Diving deeper into the waters of purpose
We are approaching our second month together. In the first month, we focused on healing and befriending the past, and started to explore soul-level purpose.
From now, we are switching our focus, and diving deeper into the waters of purpose. For the next month, I ask you to narrow your focus to soul-level purpose. It will be an intensive few weeks.
Before you begin Module 5, look over everything you have received so far on this journey – images, messages, learnings, healing, soul parts, knowledge. A lot has happened already! Spend a little time just acknowledging it all. Some of the images and messages may accompany you on this next chapter of the journey, as you descend deeper into your Soul – it’s good to know them as intimately as possible.
This week’s activities include six ways to help you to connect more deeply with your Soul.
Spirit and soul
There is a difference between Spirit and Soul.
Spirit allows you to rise/see beyond and behind the world, to experience the timeless truth beyond thought and form (some would call that God). Soul shares this ability, but also allows you to sink down into the Earth, to experience attachments to place, community and your unique service to your people. Though this distinction is overly simplified, one could say that Spirit is transcendent, Soul is rooted. Spirit is connected with heaven/nirvana, Soul is associated with earth/destiny and the imaginal realm. Soul is Spirit in human form (or other life forms). Both Spirit and Soul are outside/beyond the ego, but ‘express’ themselves differently.
Much of spirituality is focused on going beyond ego and connecting with the ultimate Mystery/God/reaching enlightenment. The other dimension of spirituality is Soul. The Soul path also directs us to stretch beyond ego, but in a way that draws us into a deep connection to our bodies, homes, friendships, communities and destinies.
This module is about preparing for the journey of descent to the centre of your being. It’s a burrowing into your depths to embody the truth at the centre of your being. Bill Plotkin calls this essential truth your ‘mythopoetic identity’. James Hillman calls it ‘the image at the centre of your being.’
Another way to describe this is ‘soul-level purpose’ – the unique design of who you were born to be. This is a different way of thinking of purpose than something you do.
In this module, you will engage in practices that forge a stronger attachment to Soul. Psychology has given us ‘attachment theory’: the understanding that children with secure attachment feel protected by their parents, and know that they can depend on their caretakers. In Soul psychology, adults with secure Soul-attachment feel supported and connected with Soul, and they know that they can depend on Soul to guide them through the journey of life.
During the last 40 years, considerable research has confirmed the importance of creating a secure attachment environment for children. In modern societies there is little (if any) research on creating a secure attachment to Soul as a source of guidance during adulthood. You can now rectify this situation in your own life.
How to prepare for the journey to Soul? How do we prepare the soil for harvesting the images and symbols that grow from a healthy garden? Here are six practices for initiating the journey. For this week, engage in each of these practices as your initiation into your deep soul journey. After this week, you can continue to use any of these same six practices on a regular basis.
Six initiations for your soul journey
1. Foundation prayer
None of us avoids facing the deeper truths of our soul. You can wait for life to abduct you, or you can ask Soul to take you. Beg the Mystery to steal your cramped life from you. Invite it to prune what you have outgrown. Ask the Mystery to start relieving you of the unnecessary acquaintances, occupations, addictions and identities that are impeding your life.
You want to free your roots to travel further downward to undiscovered depths of darkness and mystery. Remember, let the longing for abduction be the foundation of your prayer. Descend to the core of your hunger for a purpose-infused life. Let all your longing to be free of your numbness and blindness be expressed. Trust yourself – you know how to make this prayer.
Purpose exploration is as much about relinquishing what is not in alignment with your purpose as it is about finding your purpose. For example, when you marry somebody you give up many of the potential advantages and opportunities that single life affords, such as dating or unlimited solitude, because these are incompatible with a monogamous marriage. In your marriage with your Soul, you relinquish parts of your life that are incompatible with living from your deepest truth (this doesn’t mean you have to be ‘perfect’).
At least once this week spend a few minutes in silence and then begin to pray, from your heart, asking to live a soul-infused life. It might sound like this:
‘Mystery, I am embarking on a journey to discover and embody my Soul’s deepest purpose. I pray for support in divesting myself from the habits, thoughts, objects, and relationships that hinder the progress of my awakening into the full realisation of my Soul’s purpose. Remove these outgrown garments to clear the pathway for uncovering the wellspring of my Soul.’
2. Fast (optional)
A fast is the ancient practice of clearing a space for concentrated prayer to occur. Fasting is a way to prepare your psyche for a spiritual journey – a psycho-spiritual stretching that can be employed before the descent to Soul. Some see fasting as a demonstration of sincerity. (But, you can also be sincere without fasting.)
Giving up food for a time not only cleanses us physically, but is a timeless sacred practice in virtually all spiritual traditions. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting). A fast is a recommended practice to initiate your journey. Fasting is a jump start to a life that feels stuck, scattered, or just in need of a reset. Start your purpose journey with a fast of at least one day. You may be pleasantly surprised by the spiritual power of beginning this journey with a fast. It is a spiritual, emotional and mental emptying out, as well as a physical one.
Note: If you have reason to believe a 24-hour fast would be ill-advised, please consult your physician. If you have past or current eating disorders, modify (or skip) this practice in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the disorder. Additionally, if you cannot manage a 24-hour water fast, consider a juice fast. If a juice fast is inadvisable, you might do a fast from cooked foods and eat only raw nutritious food for a day.
You could also consider an extreme self-care day instead – perhaps with silence, art/creativity, and gentle movement, like yoga. All of these can be forms of prayer.
The suggested fast is for 24 hours, eating nothing and drinking only water. Or, an alternative practice. It’s your decision. Carry out your prayer while fasting or doing your alternative practice.
3. Practice: commune with nature.
As with last week, spend an extended time out in nature. This time, pray to know your ‘mythopoetic identity’ (the image at the centre of your being – the essential truth of who you are). Focus only on this, not on any other aspect of the purpose octagon. Answers might come as a ‘soul name’, or in some other way.
Note down any images, feelings, knowings, signs or names that come.
4. Being simple
Court your muse by practicing simplicity. Woo your soul by eliminating excessive complications. ‘Simple acts make man simple; and how difficult it is to be simple’, writes Thomas Moore. Creating a hospitable home for your purpose involves cultivating what Plato called ‘the craft of life’. One act of simplicity can have a profound effect on your Soul. Examples: Instead of Googling a word, look it up in a dictionary. Instead of buying ground coffee, hand grind the beans. Walk instead of driving. Craft instead of watching TV. You get the idea!
Choosing to be simple is a powerful way of courting your Soul.
Pick some areas of your life and choose to be simple with them. Slowly, you will begin to notice that your subtle hearing improves, and you can begin to better hear the ‘still small voice’ of Soul speaking softly to you.
5. Read mythology
By reading mythology, we learn how to think in images and metaphor. Dialoguing with Soul requires an upgraded language, the language of the imaginal realm– the realm where stories, art, symbols and images live.
Context: We live in a society where many believe the most successful lives are measured by the depth of their bank accounts, not the depth of their Soul. A mythically rich approach to purpose work invites you to see your journey in the light of universal symbols and motifs that are our archetypal inheritance. Reading mythology will help activate your receptiveness to images, allowing Soul to speak to you in its favoured language.
Here is a brief intro to Greek mythology.
https://www.greekboston.com/culture/mythology/greek-mythology/. In addition to that, Joseph Campbell (and his Hero’s Journey) is very well known, and a useful concept. You may find the female perspective lacking, though. Some women feel that the Hero’s Journey does not reflect women’s experience of the shape of their quest for wholeness. I have not read it, but ‘The Heroine’s Journey’ by Maureen Murdock looks excellent. There are also many modern retellings of Greek myths by women, which focus more on the female characters. There are also modern fairy tales, as well as feminist retellings of traditional tales. Angela Carter is a good place to start.
Read some mythology at least once this week. Greek myths are a good starting point. See what draws you, and dive into the world of myth, even if only for a brief dip.
Note anything that comes up.
6. Take a break from self-improvement
Those of us on a spiritual path are often also on one of ‘self-improvement’. The underlying belief can be that we need to be ‘better’, or even perfect. But you don’t have to be good, healthy or ‘fixed’ to live your destiny. Self-improvement in these areas may result as a side benefit of purpose work, but it is a detour and not the direct pathway to living a Soul-infused life.
Context: Purpose discovery is about serving our Soul. The discovery process isn’t part of a personality/ego ‘improvement project.’ During this course, it’s suggested you spend less time polishing the decks, and more time putting the boat into the deep, uncharted waters. I’m not suggesting you give up self-improvement forever, just that you take a sabbatical from it for the next few months, to allow for an entirely different type of growth – one acutely focused on the embodiment of your Soul. You’ve likely already been working on yourself for decades from the moment you learned to walk, now try stepping out of the way and letting ‘Soul work on you’ for the next few months.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
(Wild Geese by Mary Oliver)
Continue with your meditations.
Also, stay in contact with your soul parts. Check in with them, and see how they are doing, and if they want to communicate anything to you.
Send me a paragraph (or more if you like) about your experience of each of the different practices in Module 5.