“Midway in life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood having lost the way.”
The Sensing Soul
We cannot live without meaning. Without meaning we simply crumble and die. Our search for meaning is, in essence, the search for soul. The prevailing atmosphere that the human family finds itself in today involves a spiritual crisis. A crisis that seems to have brought the dwelling place of soul to the brink of bankruptcy. It is this environment that challenges us to accept responsibility and to find a way out of this demise and to find a way back to the soul.
This responsibility is not about accomplishments ‘out there’. It is primarily about ‘inner work’ where a cleansing house for the return to soul is prepared, and where we are invited to attend to the senses of the soul. What if we could trust the wisdom of the soul? What might the soul’s knowledge birth within us? What might the senses of the soul look like and invite us to? Might we then learn to celebrate soul and find once again meaning in life.
The Soul’s Ear:
Through the practice of silence we learn to hear with the soul’s ear. Needless to say, not an easy practice to come by in an outer world bombarded with noise and an inner world fraught with toxic sound, but to silence we must come.
What is the silence like that prepares the soul’s return? This silence is not only exterior, but it is also an interior silence. It is a silence that penetrates to all levels of consciousness; a silence that distills all religious definitions, doctrines and practices; a silence that transforms all the titles and images for God that we once held; a silence that stills political and religious ideologies; a silence that quiets and satisfies emotions and desires, so that they now can find their place. And it is a silence that sorts out the works of ego that support us, from those that can so easily trick us. Such silence is a purifying experience blocking out the superficial sounds of life so that we may hear the deeper voices in the soul. The silence creates an emptiness that is not empty. Rather it is an emptiness that is needed to respond to the new order of being. We come to know a center of reality exists whatever names we give it.
The silence acting like a womb, creates a space that gives birth to the readiness for the deepest of human/divine encounters, an encounter with the Mystery, the wholly Other, and the Self. What the soul hears in the silence is ‘You are - I am’. The Self glimpses the Divine experientially. Simply stated, in the words of a thirteen century mystic Hadewijch, “Soul is the abyss where God meets us.”
The Soul’s Eye:
The Self, attuned to the soul’s hearing and listening, is brought to a new way of seeing, a seeing with a third eye, the inner eye of the soul. A sight inside sight, as it were, enabling us to see that we have come from a deeper place. A new clarity emerges which grants a new perception of reality making possible a letting go of our most basic attitudes and understandings of the way we thought life should be and who we thought we were. We come to a larger horizon, a new world view which gives meaning to and shapes our sense of who we are with consequences for the way we live.
The Soul’s Taste:
Now that the soul’s eye has granted a new perception and perception of the new, how we live in relationship to this larger reality is crucial for we are launched on a new path. For this journey we need a new kind of nourishment. The essential nourishment at this time is that of the creative imagination and the symbolic life.
Our soul is not nourished by the trivial, the artificial, or the sentimental. The soul is nourished by passion, beauty, goodness and truth in all of life. The creative imagination and the symbolic life, which are important dynamics of the soul, move artists, mystics, prophets, consciously and unconsciously. They invite us into this new journey with a sense of direction.
A taste for the beautiful wherever we find it, also nourishes our soul. The beautiful is all around us and is usually free. It can be as ordinary as a child’s smile or as spectacular as the Himalayas. The soul is nourished with the taste of the good - wholesome ordinary and sometimes heroic goodness in our neighbors and in people at the other end of the world whose stories of generosity or courage speak to us. We live in the midst of political spin doctors, where no one, it seems, can tell the truth. Such an atmosphere of half-truths and lies makes our souls sick. The soul needs the truth.
The Soul’s Smell:
In the animal kingdom, for their existence and survival, the sense of smell is primal. Our instincts are essential both to our physical and spiritual health.
The perfumes of the soul are our instincts which speak to the joys and ecstasies of life. They open the soul to what is deepest and most attractive in the human heart. The instincts are our life-line and without them we become artificial and lose our way.
The Soul’s Touch
Psychology underlines the significance of touch in our lives. The child has only two fundamental questions: Is life trustworthy? and, Am I lovable? Touch, authentic touch, is such an important vehicle for a child to discover an answer to those questions. How she/he is held and physically responded to “speaks” louder than all words and gifts. The importance of touch remains significant throughout adult life in dealing with those fundamental questions that first surfaced in childhood.
The soul’s touch is relational. We experience the Mystery through the touch of the human. We need the other, and the Other to become who we are. In relationships, in all their expressions, we are opened to the other and discover who we are as well. That is why genuine friends are so important in lifes journey because they tell us the truth and they create a space for us to tell our deepest truth as well.
We also experience the Mystery through the touch of absence that creates a longing of the heart’s heart and alerts us to the limitations of all those other things that we thought would satisfy us.
At the end of life, the Mystery attempts, for the final time, to touch and embrace us. Death is the final embrace of the soul. In our society the one unspeakable experience is dying, even though it is one of the most important. When we know that the present journey is over we are opened up in a visceral way to the Mystery. We may have avoided It or forgotten It but our soul has longed for It in a thousand ways and now finally the Mystery is saying “Come” and we are invited to turn and consciously embrace It. At that moment may we be able to say, in the words of D. W. Winnicott, “O God let me be alive when I die!”
Having explored the senses of the soul and discovered that they can provide a bridge, a connection to the Mystery, and to ourselves, the question is: Can we now trust that wisdom of the soul our inner senses reveal to us? And are we now ready to celebrate the sensing soul in the human journey with its passion for life?