ready for the big adventure ahead.
Second Exploration Recognize the False Unconscious Vows That Have Kept You Fragmented
In this sacral-chakra exploration, you will uncover and acknowledge the falsehoods you've been telling yourself about yourself, and notice how those unconscious beliefs have kept you distracted and fragmented. You will sit with your false masters, learn their names, listen to their stories, and receive their surprising gifts. This all happens in the second chakra because all those roiling emotions in your gut have massive creative power. So far, you've been using that power unconsciously to create a life that isn't your authentic self and hasn't been a lot of fun. When you leave this chakra, you will be free.
Third Exploration Gather Yourself into Wholeness
Your solar plexus chakra is the energy field of both your physical and spiritual centers of gravity. It holds your honor code, your personal power, and how you show up in the world. In the second chakra, you became aware of your false masters. Now, in the third, you will release them in a ceremony that you design yourself. As the ceremony ends, you will revel in the rare and exquisite feeling of being whole.
Fourth Exploration Listen from Your Heart
When you release your false vows, you create room for your soul vows to make themselves known. This meeting takes place in the heart chakra because the heart is your primary organ of spiritual perception. Your spiritual heart—not your conscious mind—will identify the divine qualities that belong to you, introduce you to the Divine's role in your vows, and reveal how your soul vows gather the Presence of the Divine on earth. You'll know when your heart has chosen your vows because it will jump in ecstasy and tears of recognition will flow onto your cheeks. You will leave this chakra carrying your precious soul vows.
Fifth Exploration Declare Your Soul Vows
In the throat chakra, you will explore the holy power of sound as your soul vows invite you to learn their sacred chant. Because the throat chakra holds the paradoxical energies of declaration and surrender, you will declare your soul vows with enthusiasm and joy, while at the same time surrendering to them, knowing you don't fully understand what they mean and or how they will direct your life. When you leave this chakra, you will have a new, thrilling personal spiritual practice born from your soul vows.
Sixth Exploration Gather the Presence of the Divine
The sixth chakra is the energy field of the third eye, the center of knowing and light. As you live the soul vows that belong to you, you will gather more and more of the living Presence of the Divine in you, through you, and as you, bringing more divine light into the world. This is a mystery that never ends. Your third eye—your seat of inner knowing, attuned to divine truth—will support and guide you as the mysteries of life unfold. You and your soul vows will flow in this sixth-chakra energy for the rest of your life.
Seventh Exploration Live in Sacred Unity
The seventh chakra is the seat of mystical communion with the Divine. As you live your soul vows day after day, year after year, you will no longer say your soul vows; you will become your soul vows. You will reach a state where you fully embody the facets of the Divine that are yours to express in the world. In this way, you become one with the One. Only the seventh chakra has the grace to support the mystery of divine union.
The seventh chakra is not the end of your soul's explorations. Instead, the most miraculous thing happens when you touch the holy energy of the seventh chakra. As you gather more and more and more of the divine Presence in you, through you, and as you in your daily life, you circle right back to the first chakra, your foundation, your grounding, your dual lineage. But this time you arrive with a whole new, joyous appreciation for who you truly are and who you came to be—the Presence of heaven on earth.
The chakra system is an exciting and helpful map, but in the end, your soul vows are a mystery. You think you choose them, but in truth, they choose you. You think you understand them, but years from now you will realize you are just beginning to discover how rich they are and what they really mean. So step into these explorations by setting aside any preconceived notions of what values you think you want to select or how your life will look when you are living them. If you try to identify your soul vows now, before you even begin, or if, as you proceed, you try to steer this ship the way you think it should go, you will miss the exquisite joy inherent in divine partnership, and you will not experience the beautiful changes you hoped for when you picked up this book.
How to Get the Most from Your Explorations
Soul vows are a mystical experience. They are a dance with the Divine. By definition, you can't control that or manage that or predict what will happen. And that's a good thing, because in the end, you don't want to. Because what you can control or manage or predict can only be as big or as beautiful as who you are right now and what you know right now. That's not good enough anymore. It won't take you anywhere new. And what you want at the soul level is to be more. More whole. More alive. More authentic. More holy. More of your divine Self.
So at the get-go, set aside your desire to control. If you have an overactive left brain—and we all do because modern society is wired to reinforce only left-brain logic, judgment, and measurement—tell your very logical, but for this adventure highly unnecessary, left brain to take a walk. Better still, tell it to take a vacation. How do you do that? Simple. You step down the volume of left-brain action activities and step up the volume of right-brain creation activities. That means:
Less media, more reading.
Less facts, more intuition.
Less consuming, more creating.
Less commotion, more solitude.
Less talking, more listening.
Less noise, more silence.
Less knowing, more unknowing.
Less doing, more being.
Less thinking ahead, more living in the now.
In other words, less controlling and more cooperating. Cooperating with whom? Why, with your soul and with your God. And here's the good news: this is not hard. Your soul already knows why you're here. It already knows why you're reading this book. It already knows how you long to commit to holy values. And it knows you are oh-so-ready to step onto the divine dance floor and let Spirit lead. Here are some specific ways you can let go of control and start cooperating with the Divine.
Have a Sense of Adventure
Acknowledge right now, before we begin, that you don't know what your soul vows will be, when you'll have them, or what exactly you'll do with them. You may not even know why you picked up this book. You may have simply felt a nudge and responded. So be brave. Show up. Be real. Follow where your soul leads. Let the adventure unfold.
Create Sacred Time and Space
Your soul vows are not a one-time writing prompt. If they were, you could sit down, ask for your soul vows on the page, and get up an hour later with your vows in hand. Honor the importance of your soul vows. Give them a sacred space in which they can come forward. Here are a few ways to do that:
Become friends with silence and solitude. There is no substitute for being alone with yourself. That is how and when you are open to divine guidance. But silence and solitude are the two things our consumer society does everything it can to get you to avoid. If you keep yourself busy talking, thinking, doing, going, buying, watching—all the ways we hold our souls at bay—you will miss messages bubbling up from your soul. So carve out time to be quiet. Once you fall in love with quiet, you will never go back to constant bustle.
Engage in daily prayer. Your soul vows will become the most important prayer of your life. So this is a good time to strengthen your relationship with prayer. Return to the prayers of your spiritual or cultural tradition, if you like. Or embrace the prayer practices of other traditions. Or create a new prayer practice of your own. Find one that makes your heart sing. However you do it, become best friends with prayer.
Set aside time for deep soul writing. The questions you will explore in Soul Vows go deep, probably deeper than you've ever gone. Give yourself significant blocks of time for writing, reflection, and creating a space in which your soul can be heard.
Set aside time to read. You will select a master-teacher companion book to walk with you throughout this process. Many of your most startling insights will come as you absorb the words of your special teacher. Set aside time to read every day.
Give attention to what is sacred to you. You may look at your life and think you're too busy to set aside time for writing and reading. But you're not too busy; you're too distracted. Do you know the difference? Here's the simple but painful truth: what you give your attention to is what you deem sacred. Say that out loud: "What I give my attention to is sacred to me." So what are you giving your attention to? Identify ten or twelve activities that get the bulk of your time. Then ask yourself for each, "Is this sacred? Is this holy? If not, why have I carved out so much of my precious time for it?" Then try it in the reverse. Ask yourself, "What's truly important to me?" and write that list. Then count how many hours or minutes those people or activities get. Put those two lists side by side. There in front of you is a clear graphic of the life you have created versus the life you wish you were living. This simple self-evaluation exercise will help you rearrange your life in ways that will have momentous and lasting effects.
Be Willing to Enter the Mystery
The soul can't be explained or understood. It is, after all, your divine Self, and divinity is wild, untamable, and more vast and magnificent than our minds can grasp. Whatever idea or image you hold in your mind of the soul or the Divine is by definition too small. That's perhaps why we feel so compelled to explore these fields of the soul. We long for the mystery. So acknowledge that you are stepping into a mystery, and although that may feel strange, even a bit dangerous, know that all is well because you are guided and held at the deepest level.
Trust Yourself and Trust the Process
A month from now, a year from now, a decade from now, you will look back and feel boundless gratitude for yourself for setting aside the space and time to receive your soul vows. But the only way you can get to that future day of joy is to walk the path now, explore the fields now, enter the mystery now. Even if you're not sure what that means or what will happen, start walking. Trust that your spiritual feet know exactly what they're doing and where they're going. The path is actually brightly lit, if we see with the eyes of our souls.
Make Friends with Paradox
In each of the seven chakra explorations, you will stumble upon a head-scratching paradox.
At first, paradox can seem wildly frustrating because it poses an unanswerable question: how can two diametric opposites both be true at the same time? For example, consider my favorite paradox from Meister Eckhart: "to be full, you must be empty." Got that? If I'm empty, how am I full? And if I'm full, how can I be empty? It feels like trying to maneuver one boat named Full and another named Empty into the same slip. Impossible, right? But in the mystical realm paradox is not only not impossible, it's a truth at the center of life.
The secret to "solving" a paradox is to shift your view of the friction between two apparent opposites from a search for a solution to an invitation into divine mystery. While two boats can't enter the same space, two wafts of perfumes can and two colored lights can. With scent and light, the two opposities effortlessly merge and create something new, something exciting, a third thing unique unto itself. A triangle is the perfect shape to demonstrate this mystery of paradox. If one side of the triangle is one statement and the opposite side is the opposite statement, then the base of the triangle is not the winner of the two; it's something new altogether. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Soul Vows by Janet Conner. Copyright © 2015 Janet Conner. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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