THE SOUL’S WAY

THE SOUL’S WAY

14 Comments on THE SOUL’S WAY

Clear mornings bring the mountains to my

doorstep.

Calm nights give the rivers their say.

Some evenings the wind puts its hand on my

shoulder.

I stop thinking.

I leave what I’m doing and I go the soul’s way

John Moriarty

Last time I wrote about a new chapter in my blogging efforts that would focus on what I called soul work, which I described as cultivating awareness of the deeper dimensions of life, including meaning, identity, and purpose, and applying this awareness to everything I and we (as a society) do.

I described meaning in terms of a universe that is unfolding through relationships at every level, from galaxies to human evolution. I suggested that the universe has unfolded – and continues to unfold – into us in the form of self-reflective consciousness which defines us – gives us an identity – as life-come-to-consciousness. It is this identity that gives us our purpose as cultivators of consciousness on behalf of the universe.

In this reflection I want to explore how I am trying to live this purpose: how I try to instruct myself in joy and help myself and others stand in the glow of ripeness. In this way too I want to invite you to share how you do it.

The question then might be, what is the soul’s way? I’ll attempt to explore this by describing something a group of us have been experimenting with for the past six months to help us go to this deeper place. We call it Meditation-Dialogue because it attempts to bring together the simplest forms of meditation – silence and noticing – with dialogue which I have explored for many years now and have come to understand as a way of participating in the emergence of meaning, a way of actually generating life in the form of awareness and insight. I have boldly called it giving birth to God, but that is a story for another time.

Our Meditation-Dialogue consists of three simple stages: connecting, exploring and discovering. The connecting is at what you might call heart level, stirred by a poem, like the one above, or a thought or a piece of music. We listen in silence to what it stirs, simply noticing rather than examining or analyzing; certainly not composing something clever to share. In fact, the quality of the sharing that follows is determined by vulnerability and the courage it implies rather than knowledge or even logic. Often it takes the form of story, or at least real experience that reflects an innate, intuitive sense we are all familiar with, but tend not to reveal. However, it is this kind of sharing that connects us at heart-level.

When all who wish to share – not necessarily everyone – have done so, we return to silence-meditation in order to savor the connection.

In fact, we have now – already – created a space where something new can happen: a safe place, a container that can hold us all, without judgment, that can allow us to listen to each other in a new way, which is what the second stage of exploring is about: listening without judgment or the usual reaction; listening simply in order to understand rather than convince or win. Real listening like this has its own kind of vulnerability and humility, just like the story sharing of the connecting process. It means deliberately allowing the tension of our differences to surface, as they inevitably will. But it also means staying with the discomfort that this tension creates, instead of seeking relief by resolving it quickly, often through rejection in all its forms or even accepting too easily. It means giving space for stories of not knowing with their embarrassment and frustration and their description of the fear and defensiveness that this elicits. Exploring is really listening, without judgment and with heightened awareness of my own assumptions that only a safe container like the one we created through our vulnerable connecting permits: a container that develops over time in order to hold more and more of the tension and discomfort that honest exploration generates without seeking the relief of easy reconciliation in whatever form.

The soul’s way is not easy or comfortable, rather it is uncomfortable, sometimes upsetting, daunting, even frightening, for it reveals and reflects the infinite reality we would rather deny: the infinite spaces that terrified the philosopher, Pascal; the threat of annihilation that our present world brings to our television doorstep; our own personal death. The soul’s way is one of practicing living in that space; it is practicing dying in a sense.

But it is a dying that is clearly an essential part of the larger life that holds us all: the death of a seed that allows germination, the death of a season that allows a new spring, the death of the old that allows the birth of the new; the death of an assumption that makes room for a deeper knowing. The final stage of this meditation-dialogue brings us into this soul way where we stop thinking and leave what we’re doing, where we discover the new life that was there all the time but that we have participated in bringing into the world of form. In this stage we sit again silence with the tension between our differences, the disequilibrium of truly not knowing; with the chaos of the infinite spaces. Here we listen FOR what has been generated in this process of honest, vulnerable interaction: a feeling, a thought, an image, a word; an idea, an insight we can build on: feather out like a painting; ease out like a song – ‘a continuing great song..’

When we’ve done this for a while we go back into silence to allow all this to settle into our minds and bodies where we can commit to action however simple: to do this again; to practice an aspect of the soul’s way – like listening more: to others, to myself, to what is constantly emerging; to strategize other such conversations.

This is the soul’s way that uses images and ideas but in a different way: without holding or imposing; rather in a flow-like process of sharing and connecting and allowing and holding and discovering. This is the soul’s way that generates something often unexpected out of the discomfort of staying with uncertainty, with one’s lack of control, with a different way of thinking that perhaps reflects Einstein’s insight:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

A final reflection: the end of these conversations brings a sense of having participated in something real – not always easy or comfortable, but real, nonetheless. The experience bonds us and calls us back. The priest-scientist, Teilhard DeChardin described it like this:

“ The immense fulfillment of the friendship between those engaged in furthering the evolution of consciousness has a quality impossible to describe.”

This has been my experience of the soul’s way: does it resonate with you? Do you have similar experiences you could share? What is going on here do you think?

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14 Comments

  1. John  - March 28, 2017 - 8:28 am
    Reply /

    Another marvelous blog, a calm voice of reason in these ever so troubling times.
    How can we understand and interact positively with those diminishing few who still support this monster Trump?
    I believe it was Edmond Burke who said “When good men do nothing, anarchy reigns”.
    The global outlook, driven by greed and extreme prejudice, is disheartening to say the least.
    Keep up your good work!

    • Danny  - March 29, 2017 - 5:36 am
      Reply /

      Thanks John. Burke’s words were judged by the Oxford Dictionary to be one one of the most popular quotes of modern times. What Burke actually said (in 1770), however, I think is even more important: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” This more affirmative statement highlights what good men (and women obviously) have to do in the face of evil: come together (and generate a creative response) or miss the moment and simply ‘fall one by one’. I am seeing people coming together. In our own town of Lewisboro, we unanimously adopted a proclamation declaring ourselves a ‘welcoming community’ to all our residents. And some of us are already taking the next steps of convening our ‘different’ neighbors in order to learn how to live this proclamation.

  2. Diane J. Abatemarco, PhD, MSW, Mother, Grandmother  - March 28, 2017 - 9:07 am
    Reply /

    I am so very moved by today’s writing, Danny. I could even hear your lovely accent in the words. Your presence and the way you communicate are ever present in this writing. I dropped out of my morning of work to really be there as I read this transforming experience you so eliquently described. As I mindfully felt what you were had written, I recollected a painful episode I was involved in last week in the healthcare system where I work. During the meeting to discuss a medical case I suggested that folks who treat women with opioid addiction were using negative words to describe her affect. Some physician took issue with it and then told me I was hurtful to the resident who was involved in the care of a patient who had lost her fetus and needed a hysterectomy. I know that I became defensive, yet my mindfulness training enabled not to fight back. However, I was not passive either but rather tried to defend myself. Today, after reading your writing I see that I was defensive and that I could have simply listened. By being defensive, I hurt me too, and I allowed my heart to be hurt by someone else’s words. I spend several days wondering how this could have gone better and sitting in that awkward place of wondering if I did something wrong, awful, or painful.

    I sense that this is a common experience for folks and that the missing piece of my healing was in the lack of self-compassion for me. I read today a story about Tara Brach and her realizing that she inadvertently said something that hurt someone. She found a way to heal and to reach out to the person genuinely. She began my befriending herself. Taking a moment to acknowledge that she was experiencing pain as well from the experience. She found a way to comfort herself. Recently my mindfulness teacher, suggested that we hold our own hand when we are feeling sad, angry, disappointed, etc.

    As I sit with being self-compassionate I then came to wonder how I might have another conversation with the folks at the meeting where this transpired. My chaotic worrying was replace with curiosity. I wondered if the conversation could open all of us to healing and treating women in substance use differently. I feel concerned about the resident who might have been hurt by our discussion in the meeting but rather than feel guilty and needing to fix it I feel detached and hopeful that we could share a common goal.

    Listening as you suggest in this writing is so healing and I also believe is the “soul’s way.”

    • Danny  - March 29, 2017 - 5:43 am
      Reply /

      Diane, thank you for your honest and vulnerable sharing: this is the spirit of the ‘meditation-dialogue’ I described. The ‘befriending oneself’ that you describe seems like the foundation for an ‘aware listening’ that brings the interaction to another level of possibility. Someone at a recent meditation-dialogue spoke of the healing that happened when someone simply brought their actual ‘inability to help’ (and even their fear of being around the problem). It felt very real and completely mysterious….

  3. Stephen Holton  - March 28, 2017 - 7:56 pm
    Reply /

    Hmm, I love this. It seems a careful sharing in dialogue, is a careful emptying of our souls experiences and insights into a common mixing bowl. Two things happen. Those in the dialogue make good bread together. And God replaces our now emptied ingredients with new ones, ready to be shared again, and feed others again

    • Danny  - March 29, 2017 - 5:48 am
      Reply /

      It’s a helpful image Stephen. I’ve often used a comparable image of a cooking pot which like your mixing bowl into which all the different perspectives/ingredients are emptied (without one trying to convince or absorb the other). In the case of the cooking pot, you can add the image of fire that heats up the mixture to cook something new (as you also imply). In this case, the container – which consists of trust and skill, and experience – needs to be constantly strengthened in order to hold together when things get hot as they will often do when real differences are brought together.

  4. Hans  - March 29, 2017 - 5:09 am
    Reply /

    May we all leave what we are doing, …and go the Soul’s Way!

  5. Danny  - March 29, 2017 - 5:48 am
    Reply /

    Amen….Hans

  6. Bobbe Stultz  - March 29, 2017 - 8:59 am
    Reply /

    We do not do enough LISTENING… to ourselves or others. We do not participate in SILENCE enough. Connecting, exploring and discovering comes from those simple acts. This is beautiful, Danny.

    • Danny  - March 29, 2017 - 9:17 am
      Reply /

      Thank you for your great work, Bobbe, which reflects the spirit of this Blog. I think we in Bedford and Lewsiboro, NY – and other towns – are finding ways of bringing this kind of interaction to our communities to make them true ‘welcoming communities.’

  7. aws  - March 30, 2017 - 3:04 pm
    Reply /

    Your work here and insights are truly phenomenal, you’ve developed a language of insight into the human struggle to know that I’ve never seen before.

    • Danny  - April 7, 2017 - 7:48 am
      Reply /

      Thanks Ally for this reflection. It certainly captures what I’ve been exploring: what it means to know. So much of our knowing is simply a projection of mostly unconscious assumptions. I’d love to hear what other people think…

  8. Anne Pearson  - April 6, 2017 - 3:08 pm
    Reply /

    Danny, I delayed my response because I wasn’t sure that I was able to follow your shining path….my passion often seems to disable my intent to engage in dialogue effectively. But I have been able to engage a process which will educate public managers of stormwater ponds (an outmoded technology, which however exists in the hundreds of thousands as a result of previous development rules regarding the rain). The Forum and subsequent probable move to change existing state rules, will be inspired by the commitment to become ‘part of the earth’ in our approach to land and water restoration. I will hope to move in that direction! Gratefully, Anne

    • Danny  - April 8, 2017 - 6:28 am
      Reply /

      Isn’t fascinating how passion can get in the way of dialogue? Like any strong emotion, I suppose. Perhaps the challenge is learning how to work with what is clearly energy. Timing is everything they say….or some say. Of course establishing common ground – like the shared commitment you mention to ‘become part of the earth’ – is critical. Keep us all posted on your efforts Anne.

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