Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Soul :: part 3 

I'm not quite sure what happened.  This has turned out more like an academic thesis than a deeply personal account; not what I intended at all.  Maybe I'm in greater need of soul-food than I thought.  Or maybe it's just my vanity's way of thumbing its nose at me.  I haven't the energy to re-write it and I'm not sure it would come out any different.  In any case, I need to move on...
Soul energy, then, is what flows through the writing that touches us most deeply.  The greatest joy in reading is when I know in my soul – in my highest, deepest, most complete self, when I know with an understanding that transcends mere knowledge – that you are sharing a little of your soul with me, and for a moment a bond exists between us and we are no longer alone.  When something in the world touches you so deeply, so fully, that the power and depth and truth of that touch shines bright through the latticework of your words and I feel its touch on me also.
But the world was touching me less, or I wasn’t open to its touch.  I knew that this was so, but it was a distant, dull kind of knowledge, known as one knows an impersonal fact in a book.  So in time, writing and reading were losing their vitality, becoming separated from the source of their greatest power.  I’d want to write, but a week or two would pass and I had nothing much to say.  By and large days were tolerable enough - some more or less so than others – but the colour was draining from them.
How do you reach your own soul?  And how do you become disconnected from it in the first place?
Souls have survival needs just as bodies have needs.  Bodies require basic life support of air and water, and to grow and find energy and power they need nourishment.  Without these they become weak and will eventually die.  And it’s not so very different for souls.  Souls thrive in an environment free from toxins such as cynicism, pessimism, mistrust and fear – these are all poison to the soul.  I sometimes say, half joking, that my job is soul-destroying; I’m coming to realise there’s more truth in that phrase than is comfortable.  Those are all key attributes of my work environment.
So souls need nourishment.  What happens to souls when they’re not fed?  They fade; their light dims; they disperse like wisps of smoke driven apart by the breeze.  A frail shadow, vanishing into transparency until you can look right through it and see nothing.  Then all we’re left with is a body, a shell.  It’s animate; it goes through the motions of living, but it can sense also something lost: something missing, a memory barely felt, something without which body and mind are incomplete, forever unfulfilled, however hard they strive.
How can life be breathed back into this shadow?  Can the wisps of smoke dispersed by the winds of heartless fortune again coalesce and find form?  How can soul once more take it’s true place, and the being become whole again, filled,  no longer empty?
It’s so simple.  I nearly laughed out loud with relief when I realised.  Just feed the soul – that’s all it takes.  I’ve been starving my soul; it’s hardly surprising that I’ve felt its weakness, its debility, its dissociation.
Withholding nourishment is so easy to do, too.  So easy to allow a busy schedule to spread its tentacles into every last moment.  So easy to keep prioritising work, chores, duties so that those minutes that are left to nurture and nourish my soul become parched and barren, a desert in which nothing of any substance will grow.  So easy to live according to other peoples' priorities, not my own.
So many of those activities that seem like luxuries are in reality vital to well-being.  Even some of those apparently self indulgent time-wasting things that seem to serve no purpose at all may play their part.  Like sorting through my climbing gear, enjoying the feel of a karabiner in my hand, letting the cow-bell sound of hexes clanking together recover old experiences from deep in the memory, refreshing and renewing them, recreating the pathways of pleasure and fulfilment in my brain.
Of course, this shouldn’t really have come as a great revelation to me.  A very dear friend has been telling me this for a long time.  But some lessons are only learned when you work them out for yourself.
The greatest impact of this apparent king-size serving of motherhood and apple pie comes in my counselling quest.  I’d got stuck up against a barrier of step change, searching for an inner ‘authentic self’, trying to entice or drag this self out into the open and finding a fear I couldn't name or understand.  I’d created an inner conflict but now I'd found a means to dissolve all this.  Quit worrying about trying to “be” anything pre-defined.  Just find what feeds my soul, take the time and energy - and self-love - to do it, and allow it to grow.  Into whatever it wants to become; whatever it already is, if I could but recognise it.
Water it, feed it and it will grow.  'Build it and they will come'.  I watched that film a few weeks ago, on a Saturday evening, worn out after a very busy day of non-stop pressured activity.  I hadn't yet woken up to the idea of soul-food; I just knew that I desperately needed a break and picked it more or less at random from a shelf of videos.  It’s a good movie, although I wouldn't call it an outstanding one, yet it had a powerful impact on me I couldn’t understand.  I’m not even a sports fan, let alone a baseball fan.  Maybe it’s just as well I was watching it alone in the house, because I was reduced to tears on several occasions.  Not just a slightly moist eye either; these were deep sobs that shook my body even though I tried to suppress them.  Now I didn't think this movie was a tear-jerker, but something in it touched something in me in a way that felt full of significant meaning.  Build it and they will come.  Water it, feed it, and it will grow.  It will find the life it seeks and is meant to have.
Easier said than done?  Maybe.  Although I don’t subscribe to the “no gain without pain” theory, nevertheless it seems a fact of life that it takes effort and commitment to reap the biggest rewards.
Just one more thing.  No-one, most of all me, should forget that this is only a metaphor.  This is not the truth.  The truth is something way beyond any words.
And as a postscript, maybe I was wrong about Field of Dreams not being a tear-jerker 

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