Remembering who we are, and where we are going, is a function of the soul. We can even say that there is a process guiding the soul. This process can be thought of as soul-making, or what our life here on Earth is really for. It is how we develop and draw out the potential we are innately endowed with. Soul-making is the lifelong process of acquiring the attributes, qualities, and character needed for our eternal journey. It helps us in both this world and the next.
As Marion Woodman puts it, “soul-making is allowing the eternal essence to live and experience the outer world through all the senses – seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching – so that the soul grows during its time on Earth. Soul-making is constantly confronting the paradox that an eternal being is dwelling in a temporal body. That’s why it suffers, and learns by heart. Soul hears with eternal ears, sees with eternal eyes, smells with eternal nose.”
Soul-making is not a solitary quest; it is for the benefit of everyone. It is a process of taking on a transcendent identity that results in nothing less than personal transformation which contributes also to our collective transformation. This is what the world needs most at this auspicious time.
A 50th way to explore your soul’s story – This is important stuff, be sure to give yourself enough time and find a quiet space to reflect on what you feel it is that really guides your life and where you think this is directing you. Think of times in your life when you became aware that you were drawing out a new virtue, quality, or potential that was already within you. What did this feel like? What was it like for you to discover for the first time that there was an eternal part of you along with the temporal part? Finally, after you’ve had enough time to reflect on these questions, write down the story of how your soul-making has expressed your own personal truth, as well as some part of the collective truth of us all.
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C.G. Jung wrote: “My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious… I can understand myself only in the light of inner happenings. It is these that make up the singularity of my life.” He seems to be implying that at our essence, we are like all other human beings. The soul is what links us to the archetypal world. Soul-making is communicating deeply with the inner realm, being fully awake and aware as the numinous bursts forth from the unconscious, flooding our consciousness with eternal images.
James Hillman sees soul-making as what happens when we evoke the emotions and experiences—of crisis and opportunity, of love and dying—that give life a deeper meaning. This occurs as the unique turns into the universal, and the temporal into the eternal. Only this world, with all of its opposites and dualities, as Keats said, provides the necessary stuff of soul-making. And, as many spiritual traditions say, we are formed in the image of God and we have the innate capacity to reflect that image in the life we live. This inborn image serves as a spark of consciousness that benefits our growth and has our best interests as its purpose. We can also think of this mysterious force overseeing our lives as “grace,” “providence,” or being invisibly watched over.
A 49th way to explore your soul’s story – Whether we remember it or not, we are always connected to our Infinite self. We are always living in the archetypal realm. We just have to be a bit more conscious of where we are each moment. Take some special time right now to communicate deeply with your eternal self. Listen carefully to what your soul has to tell you. Be open to all moments, to all dualities that have come your way. Knowing these polarities as well as you can will greatly assist your process of soul-making. As we become more familiar with this deeper, lasting sense of who we really are, we recognize more clearly that all that does come to us is purposeful. Take in deeply all of these moments of grace, reflect further upon their meaning for you, and, when you have reached some new or deeper clarity, write down your insights from this reflection in the form of a flowing narrative.
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John Keats asked the question, “How then are souls to be made?” He wasn’t referring to how our soul is originally created, but how it is brought into its fullness of being. He knew that the soul is a “spark” of Divine creation. The question was, “How then are these sparks which are God to have identity given them—so as ever to possess a bliss peculiar to each one’s individual existence?” Our soul is a work in progress, and this life is designed to assist it in reaching its fruition. We are placed in this physical setting, with all its contradictions and oppositions, so our soul doesn’t have all green lights on its eternal journey. There are some yellow lights and some red lights along the way; then the green lights follow. Developing an identity can become a very confusing matter. Knowing who we are is not meant to come easy.
Soul-making is what happens when we live life deeply, and learn by heart the lessons intended from all the conflicts and struggles encountered here. As Keats says, “How [are souls to be made], but by the medium of a world like this?… Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul? A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways!” Or, as Thomas Moore puts it, “The whole world and all of life are nothing but the raw materials for soul-making.” There you have it. We’re here to learn from everything we encounter.
A 48th way to explore your soul’s story – Could it be that who we really are is linked directly to where we came from? Beyond all the here-and-now stuff of our lives, we all come from a common origin, someplace deeper and longer-lasting than this surface level existence. Beyond the daily, mundane events of our lives, we all also have an eternal soul. How has your soul’s journey through this physical quagmire given you your lasting identity? How has living deeply, learning from life’s intended lessons “by heart,” given you a sense of certitude in who you are and what your purpose is? How has your heart’s sufferings contributed to your changeless identity? Think about all the pains and troubles of your life, as well as the joys and successes, and tell the story of how the raw materials of the world have been a leaven for soul-making for you.
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You know the value of every article of merchandise,
but if you don’t know the value of your own soul it’s all foolishness.
You’ve come to know the fortunate and the inauspicious stars,
but you don’t know whether you yourself are fortunate or unlucky.
This, this is the essence of all sciences—
that you should know who you will be when the Day of Reckoning arrives.
Is this the greatest challenge of our lives? How many of us, as Jung has asked, are really prepared for the second half of life, for old age, death, and eternity? For Rumi, this is all a very practical matter, as much so as knowing the true value of anything in the marketplace. This is a lifelong process that begins as early as we become aware of our own soul – that unique part of us that is with us throughout our entire existence, before we were born and after we die. What happens is we tend to confuse our identity with the multiple facets of our physical form that we know for only maybe eight or nine decades, a mere fleeting moment of our soul’s eternal journey.
As we gain this deeper consciousness, we become increasingly reflective on what it all means to us. Could it be that it is not the I that looks back to review our life, but the soul? Why wouldn’t who we are at our essence be in control when it matters most?
A 47th way to explore your soul’s story – Memory is that soulful part of us that wants us to remember as much as we can before we leave this plane. Could it be the intention of the soul to re-member those eternal images, those soul qualities and virtues, most needed for the rest of our eternal journey? Think back to that time in your life when you first recognized that there was an eternal, changeless, ever-present part to who you are. What was this archetypal moment like for you? How did your own awareness of your soul change how you saw yourself? How did this knowledge of your soul give you a clearer vision of how you want to live your life? What was the greatest lesson that knowing the value of your own soul gave you? Write down this story of coming to know your eternal self.
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As winter turns into spring, as nascent flower buds begin to push their way up from sleeping leaves of life, we too can remember that it is our time to emerge afresh with renewed energy for the things we are most deeply committed to. This renewal is as much a part of our perennial process as it is part of nature’s cycle. We also can – and do – arise from the ashes of our own exertion to become even more than we were.
The Phoenix, the mythical bird rising from its own ashes, is but one expression of a universal archetype of renewal and rebirth, one of the most powerful symbols known to us. It pervades many of the world’s myths and sacred texts. The classic journey of the hero is another timeless expression of this archetype of spiritual transformation, which we also witness every time we observe the inner rhythm of nature unfolding all around us. What appears to be decay, even death, is but a moment in an ever-evolving process of evolution. This is our season to arise, to realize our potential for rebirth.
A 46th way to explore your soul’s story – Like the mythic Phoenix, we carry light and hope within us, as well as the keys to renewal. Change, being the perennial constant it is, need not faze us, for it is a womb preparing us for rebirth. Think about a time in your life when you knew you could see all there was to see ahead of you, and there was nothing that gave you any hope beyond that. Then, suddenly something new opened before your eyes and everything became more promising. What was it that buoyed you beyond the despair of that moment, that gave you the hope to push on, and that allowed you to accept and embrace the inevitable change coming into your life? What was the catalyst that guided you out of your dead end, showed you the continuity of your own perennial process, gave you renewed energy, and got you back in the flow of your own natural cycle? After you’ve had enough time to reflect on these questions, write the story of this spiritual renewal in your life.
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Light and shadow are two halves of a whole, twin forces that direct our lives; they are essential to maintaining the balance of life. Light, an ancient symbol central to many sacred traditions, is represented by the qualities of radiance, sanctity, love, justice, and every spiritual attribute that emanates from divinity; light is even thought to be eternal, boundless, and changeless. It’s opposite, shadow, or darkness, is most characterized by temporality, limitations, and continual change. It is even said that the entire physical world is a shadow of the world of light, a temporary dust heap, or an illusion that can vanish in a moment, ultimately a deception meant to distract our attention from the light it is reflecting.
And so, we are caught in the middle of the dual forces of light and shadow. Yet each can only exist because of the other. Without light there would be no shadow. For each to be understood, shadow needs light, as light needs shadow. Together, their opposition represents a two-fold process designed to bring about the spiritual evolution of humanity, and the transformation of individual lives. Both parts of the whole are needed for progress and transformation. Contrast and opposition create structure. They are necessary to make us who we can become. This is why Baha’u’llah assures us that our share of the Light is already within us: “Thou art my lamp and My light is in thee… within thee I have placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else.”
A 45th way to explore your soul’s story – Would a rose still be a rose without its thorns? Would the story of Christ be the same without Judas? Would poverty be an injustice without wealth? A conscious life finds meaning in these contrasts, meaning that impacts and punctuates, and that can even transform us. How has your life been transformed by the presence and interaction of light and shadow moments? How have they helped to maintain an essential balance in your life, given it a meaningful pattern, and given you a conscious awareness of wholeness? Write down this story of the contrasts in your life, and how you found the light within you to balance them all out.
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One of the many things we all share, as members of the human family, is our recurring experience of what we perceive as the clash of opposing forces, whether we see these forces as positive and negative, good and bad, or light and shadow. They are all parts of the whole of reality that are not only necessary but also extremely purposeful. Light and shadow represent the core opposition we face in this life. And their purpose is nothing less than to bring about transformation in our lives.
When we can see the entire picture of reality in its wholeness, rather than get lost in or overwhelmed by any of its parts, we are much better able to appreciate both the light and the shadow that does come into our life. These essential opposing forces in our lives not only create growth opportunities for us, they facilitate our progress toward reestablishing the original unity we were born with.
The intermingling of light and shadow in our lives is actually a blueprint for transforming our lives. Knowing that there is a blueprint to our growth (physical, psychological, and spiritual), allows us to see and understand both the detail and the whole while keeping us focused on the whole.
A 44th way to explore your soul’s story – What is it that has brought light to your life? What is it that you are most thankful for in your life? How has the light in your life made you a better person, or more of who you really are? Would you have really known the value or benefit of this light if it hadn’t also been for the shadows in your life, those things that greatly challenged you, created tension, or made things really difficult for you? Think of those times when you have been most aware of the forces of light and shadow in your life, and reflect on how they were at odds in your life, as well as the greater purpose they represent, and how either would not have the meaning they do for you without the other. Write your thoughts down, and tell this story of light and shadow in your life.
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