School for the Soul

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There is a candle in your heart ready to be kindled.  There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you?    Rumi

What if, as Richard Rohr tells us, there is a “well-kept secret” of a deeper journey and process available to us all?  Or, as Carl Jung remarked, we need special colleges to teach us how to navigate this transformative process because even if we knew about it we might not even know how or where to begin.

Most of us are so immersed in our ‘ego’ based lives, chasing goals, scrambling to meet expectations of others or our own, comparing ourselves to images in the media, and otherwise investing our energy in what Thomas Keating refers to as “happiness projects,”  we miss the life of the soul, the very one that would provide us with the richness of experience we deeply desire.

Perhaps this is changing.  There are now countless ‘Wisdom Schools’ popping up everywhere.  Most are interfaith and based on the mystical traditions of various religions.  I have participated in a few and found them valuable.   They focused on spiritual/contemplative practices, and occasionally they specifically addressed the soul. 

Over the years I have wondered what an actual School for the Soul would look like, and being a college instructor, I am particularly interested in curriculum and course planning.  What would a special college, or even course, for the soul entail?

Two things come to mind.  The main focus would be learning ways to build relationship with the soul. Just as with the counselling training I am involved in, the most essential piece needs to be relationship and connection.  Being warm and welcoming toward our soul, practicing skills of listening and attuning, while putting aside our own agenda, help establish a trusting relationship.  As with counselling, it is the deepest self who is the true facilitator.  The intention would be to trust the wisdom of the soul and its guidance, and also, just delight in its unique character.

Another necessary focus would be dealing with the resistance – all the reasons why we do not listen.  Naysaying – being dismissive of the soul and/or its relevance in our lives - is an obvious way we resist.  One reason we refuse to listen is fear.   We fear the unknown - where the soul would lead us if we did heed its call. We fear its depths, of what other people would think, appearing weird or crazy, being scorned and rejected, feelings that might surface....  The ego fears losing its control and central role in the personality. 

If you are willing to try something, take a moment and allow an image to come to you of your soul’s invitation to you to ‘join up’ - to participate and collaborate with it in a unique and transformative life adventure.  Imagine how you would do a sculpture or painting of this image (or actually do one) or even allow your body to express this invitation.

You might have envisioned the soul in a posture reaching out, arms extended, palm of hand open.  Or the image might have been something like an egg, a seed, some clay, or a path...  Just don’t dismiss however the soul presented itself to you. 

Now allow an image of your resistant self to come to you. 

Maybe it was an eye roll.  Or a hand pushing  away.  Or arms folded.  Maybe it wasn’t a posture at all, but a hard shell or a thick wall...

What would it take for this image to change?  For the two parts to join up?  Would you even want them to?