Call of the Soul
I believe we live during a time of spiritual growth and have a mission to connect with soul.
While countless definitions of “soul” exist, it usually refers to the dwelling of spirit within us and our deepest inner essence. Unique to each person, soul underlies personality. At the same time, soul connects separate beings with each other to form the interconnected web of life.
In times past, people communed with nature and listened to stirrings in their souls. In our fast-paced, technology-driven, outer-directed world, we readily lose touch with those avenues of soul exploration. Our educational system and family structure emphasize adapting to the world and fitting into mainstream America.
Disconnected from the soil of our deepest selves and its inner directives, we live without a compass to guide our way through life.
When I decided to become a psychologist, I had no idea that “psyche” was derived from an ancient Greek word that referred to soul. At the time, I only knew that I wanted to help people who were struggling with emotional distress. I pursued this career and became established in my field.
After I moved to a more rural setting and began deepening my connection with nature, something strange began happening. I had difficulty leaving my home and going to work.
As I aimed my car down our driveway, I sensed something calling, pulling me back. Trying to make sense of this feeling, I wondered, “What might I have forgotten?” and found various reasons to turn the car around. Arriving back home, I invariably found everything in order. I checked the wood burning stove, the dog, etc. None of my reasons for turning around had been warranted. Yet, the feelings persisted. Whenever I began driving to work, I felt something tug at me, pulling me home.
After some time, it finally dawned on me that these feelings were messages from less conscious regions of my psyche, and that I needed to explore what they were trying to tell me. I began paying more attention to my dreams, free-associating in my journal, and generally opening myself to the exploration.
One day, while walking in the woods, I suddenly realized I needed to resign from my position and work out of my home. This insight surprised me for I hadn’t been exploring my feelings, nor had I intended to do so. While appreciating the scenery and enjoying my walk, the understanding simply popped into my mind.
I sat with this knowing for a while, not telling anyone what I was contemplating. The whole idea required a shift in my thinking. I mulled it over, exploring if it might work and how I might go about doing it.
On one hand, it didn’t make sense to quit a prestigious position I had worked very hard to obtain, especially as I enjoyed helping the people I worked with. Yet, as I felt into the idea more deeply, I knew that this move would be truly right for me. Having allowed the idea to percolate, I took a leap of faith. I resigned from my salaried position and began working out of my home.
I share this personal story as an example of one way that soul communicates — through feelings that keep persisting, pushing or pulling in a given direction. This includes flashes of insight that bubble into conscious awareness, seemingly out of the blue, which we know to be true. While attending to soul and honoring inner messages doesn’t always require doing anything as dramatic as quitting your job, it does involve taking time to listen, to sense and to know.
Similar to our physical senses that function like antennae receiving messages from outside, we have inner senses that receive messages from soul. These inner senses act like a compass, pointing us toward the direction soul wants us to go.
Each of us has preferred ways of processing information from our inner senses. Our tendency to use a particular pathway can be recognized by the language we use. For example, although I process some information visually, I frequently favor the kinesthetic mode. I tend to talk about feeling things and sensing that something might happen.
A person inclined towards auditory processing, will say things like “I hear you” and “that sounds good to me.” Visually oriented people may talk about “seeing what you are getting at.” The person who says, “I can just taste what that would be like,” or “it was a bitter pill to swallow,” uses gustatory channels to process information. The phrase “sniffing out a problem” reflects an olfactory sensory channel.
In my experience recounted earlier, I began exploring what soul was trying to communicate by leaving a notebook beside my bed and recording my dreams soon after awakening, writing in the present tense. I also diligently wrote rapidly in my journal, allowing my pen to follow wherever my associations led. Sometimes I used crayons to draw pictures, inviting my inner eye to embellish on a message.
Various meditative practices work in a similar way. Meditation helps us turn inward and tune out the irrelevant. We then enter the calm, still place deep within where we access messages from soul.
Even though we all lead busy lives, it’s important to find time for creative endeavors that feed our inner guidance system and provide avenues for soul expression. Painting, drawing, sculpting and making mosaic patterns offer pathways for visually oriented people. Those inclined toward auditory pathways might experiment with listening to music, singing, or playing an instrument. Cooking and baking bread could serve as creative avenues for gustatory and olfactory folk. And kinesthetically oriented people like myself might try knitting, gardening, authentic movement, yoga and tai chi.
Any activity that expresses something from inside can embody a message from soul. If you feel moved to write, then do so. Keep a journal, pen a poem or write a novel. Weave a basket or rearrange a room. Give your imagination free expression. This is the way to engage with soul until something inside just clicks, you know it feels right and you answer your soul’s call.
Lesley Irene Shore, Ph.D. is a counseling psychologist, deep ecologist, organic grower, and workshop facilitator. She founded and directs Harmony Center, a non-profit offering personal growth and wellness workshops. Visit www.harmony-center.org for schedule.