“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”
There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.
If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.
Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.
The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.
Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.
To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle. Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.
When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.
I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure or construct can ever teach us that.