“This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of furniture. Still treat each guest honourably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whomever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi – (Coleman Barks)
This was the second evening in the series on the Soul Journey I have been sharing with a small group of friends. I had not planned to open with this particular poem but it seemed to have a life of its own and immediately I saw its particular relevance to the topic we were exploring concerning the guiding voice of the Soul. How does it show up? What are its languages it uses and how can we ensure we listen?
The Soul does not use the normal logic and rationale of the left side of our brains. It speaks to us in metaphor, through deep feelings, dreams, through symbol and synchronicity, our intuition, in beauty and passion, through the still small voice and in symptomatology which Rumi’s poem so exquisitely describes.
Eminent Jungian analyst and author James Hollis describes it like this, “The good news is that we do have symptomatology. In the Western world we tend to want to rid ourselves of symptomatology as quickly as possible. We go to a doctor and ask for a pill or we solicit some form of theological solution or some form of positive thinking. But many times these things don’t really touch the issue. The presence of symptomatology paradoxically is a reminder of the dynamism of the psyche it represents the autonomy of the psyche we can’t wish it away or will it away it shows up it speaks. One of the things I’ve learned as a therapist as well as a human being is that the psyche is never silent, the psyche is forever soliciting our will and our intentionality to help us make choices that will align themselves more completely with the intention of our nature.”
Most of us live, whether we realize it or not, in a state of dynamic coexistence between the ego and the Soul. The ego performs the executive role managing our consciousness and how we get through a day. It gets us up in the morning and runs our lives we would be adrift without it and most of the first half of life is devoted to its healthy and positive ego development.
Yet it is only one aspect of a greater whole. The Soul (or psyche referred to by Hollis) is autonomous of the needs of the ego. In my opinion my ego is not that smart. It is too concerned about protecting its own security and therefore is prone to conservatism. The Soul has the capacity to tap into our own deeper levels of wisdom and present our guiding voice. Anyone who has worked faithfully with dreams will have seen the capacity for guidance that seems far wiser than we had thought was possible.
A couple of years ago I attended a conference in Petaluma, California where three teachers presented their stories. Each one of them observed on the power of this guiding force to positively effect their unfolding lives. So how do we facilitate and engage this deep wisdom? It is not about suppressing the ego; the ego is a great servant but the Soul needs to assume mastery in our lives and establish the agenda.
There is a lovely poem by Rumi that includes the description, “Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus, and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.” The donkey needs to be harnessed and directed in order to be put to good use.
Two important words to remember are Intention and Attention. I was unable to see the power of the Soul until I could admit there was such a possibility. Then I began to spend some time each morning affirming my desire that the Soul should lead the way and everything changed. At this point it is essential to begin paying close attention to the unfolding circumstances of our lives and how the Soul speaks to you. Each of us is unique and we have to find our own way.
It begins with noticing the circumstances of our lives, paying attention to symptomatology, signs and coincidences, dreams, and feelings. When life is flowing smoothly it is a good sign Soul and ego are in alignment however when you feel blocked it can indicate the Soul suggesting change is on the horizon.
There is a beautiful poem by St Francis that includes the words: “for beauty and passion and laughter and joy they are our hearts truth, all else is labour and foreign to the Soul.” This reminds me to engage in Soulful pursuits. The same way we feed the body with food, we can feed the Soul.
Recently I had a “fall from grace”: I tripped on my way home and flew through air to crash on a hard concrete surface. Not only my dignity was bruised but my thigh, hand and knee too. However I knew it could have been a lot worse and wondered immediately if this was my Soul trying to get my attention? The next morning I found my copy of the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divining system) and did a reading. The results confirmed my suspicion. “Work on what has been spoiled” so I began to ask myself what was tripping me up? The I Ching suggested a seven-day process to explore and remedy. I committed to the task and one of my key insights was that since early December I had lost touch with an evening contemplation I would do before bed; I would listen to sacred music, learn and recite poetry as well as a daily reflection. I reinstated it into my life and sense my Soul alignment is restored.
We did a practice that is designed to elucidate a sense of clarity about our current Soul state. It begins by taking some paper and crayons. Some seed words were scattered around the page: feelings, thoughts, signs and synchronicities, intuition, body. Then I led a brief guided meditation from Thic Nhat Hanh:
Listening to the bell I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve
My mind calm, my body relaxed
A smile is born on my lips
Following the sound of the bell
My breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness
In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.
Then it was a case of relaxing and capturing whatever emerged. Gradually a picture emerged, unique for each individual. After sharing the insights each person drew a rune. (Using Ralph Blum’s insightful oracle) As always it was astonishing how relevant and individual each message was for each person. The ego struggles with the idea that drawing a random stone could possibly be significant but the Soul finds a way. As the great Bard himself said in Hamlet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”