Your Identity and Soul

Your identity and your soul dance with each other throughout your life. You are born as pure soul into a physical form and return to formless soul presence at death. Gradually, with each life experience, that form takes on an identity, made up of memories, thoughts, and feelings. The soul steps to the background as the identity experiences life in this way. It never disappears; it just allows the identity to follow the course of its destiny, the one the soul and God designed for you before birth. You chose to have certain life experiences, both joy and sadness, loss and celebration. Through it all your soul is a quiet voice whispering guidance. Sometimes you hear it, sometimes not. Either way, life continues.

Then at a certain point, your identity may reach a moment of awakening, perhaps through spiritual epiphany, perhaps through crisis. That crack in the seemingly solid form your identity has taken, opens the door for your soul’s more expansive presence. The wisdom of acceptance and surrender to the course of life events arises in your consciousness. You stop trying to control and begin to allow. A deeper love of life, of self, and of others comes to the fore. This is your soul’s greatest gift.

I have experienced much of this over the years, both through spiritual practice and through life’s challenges. A global pandemic and breast cancer were my greatest teachers about the inner peace that comes from acceptance. They occurred one right after the other in my life after many years of spiritual exploration and growth. With them, I felt my identity begin to recede a bit and my soul move to the fore. There was no sense of loss, but rather a profound peace and trust in all of life, as well as death and eternity. I had feared the latter since childhood. Perhaps it took actually coming face to face with the possibility of death for me to let go into trusting in an infinite consciousness that held me and all of the world in loving beingness.

This may sound like a fairy tale or wishful thinking, but I assure you this is what happened for me. It is not an instant transformation but rather a gradual opening to full soul awareness. Today, I feel more deeply aligned with my soul, trusting in the divine flow of the universe. Yet, my identity has not entirely disappeared. It is like a thread that tethers me lightly to this lifetime, present in a passing thought or feeling. I know my identity is not to be disregarded and discarded. It is to be loved along with everything else in my life. My soul gave me my identity so I could experience life fully. If I can remember that whenever I feel apprehensive about something, then soul trust arises and all is well.

Your identity and soul are partners, your life support system, linked in love. Your soul is eternal, your identity temporary, but together they fill your life with meaning and purpose. Acknowledging their interconnected presence allows you to experience life with full conscious awareness of the miracle and gift that is life on Earth.

New Year(s)

We think of each new year as a chance to start over, to begin again and get it right this time. A clean slate, a fresh calendar of days, a whole new, more perfect you. But what if everything is already “right,” and you are already “perfect”? What if the world and each of us is exactly the way we are meant to be for the universe and humanity to evolve and shift to a full conscious awareness of our own being, our own integral presence in the fabric of life?

Though we have created vast networks of knowledge and laws and religions, we actually know nothing. We are guessing at the reasons for our existence, who we are, and why we are on Earth. We construct elaborate stories to explain everything and then we blame ourselves and each other when we don’t live up to how we think things are supposed to be—our belief systems. We argue and fight wars over all the various interpretations of human life and human behavior. We think that will change things.

In truth, we are actually following a design set in motion before we were born. We are souls on a path of becoming. When we recognize that and see the softness of soul in each other, the world will become a softer place. That awareness is coming; it is in fact arising more and more every day. When you witness a random act of kindness in your day, there it is. When a stranger smiles at you, there it is. When a friend tells you they love you, there it is.

The other day I noticed our mail carrier giving treats to two dogs as they passed by with their human companions. She said she loves dogs and has 40 on her route that she brings treats for every day. There it is again. A friend with limited funds told about how the person ahead of her in the grocery line paid for her purchases when they saw her slowly and carefully counting her bills. And there it is yet again.

People are not as selfish and mean as we sometimes think they are. Perhaps they are just wounded and lost and need a kind word or generous act to help them feel hope again. We each have the opportunity to do that for someone else in our daily lives. And for ourselves as well. The saying goes that love is stronger than hate or fear, and I believe that is true. Despite what you may feel sometimes about the state of humanity, inside we are all vulnerable beings with tender hearts. Moment by moment, individual by individual, heart by heart, we are opening to that deeper truth, the soul design we came into this world with.

So don’t give up hope, don’t lose heart. Trust that you carry the “new year” with you in every precious second of your life. You and every other being on this unique blue and green globe circling through the heavens. We don’t know why we are here with our minds, but our hearts know it is for the love we share and then pass forward into the future. Happy New Years!

Timeless Slow Motion

The experience of calendar- and clock-oriented time has seemed to fade and often dissolve completely over the past two to three years of radical changes in the world. I find that many people I know comment on how they often have no idea what day or month it is until they stop and think about it. Life has given us the opportunity to live the ancient wisdom of present-moment awareness in which time does not exist. Now is timeless. There is only Presence. It may be hard to get used to at first, but gradually there is a letting go into a greater sense of being alive, one that is not constrained by human parameters or mental constructions that explain the world. Being alive and being aware of life is all there is.

In 2018 I moved from Massachusetts to Florida; in 2020 I moved back. Within that span of time, a pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Busy-ness of all kinds subsided. My own life became mainly morning meditation, yoga, writing, and daily walks on a nature trail outside my door. Most other things fell away. In 2021­–2022, as I lived through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, even my past identity began to dissolve. I let go completely into appreciating each second of my life. Today, as people try to get back their pre-pandemic lives and return to “normal” activities, I find myself reluctant to become “busy” again. My entire being wants to move in slow motion and be fully present with a minimum of activities, such as writing or walking in Nature. I am most at peace then.

There is no time in Nature. When I walk quietly among the trees, listening to the call of the wood thrush or cardinal, I do not count the minutes and keep track of how much time has passed. I am fully in the moment and nothing else exists. The color of the sky and the movement of the clouds engage my heart and soul. I frequently stop and just stare at the beauty around me. A flower, butterfly, or bee is a tiny miracle; if I walk swiftly, I miss them entirely. “Slow” is a gift; “timeless” is a gift. I am grateful for all that happened in my life that brought me to this space of just plain “being.”

Major events, whether personal (like cancer) or global (like COVID), shatter reality and give us the opportunity to see the world and ourselves with fresh eyes and no past frameworks. If we remain in this open space without refilling it with previous mindsets that keep us spinning in place, then limitless possibilities open up all around us. The most powerful of which is just to see the world each morning with clear vision and no preconceptions.

Allow the present to move you; don’t try to control it or force it along a particular mental path. When you accept each moment as it arises, your soul can guide you in living a life that peacefully flows and flowers, even in the midst of illness or extreme changes in the external world. Indeed, maybe this is why crisis comes to humans—to teach them fluidity and gratitude. Perhaps our souls chose these particular lifetimes on Planet Earth to help humanity evolve into full conscious awareness of timeless presence and connection to something greater in the universe. Slow down, smile, and watch time disappear.

The Tree of Life

I am looking out my kitchen window at the tree in my neighbors’ backyard. It is October and the green leaves are turning golden/red, some beginning to fall to the ground. The coleus on their porch looks slightly less full and is fading in color. Soon the tree will be bare, and the coleus leaves will also have fallen to the yard below. This is the cycle of life, for trees, for plants, for humans. Seeds to fallen leaves, becoming one with the Earth from which they grew. Spring, summer, fall, winter. Baby, child, adult, elder. Birth, death, rebirth.

The tree of life has many branches, many experiences. If I compare myself to a tree, I can see the human life cycle playing out in the seasonal changes of the tree. We are born in spring, bloom in summer, come into our full colorful wisdom in autumn, and then gradually, gently, one by one, our leaves begin to fade and fall. The winter of our lives appears so much closer then. We can see death in the distance. Ironically, though, as we age, we also begin to see spring on the other side.

When I was a child, I feared death as an end, eternity as an empty void. As I grow older, I am beginning to sense the never-ending continuity of life and death. They are really one, these two experiences that we have been led to believe are polar opposites. The whole, seen together, is Presence, living consciousness that is eternal. If you have a spiritual background, you may see that as God or the Divine Mother; it is also what we are at the soul level. No separation—between God/dess and soul, between life and death. It is all infinite consciousness experiencing itself in a multitude of ways. Awareness, arising from the soul, expands throughout our lives until we are able to perceive the oneness fully.

Soul awareness emerges differently in each person. You may not see the divine fusion of life and death until the moment you transition. Or you may be shown it much earlier, at a time of great crisis or great love. Any profound human experience can open the doors of perception so that the light pours through. We all fear facing death alone with no sense of meaning, no light shining to show us the way. But the deeper you surrender to the mystery of life, the greater your trust grows in both meaning and light. Faith replaces fear.

I am not traditionally religious, but I do believe in a Spirit that fills the cosmos with light and beauty. I feel this Presence every day of my life when I watch the sun rise or hear birds singing; it has been with me since birth and will continue after I die. I see it in the tree outside my window and in all the living beings on Earth, plant, animal, and human. In the stones and stars as well. In my own heart. Everything and everyone is part of it, something so magnificent that words cannot encompass its gentle loving power. Our minds think death exists as an end, but it is only a transition to another beginning. If you look closely at the Tree of Life, its secrets reveal themselves, and you see the cycles of Spirit that never end and the exquisitely sweet flow of infinity itself.

Without a Word

I usually arise around 4 or 5 in the morning when there is predominantly silence everywhere. I sit in the darkness and rest in the stillness, soothed by the absence of noise or traffic outside. Soon the birds begin to sing, and the light of the sun fills the world. There are no voices or conversations interrupting the peace I feel at this time. I am absorbing the experience of morning without a word. Through my ears and eyes; through my cells. Presence.

So much of our lives is based in language, spoken or heard, filling our brains with thoughts. What would it be like to experience the world without mentally describing it to ourselves? Can you see a tree or bird without naming it as such? A person without mentally categorizing gender, age, race? Even beyond that, can you see anything without language, just experiencing it without a word? We humans have learned to divide the world with the words we have created to describe it. Often we aren’t even seeing what we see; instead we perceive a mental image of a word designation we have come to associate with something. We all do this. What if we tried to shift our awareness into just experiencing with no perceptual parameters? Life arising and falling away with no attempts on our part to capture it in words. Like the silence at dawn.

I’m a writer so this can seem like quite a challenge to me at times. Yet when I am walking in Nature or sitting in the silence of sunrise, it frees my mind to just experience the world from my heart, wordlessly. I practice seeing without naming as I walk among the trees, bushes, and flowers of the natural world. I can always write about it later, but in the experience itself I prefer to be and receive the full wonder of what is before me. I grew up an only child on five acres in the Illinois countryside, so I spent a lot of time alone during those years.  I had friends at school, but at home I enjoyed the solitude and silence of Nature. Somehow this has carried over to my adult life. I feel most at home in wordless Presence.

A number of years ago, when I was taking part in traditional fire ceremonies with Maya elders in Guatemala, I experienced this same kind of deep Presence. Even though words in the Maya language were spoken within the ceremony, somehow there was a profound silence that pervaded everything. No conversation, just inner quiet and receptivity. The stillness of Spirit linked our hearts and souls and also brought Nature’s magic beyond human language close to us. Bees circled in the air above the fire before the ceremony at Tikal, and birds swooped through the lingering smoke afterward. It was as if they were weaving the energy of the ceremony into the greater world. And none of us spoke at these times; to be wordlessly present was enough.

Of course, it’s not necessary or realistic to live like this all the time. Our friendships, family, and community arise out of communicating verbally and sharing life experiences, thoughts, and feelings with words. Yet, to step back at times and just be silent is deeply soothing. Your breathing slows, and your whole body relaxes. Space opens up within you for the soul to expand into present-moment awareness. Those who meditate or take long quiet walks experience this. I feel it in the stillness before the day begins. If we each found our way to including such experiences in our daily lives, perhaps we would be less busy and stressed. Sometimes the most profound moments of life occur without a word.