Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.
Deep calls to deep. . . I love those words.
In a world where very often it seems like a challenge to keep our heads above water and the river of modern life feels like it is rushing so fast we can barely keep up, there is some comfort in the idea that something deeper is calling to us. I have always felt that magnetic pull to what lies beneath the surface of things--whether it be people, circumstances, stories, dreams, or personal pain. This curiosity is what originally lured me into the realm of "healing" so many years ago. I was seeking a way out of my own struggle with clinical depression. Therapy and medication helped me get to a place where I could function well enough to explore alternative options. I began to learn the difference between healing and curing. The former is about becoming whole and the latter is used to describe a state where our disease symptoms have been reversed. We can be "cured" and not necessarily healed, just as we can be "healed" or in the process of healing and still have symptoms of illness. I discovered that my experience with depression was partially chemical, partially situational, and partly a symptom of a completely different type of crisis--feeling orphaned from my own soul. In my case, depression was a dark night experience that brought me directly into a crisis of faith. As a result, my life felt drained of purpose and joy. I experienced a disconnection from my deeper self or what I call a "soul loss."
Let's continue with depression as an example because it is such a common struggle for millions of people. We can turn to psychiatry to attend to the chemical component, we can utilize psychotherapy to address the underlying thought and behavioral patterns. But where do we go to treat the soul? Many people find solace in their religious or spiritual traditions. But what if someone has outgrown the particular tradition they grew up with or, like me, finds themselves questioning all notions of "faith" in general?
Wholeness is a word that we use a lot in the world of healing, yoga and complimentary health. In my own life I am always looking for examples of wholeness and ways to create experiences of it. Inviting circles of people to gather is one of the best ways I've found. When people come together with their own heroic stories of love and loss, triumph and trauma, peak and powerless moments and experience the value of being seen and heard and given space to be wherever they are, something beautiful happens. In circle we commit to radical listening and open questioning rather than fixes, solutions or setting others straight. We confront our deeper questions about our lives. As Parker Palmer says about "circles of trust:"
"When you speak about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your deepest truth acknowledged and honored. If your problem is soul-deep, your soul alone knows what you need to do about it, and my presumptuous advice will only drive your soul back into the woods."
We listen for our own wisdom teacher to emerge somewhere in the space of talking and listening. This takes time, patience and tremendous trust in the process--not qualities we have been taught to develop in fixer-rescuer-helper model of relationships. Underneath the outer trappings of our personal narratives, lives a common, shared experience: the human experience. When we really listen to another and allow our own soul truths to be spoken, we eventually rest in the center of all of life, a place of belonging to something greater.
"Soul Matters" has become the way that I am best able to articulate the central message and core longing that my own life and work revolves around. The words are a simple reminder of what you may not hear echoed in the peaks and valleys of your everyday life--namely, YOUR SOUL MATTERS. What matters most to the soul are the core values of purpose, meaning and authenticity as well as the ways we experience those values in our lives. What matters to your soul may not offer a paycheck or a retirement plan. It may not bring you acclaim or any kind of outer recognition. It may not make any sense to anyone but you. But it is precisely the way that you come alive and find joy that matter most to the soul. Also because we exist in the human form--matter--we must express soul through the body. The two are intimately joined. It is in this intersection of matter and soul that purpose and meaning can be known and actualized. Self-expression is vital for our well being and fulfillment lest we remain distracted and overwhelmed by merely surviving, alienated from a deeper sense of purpose and suffer the symptoms of depression. There are many pathways to soul because soul is connected to our "genius" or particular gifts. Anything you love can be a door to expressing your depth: art, storytelling, dance, writing, nature, poetry, cooking, etc. The possibilities are infinite.
What people, places, ideas or experiences offer you a sense of purpose? What meaning do your personal stories (past and current) bring to your life? What, inside of you, longs to be known, expressed and shared? How can you live in a way that is congruous and aligned with who you are most naturally when you aren't trying to be someone "special?" Without active engagement in these soul matters our lives start to feel sterile, narrow, stagnant and two dimensional at best and empty, lonely and burdensome at worst. One thing I know for sure: we cannot enter the conversation and engage with questions of purpose, meaning and authenticity without awakening the soul force. It is a natural reaction and response to this kind of inquiry.
Soul matters is, for me, part of my personal mission and passion for bringing more soul to life in our world. When we nourish the soul, we attend to the health of our deepest root system and in turn every part of us is fed. We begin to awaken our creative capacity and author new chapters to our life stories. Others in our lives are inspired by our presence. We discover positive and productive ways to be in the world and offer our genius. We experience the deep satisfaction of knowing that we can handle all of the joy and pain inherent in this universal adventure and become whole human beings in the process. This is what true healing means to me. At the end of our lives we can look back and see the beautiful tapestry of soul that we wove as we went. We can say with certainty: that is what really mattered.
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