Clear mornings bring the mountains to my
Calm nights give the rivers their say.
Some evenings the wind puts its hand on my
I stop thinking.
I leave what I’m doing and I go the soul’s way
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?