My wife, Jessica, and I were recently walking along a creek in a wild area. We came to an inviting patch where the rocks combined with flowing water to create one of the most sacred, calming, and restorative sounds ever invented by the cosmos—gentle, gurgling creek music. We decided to sit for a spell to listen to the heavenly harmony. It was a refreshment for our souls.
The mysterious core of who we are, our soul, is shadowed beneath all our opinions, beliefs, and perceptual filters. But it is always accessible to us as a quiet, mindful awareness. Many of us just don’t bother trying to tap into our soul’s delightful vibe of inner stillness and spaciousness. There’s no money in it. And that type of mental spaciousness doesn’t produce an immediate firing of the brain’s pleasure centers. Our soul aligns with a subtler ecstasy that transcends beliefs, opinions, and immediate gratification.
One of the unfortunate heartbreaks in our modern era is the tragic loss of the depth of ourselves. Many of us have surrendered to the shallow surface noise of an intransigent world. That’s where we are told all the action is. We crane our necks like car wreck voyeurs, caught up in the latest headlines, hypnotized by the sticky distractions of cheap drama that fills the newsfeeds via our tiny screens. We have forgotten the wonder of who we are underneath all the plastic hoopla and manufactured spectacle. And beyond us, it’s our families, neighbors, and the entire world that suffers for the loss of the deeper part of ourselves.
We humans are built to freely give away an infinitude of love and endless heaps of solace and kindness. This is the message of all the great wisdom teachers whose knowledge we revere and display in red fonts, bold print, and fancy italics. But, despite our reverence, we mostly ignore what is being taught. We have fallen under the spell of an unfortunate misunderstanding regarding the reason we are here.
On the opposite side of the creek, there was a natural mural of moss that rose up along a steep stone wall. I was absorbed in the swirling, green patterns that were dripping with moisture. If Van Gogh and Mother Earth shared a loft, their walls would be painted in this moss. I was slipping into an appreciative, contemplative state.
“Snails!” Jessica suddenly yelled out, giving me a start. Forcibly pulled from my moss meditation, I was about to say something objectionable about her lack of restraint when I saw the look on her face. Magic poured from her eyes and I could tell that her mind was giving birth to entire galaxies of inspiration (in spirit). I swallowed back my comment. “What?” I wisely chose to say instead.
“There’s tons of tiny snails all along the edge of the water!” Then she giggled.
The prevalent societal brainwashing programs us to believe that we inhabit this world to get, to acquire more and more. That’s how we differentiate the winners from the losers. It’s all about the stuff. We go to school and get our degrees in order to get the best jobs that will enable us to get the most for ourselves. And then, if we are succeeding, we can comfortably sit amongst all of our stuff and can claim that we won. Where’s the valuation of our soul in this?
How many miserable people who seem to have won at life end up emotionally desolate and bereft of soul? How many wretched people reach the highest pinnacles of societal success and power and are still just dreadful people leading dreadful lives, only living to condemn and hate? Do you recognize anyone making headlines today that this might fit?
I went over to see what Jessica was so excited about. Sure enough, skirting the edge of the water was a still line of countless tiny snails. They were just being there, living within the rhythms of life. But despite the lack of motion, they were enchanting to see; some fellow Earthlings enjoying the moisture, hanging with the sacredness of the day.
Jessica was smiling, like she was making hundreds of new friends, and I could feel her honest joy in the depths of me, where it counts, where the soul abides. And that was the beauty beyond the beauty in that instant—I was tapping into the best of me in order to catch a fleeting glimpse of the best of her, the soul of her. In that instant, I was rich beyond any societal measure.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a good living and accumulating enough of those bio-survival tickets that we need to get stuff and enjoy some things. But what are the consequences when we use the stuff as the ultimate yardstick of our success? We become like vacuum cleaners in the world, great empty bags sucking up all the resources. We take far beyond what we need and often find no joy in it. We destroy entire living systems trying to fill our bottomless bags.
At that moment by the creek, I watched Jessica collaborate with the snails, water, and rocks to create the perfect moment of spontaneous and gleeful union, free from any measurement of success or failure. It was like a heavenly chord played in tune with the living environment—riffing an improvisation with Mother Earth.
Jessica is very clear on what her dharma is about, her purpose in this life. She is an artist. But not some lone, starving figure trying to coax the muse out of hiding amongst the inner demons. She is much more childlike and witchy in her approach. And that means she is open to unlikely playmates and freedom-loving collaborators. My wife co-creates with snails and transforms a moment into an experience of the highest art. And how cool is that?
What is your dharma, your purpose for being on Earth? And does it take into account the needs of your soul? Our purpose isn’t assigned to us. We are free to create our own. But the standard pattern seems that we allow our dharma to be imposed by our society and the authority figures who imprinted our brains when we were young. And just by looking around at civilization, we can see how this is working out for us. The anger, angst, and lust for stuff are spilling over the walls and the ramparts are failing, being overcome by a toxic corrosion of life. The last thing we need now is more walls. We crave to enliven our souls!
This is why our national parks are always so crowded. We intuitively want to escape the programming, to transcend the fortifications, if only for a while. It is our natural state of being to collaborate with our Mother Earth, who enlivens all of life. It’s amazing how far from that alignment we have fallen. But where there is breath, there is the hope for transformation and renewal. It just takes the courage of holding a new intention for purpose, one unbound by society’s contracted walls built on fear and limitless greed.
It’s love. That’s the nourishment of our soul and the bottom line of things. Love is the first question and final conclusion. And that’s the magic that was pouring from Jessica’s eyes as she recognized those tiny kindred spirits, leaving slimy trails along the creek’s edge.
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Photo credit: Tod Evans