His soul is hidden inside his body. His body grows at a steady rate while seeming to run and crawl at the same time. Wrapped around the soul is a mind that wanders around trying to find the route to his soul, without realising it is tucked inside. Whenever his mind sees glimpses of this it rushes off to new places. The whole is buffeted by the storms of emotions that blow up out of nowhere like whirlwinds in the desert.
His soul is the home of his spirit, the heart of his being, the core of his existence. The journey through life is a metaphor for his journey to his soul. This is where the spirituality of existence lies, at the intersection of the journey through life and the journey to the soul. Spirituality is the air he breathes, the thoughts he has, the emotions he feels, and the spirit that fills him. Spirituality is the cause and consequence of his being.
Without this multi-dimensional approach to his time on earth, there is nothing. Without a sense of guidance from afar he is lost. Without a mind to understand these struggles he fades into the nothingness of living from day to day.
The beginning is where these layers are forged and forgotten. The beginning is where the seeking starts. The beginning is the end of the forging of who he is and the start of the journey to the discovery of who he is. Existence is separated from knowledge. The grand journey is represented by the desire to unite these in the context of the physical world.
Of course, I started without any understanding of this. I did not know who I was, where I came from or why I was here. On this journey, most of the steps I have forgotten. But their ghosts roam around my brain and keep me awake at night. It is time to lay them to rest and let my soul fly.
But first I must re-trace the steps and discover what happened. It is interesting to think about this before I jump off the cliff and start swimming.
Who am I?
Am I the body I inhabit? My body has kept me driving through the days and years and, yet, has held me back. For many years I thought my body was me, and that did not please me. There is so much here to explore that there is a danger it will take over the story. I still obsess over it, trying to bend it to my will while it still succeeds in bending me to its will.
Am I my mind that never stops filling my head, whether I am asleep or awake? My mind that helps me make sense of who I am, but only slowly, as time passes. My mind that makes sense of the world I am in, but only as I accept its existence. My mind that fools me and sends me off at tangents, confusing me and, sometimes, enlightening me.
Am I my emotions that push me up and knock me back? The emotions that govern how I relate to others and the world out there. They come from deep inside and tear me apart. They are never real but pretend to be what protects me from the world and those that would harm me. They pretend to connect me to the world and support me in what I desire. They are a blanket over my soul, though, and they stop me reaching it and learning the truth—at least the truth I came here to find.
I am my spirit and my soul, but I am only now discovering that.
Then I was my body and my body was everything. I teased it into life every morning and soothed it to sleep every night. My body served me, and still does. This story starts with my physical existence and only slowly morphs into what was there underneath, but that is for later.
Beyond time our souls are joined in a sea of awareness (thank you Jeddah Mali for the concept) that continues to underpin us should we choose to recognise it. There we are united in our understanding of our relationships to each other and our purposes in the universe.
At some point, for some reason, we decide to merge into a physical existence and be born onto this earth. We come here for a specific purpose. However, we need to merge into the flow of life in the physical and so we forget our divine existence and our express purpose. Now we progress through the physical span of our being, both wanting to fulfil our purpose and discovering what that purpose is. This dichotomy defeats most people, who drift into living their life until they merge back into the sea of awareness.
I know I have a purpose and I know I am fulfilling it. What that purpose is, is more difficult to clarify. What I do know is that I am fulfilling it even when I do not know if I am. My life is my purpose, for me, for others my life is a model that inspires them to find a better way.
I love the story of the humble, bumble bee who flows around his limited patch collecting nectar from the flowers around him, taking it back to the hive. There he feeds the Queen and sustains the swarm. That is his existence and the purpose of his life, as far as he knows. As the bee flies from flower to flower, he collects pollen and distributes it around other flowers. His is unaware of this happening. In this action, he provides the critical ingredient for the growth and spread of the plants he encounters. Without this, there would be no propagation and the plants would disappear. This is his purpose in the wider world, but his does not realise this.
I see my life like the story of the bee. The difference is that although I may not know what that underlying purpose is, I know it is there. Perhaps it touching people the way the bee touches the flowers—I do not know, yet.
On a simple level my life is flowing towards its end. It is wandering towards the final realisation. The one where we have that flash of understanding that explains our existence.
Long before I came into this world my grandmother created a large tapestry. It always hung in pride of place in our home. It was a scene of nature created by woollen threads sewn into the hessian cloth. I loved that tapestry because it reminded me of her. It fell, one day, breaking the glass and the frame. As it lay exposed I looked at the reverse side. It was a mess of intersecting threads that made no sense. This was not where the picture was and yet, it created the picture on the other side. What, I wonder, would life be like if all we saw was the reverse side of it, like the tapestry. What if all we saw were the seeming random threads, the mess and the chaos.
The flash of understanding is the moment when we turn life over and see the side with the picture. We see what life was all about, for the first time we understand. That is when I will know where it is going. That is when I will know what it is all for. That does not make me feel sad or depressed. I have come to accept that this is how life is, although it was not always so. That is what I will talk about in this story, the story of my spiritual life.
This is not the beginning of my life, although it is the beginning of the story of my life. It is only the beginning, however, of my physical life. My spiritual life stretches back long before my birth and will continue long after my death. Much as I would love to tell the whole of my story, I can only hint at it. Within my physical story will be glimpses of the larger picture, hints of who I am behind all the thunder and lightning of day to day life.
My being is precious and to be handled with care, no matter how I treat my body. My being transcends my inadequate mind and suffers my flailing emotions. My being merges, for the present, with my spirit, my soul.
This will continue, starting with my physical existence, my body. Next week it will continue.
—Photo Credit: Flickr/Nelson L.