Read an Excerpt
The Soul Perspective
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You are a soul. And if you allow it, your life can become a journey of unfolding for your soul. The fact is, you do not recognize yourself as soul. You do not know the source of your own aliveness. You are not aware of the potential for freedom and responsiveness that is your true nature. In order to see your inner critic in a proper perspective, in relation to the totality of who you are, you must have some sense of being a soul. What does that mean?
What Is the Soul?
Whenever people say the word I, they generally are referring to a person who was born of certain parents, has a certain history, and acts and behaves in certain familiar ways. This is often referred to as the ego or personality. The soul, in fact, is the true "I." It is the present-moment experience of yourself as the agent in your life, the sense of a livingness that is here now. Can you say what you are if you don't refer to who you have been?
The soul is the you who experiences your lifethe one who perceives, acts, learns, and changes. It is not the body that was born many years ago; it is not the self-image of a person who has particular skills and capacities; and it is not the mind that thinks and worries about everything that happens. The soul includes all of these, but as the experiencer, it is more fundamental and less defined than any of them. Who is it that experiences being an ego, being a body, or being a mind? Who at this very minute is reading these words? Can you definewho or what that is? This I call the soul.
All aspects of your experience emerge out of your soul. Not only is the soul the experiencer, it is also what is experienced and the locus of your experience. In other words, your soul is what underlies and unifies every part of you and your experience. The deep longing to be whole, to feel integrated, to be yourself without division, is a longing to experience the soul.
The closer you are to sensing your own immediate aliveness, the closer you are to soul. The soul is the substance of living consciousness. To feel it is to recognize the miraculous and mysterious quality of what you area flowing presence, dynamic, alive, and ever-changing. To feel you are a soul is to know the unboundedness of life. The soul extends beyond the usual boundaries and categories of the human mind, beyond the familiar notion of a human life. It is not limited by history, concepts, or the physical body. It defies exact definition or analysis. As such, the soul is better felt, sensed, and known in the heart than it is through the structures and perceptions of the mind. Have you ever wished for ease and spontaneity in your heart? Have you ever felt limited by the idea of having to be or act a particular way? If so, imagine what sense of yourself would allow spontaneity, ease, and freedom. Who would you be, and how would you feel? You are imagining a fundamental quality of your soul nature.
The nature of the soul is pure consciousness, experienced as a field of awareness in relation to physical reality. This field of awareness contains your mind and your body without being bounded by either. Normally, you experience yourself as a physical body that has a mind with awareness as one of its capacities. But your soul is more like an expanse of awareness particles condensed in your location into a solid physical presence known as a body. And these awareness particles permeate every cell, sensation, and thought you have. The most external expression of your consciousness or soul is your body, which brings your awareness into intimate contact with the physical world as you know it. How different it would be to experience your whole body made out of this consciousnesswith your awareness consciously inhabiting and living through every cell in your body!
The Presence of the Soul
To be in touch with your actual consciousness, which is the substance of your soul, is to be aware of your existence in each momentto be aware of presence. Presence means the sense of immediate existence or being. And presence is a primary quality of the soul. You cannot be aware of your own soul nature unless you are present to your own experience, unless you know your reality as it exists right now. Presence is your direct knowingness of being alive in the present moment. That knowingness is not an idea or a thought but an actual felt awareness. It is what gives your body its felt sense. The soul's presence is substantial without being physical, and that substance gives the physical body a sense of living fullness.
Presence is to the soul what wetness is to water: one is an inseparable quality of the other. However, if you only look at water or only touch it with rubber gloves, you may not know that water is wet. Similarly, the presence of the soul cannot be erased or separated out, but it can go unrecognized if you are not in touch with it. Ignorance of the presence of your own soul is a deep and painful loss that stirs the longing to know yourself more intimately. This longing may be expressed as the search for meaning and truth, the desire for self-realization, or the pursuit of freedom and liberation. All are fulfilled through experiencing the living presence of the soulthe true nature of who you are.
The soul's presence comes in many subtle but distinct flavors that underlie the richness of life. These are the basic elements of human existence, such as strength, clarity, compassion, joy, love, intelligence, value, will, acceptance, and vulnerability. These essential aspects make up your true nature, that in you which is innate or God-given and not dependent on your parents, your appearance, your behavior, or your achievements.
The soul is also the source of qualities that inform physical existence: life, growth, dynamism, and flow. The physical body is alive because of the soul's presence: the body is experienced as dead when the life, or soul, has gone out of it. Your own sense of aliveness is only partially due to physical factors; more fundamentally, it derives from your openness to the soul. Similarly, your body has a physiological pattern of growth, but your growth is more than physical. You develop and transform, learn and mature in ways related to, but not caused by, the biological growth of the body.
You as a soul have dynamism, experienced as vitality, inherent movement, and transformation. Objects remain at rest unless acted upon; your soul has action, change, and continual revelation implicit in its very nature. And that dynamism flows: it is not static, rigid, or mechanical. Your soul is an unending movement in space and time, a literal stream of consciousness rather than an object that stops and starts, reacts and resists. When you feel lifeless, unchanging, and at the mercy of external forces, you are no longer aware of your soul nature. If ever you have longed to experience yourself as a dynamic source of vitality and transformation, then the aliveness of the soul is your birthright waiting to be discovered.
Beyond these qualities, however, are two unique attributes of the human soul. First is the soul's extraordinary potential to experience anything that can be experienced. In other words, as a field of consciousness, the soul has an unlimited malleability. In its pure form, it has no resistance to being formed by any impulse arising within it. It is shaped and transformed in a dynamic flow of consciousness that you know as the experiences of your life. You know this potential for experience as the profoundly human capacity to respond to the world with feeling, curiosity, and insight. At more subtle levels, you can empathize with others and imagine unfamiliar ways of being, and even enter directly into the experience of different forms of life. Such is the true freedom of the soulnot to be defined or limited by external form. This is not only freedom from the limitations of being something in particular, but it is also the freedom to be anything. Your body is limited, but your soul is not because it is pure consciousness.
The second attribute is the soul's capacity to identify. Not only can you experience anything, you can believe that you are anything that you experience. This is related to the human capacity for self-reflection: you have consciousness of your own existence; therefore, you can know yourself. However, because the soul takes on many forms through the impact of experience, you can know yourself in many ways. You as soul are not limited to knowing yourself as soul. In fact, you long ago stopped recognizing yourself as soul. Instead, you identify with emotions, thoughts, beliefs, physical sensations, images in your mind, relationships with other souls, memories of previous experience, or states of consciousness, to name a few possibilities. These forms in which the soul appears are much more familiar to you than the soul itself, even though it is the common substance of all the forms. Consequently, you as soul tend to know yourself through your forms rather than as a presence of pure consciousness.
The soul's identification can shift in a fluid way as part of its growth and unfolding, or it can become fixed on particular forms. When identifying becomes fixed on some part of your consciousness, some particular form, you easily lose sight of the wholeyourself as a soul. You may never have known yourself as anything but forms of the soul (your body, your history, your thoughts, your emotions). Or you may remember beginning your life with some awareness of the soul and later losing touch with it when you became identified with one or more of its forms. Either way, you do not now recognize your true nature as presence, transformation, unfolding experience, and alivenes.
This soul loss is often not noticed until you begin to feel your experience pervaded by a lack of substance or inner meaning. When this happens, you have come to a point where your identity is so much about familiar forms that you have lost all contact with the living, dynamic substance of who you are. There's no juice left in your life. You find yourself saying, "This can't be all that I am. There must be more to life than this." Many people consider this indicative of a midlife crisis. In fact, it is the cry of your soul reminding you of your soul nature.
Losing Touch with Your Soul Nature
The fact that you identify and then are not aware that you have identified is the reason you do not experience yourself as a soul. You have become deeply grounded in the belief that you are one part of the soul, so you experience your life through that part. For example, you believe that your fundamental nature is physical. Even if you would like to believe otherwise, you continually act from a profound conviction that your ultimate nature is a physical body. This belief, which was established in the first two years of life, forced upon you many other beliefs necessary for that body's survival. At that time, your body was small, undeveloped, and defenseless, so being in that body meant you were helpless and totally dependent on your parents. This, in turn, meant you had to accept their beliefs about life in order to survive. And so the experience of being a soul became increasingly faint.
As you grew up, you added more beliefs about who you were to those learned earlier. Perhaps, when you were little, you saw that your father knew how to do things. This naturally sparked your own curiosity about how things work. Because he answered your questions, you came to believe he was the source of intelligence. Perhaps he did not appreciate your intelligence, so you tried to be like him in order to "gain" intelligence. You came to believe you had no innate intelligence, only what you learned by imitating him. Now you constantly relate your sense of intelligence to the standards he taught you. You believe that others assess your intelligence in the same way. Furthermore, if you find yourself knowing something in a different way from your father, you doubt the usefulness or veracity of your own intelligence. Consequently, your sense of who you are in relation to intelligence is completely colored by these beliefs. You are cut off from any sense that intelligence is implicit in your true nature, your soul potential.
In this way, by the time you are an adult, you have moved very far from the experience of yourself as a soul. You are now well defined by your physical, emotional, and personal history. Your sense of yourself is not fluid, changing, dynamic, and unfolding. You do not have the sense of impressionability of the soul in which every experience touches and affects your presence. You tend to believe, on the contrary, that your independence, integrity, and capacities are based on your ability to hold on to a definite idea of who you are and not be easily influenced or swayed by the experiences in your life. This is a common result of life in modern society. There is nothing wrong with it. However, it does mean you are not aware of the actual depths of who you areyour soul nature and its potential.
It is from here that the journey of soul recovery begins.
Practice: Sensing Aliveness
This practice is a support for being more in touch with the living quality that exists in you at each moment. It is not designed to create or encourage any particular energetic state.
Step 1. Choose a household task such as washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, cleaning up your desk, or weeding the garden. Before you begin, notice how your body feels (tense, tired, energetic, slow, numb ...). Feel your feet on the floor or ground, stretch your fingers, rub your hands together, and take a few deep breaths. As you begin your task, be aware of how the object you are working with feels in your hands. Notice its texture, weight, and shape. Allow yourself to experience how you feel about it: Do you like the dish you are washing? Does holding the broom remind you of mother? Are you angry at not having the right places to put all your papers? In the garden, would you rather wear gloves, or do you like the feel of earth on your skin?
Step 2. Periodically during the task, stop and notice what the energy is like in your body. What is your breathing like: shallow, held, relaxed, expanded? How is your concentration: is it easy to stay focused, or does your mind wander and you find yourself easily distracted? Are you aware of feeling any particular emotion as you work: anxious, sad, hopeful, excited, peaceful, scared, guilty? How do you feel your own aliveness or lack of it at this moment?
Step 3. Take whatever sense you now have of yourself, both physically and emotionally, back into your task. Continue to work while being aware of your energetic state. Does this awareness make it easier or harder to do what you need to do? A good practice to support being with your own aliveness as you function is to follow your breath. Actively attending to your inhalation and exhalation will keep your attention and your energy from becoming fixed, shut down, or frozen.