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Archive for the ‘connecting with others’ Category

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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Our universal story is made up of archetypal experiences, those that connect us to the source of basic human tendencies and to the timeless elements of the human experience. This is because archetypes are ultimately the Imago Dei, or God-image, within us. When we consciously experience an archetype in our lives, the archaic becomes contemporary, and, most importantly, the universal becomes personally sacred.

Myth and ritual incorporated archetypal experiences in order to bring about the transformation from one state to another that was desired to maintain and strengthen the community. So when these universal archetypal elements emerge into our lives today they carry a transformative power. They keep us in the vital, nourishing riverbed through which the water of life has flowed for centuries, and which is the soul of our existence. They bring us to life, and keep us truly alive.

An archetype integrates into a meaningful whole all the illusory splits of apparent oppositions. It is in this way that archetypes also carry a “healing” function, in unifying the differing facets of the same reality, and their presence is felt as also having a profound spiritual significance.

A 42nd way to explore your soul’s story – It is important to grasp how and why living an archetype can help bring about healing. This will add much more meaning and depth to the life story we have lived. Think of any experience where some aspect of your life was healed, reconciled, or resolved. Then think of whether that experience could possibly be unique to you, or if it is more likely shared by others. Was it the uniqueness of the experience, or was it the universality of the experience, that ultimately enabled the healing to happen? Was it the fact that only you could have experienced it, or the fact that many if not most other people could have also experienced it, that made it healing for you? What is it about either uniqueness or universality that makes it healing? How and why is this awareness important in telling your life story? Incorporate these reflections into the telling of your life story, and share them here if you would like to.

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In addition to the unique story we live (our story like no one else’s), and the group story we live (our story like some others), we also live a universal story (our story like all others). Our universal story is shared by all human beings, due to the deep-seated patterns and processes we all have in common. This is the form of our life story we will look at for the remaining blogs here.

The place to begin in understanding our universal story is with myth and ritual, since this is where the timeless and sacred patterns are contained that gave meaning to every aspect of the constantly changing lives of indigenous peoples worldwide who created these original wisdom stories in narrative form. Because myths contain deeply held beliefs about the nature of life and the people’s relationship to their Creator, myths around the world describe a common process of change and transformation.

This universal process, also contained within the sacred rituals of the world’s religious traditions, makes up a common, therefore sacred, pattern and consists of timeless elements, repeated over and over throughout life at key transition points, known as archetypes and motifs. These define and facilitate the process of transformation.

Archetypes are latent potentialities, or pattern-forming elements, residing in the human psyche – the actual “energy-charged,” or meaning-making content of the collective unconscious. As Jung might say, archetypes are part of our vast store of ancestral knowledge about the profound relations between God, man, and cosmos, that remain unconscious until our own real life experiences bring them forth into consciousness, making our individual experience part of the universal human experience.

When an archetype passes over into consciousness, it is felt as an illumination, or a revelation. The archetype itself is the original form of a type of experience from which all other forms of that experience follow and are copied; it is a recurring ‘mythological component,’ a type of a common situation, or a type of universal figure, what we would think of as a literary motif, that is part of our inherited humanity. Examples of such archetypal situations would be “the hero’s quest,” “the battle for deliverance from the mother,” or “the night sea journey,” while archetypal figures would include the divine child, the trickster, or the wise old man. The archetype carries a power to impress, influence, awaken, and therefore transform us.

A 41st way to explore your soul’s story –  When in your life have you experienced the archetypal energies that have always existed within you bursting forth into your consciousness? What was going on in your life at the time? How did this illumination from an archetypal level change or transform things for you? Reflect on this, and then tell this part of your universal story here for others to benefit from.

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On this National Day of Service and Remembrance, nine years already since 9/11, and one year since I began this blog to explore ways we can remember who we are deep within us, we may still wonder how far we have come in uniting the great divide between us.

A little service to others goes a long way in helping us remember who we are and how much we are all connected. Stepping into the wounds of loss, separation, and grief with acts of altruism and selflessness leads to healing and reconciliation. Service can be the first step toward peace, both within and in the world. Service is prayer made visible. As Abdu’l-Baha said, “Service to humanity is service to God.” What will you do this day to serve and to remember?

A 39th way to review your life story – In your own place of quiet, where you can reflect deeply, ask yourself these questions about service. What does service mean to me? How does service fit into my life, now and in the future? In 5, 10, or 20 years from now, what will I have done with my life that is most satisfying? What will I have contributed to the world that will be my greatest source of happiness? What strengths and capacities will I build upon, and what weakness will I overcome, to be of service in this way? What do I need to do, or change in my life, today that would enable me to carry this out? Take as much time as you need to put all your thoughts on this down in a way that sounds and feels right to you, tell this story in your own voice, and post it here for others to benefit from, if you would like to.

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The ancient legends shedding light on the unborn soul tell us that we already know where we came from and where we are going. The part of us that always remembers, that always lives in close proximity to God, is called the “secret soul” in the Sufi tradition. What we seek is within us, as the sacred traditions also affirm. Our remembrance of this would fundamentally change us and transform all our relationships into relationships of authenticity, respect, and compassion.

The great mystic poets knew, ultimately, that remembrance links us to the spirit we all possess, which links us to each other, as well. Rumi puts it this way:

“What I tell about “me” I tell about you

The walls between us long ago burned down

This voice seizing me is your voice

Burning to speak to us of us.”

Walt Whitman says:

“I celebrate myself;

And what I assume you shall assume;

For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.”

The practice of remembrance leads us from the depths of ourselves to the heart of our deeper connection with others. Remembering our true origin, identity, and destiny leads us ultimately to the service of humanity, through our own deeds and actions that benefit others.

A 36th way to review your life story – What secrets does your soul have to tell you? What is already within you that might lead you beyond yourself? How could remembering what is within you transform the relationships you already have and even those you don’t yet know you have? Reflect and meditate on these questions, asking your soul what it knows about the walls between us that are not really there, about the voice that is the voice of all of us, that burns to speak to us of us. How does every atom that belongs to you also belong to everyone? If you would like to, share this story that your soul tells you with us all here.

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Mystic knowing is essentially a matter of remembering what we once knew. Our birth into this world is not merely a matter of “a sleep and a forgetting,” as Wordsworth and other mystic poets have hinted at. This is but the earliest part of a lifelong, even eternal, process. The rest of the story is, most importantly, a process of remembering who we really are. This is how and why remembering is a spiritual practice. Wordsworth gives us a glimpse of the rest of that process, too:

Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea

Which brought us hither, can in a moment travel thither…

This process begins as a journey of descent, from the eternal worlds, characterized by knowing and forgetting, yet continues in this world after birth as a journey of ascent, characterized by eventually awakening to the reality around us, coming into full consciousness, and then gradually remembering what was once known from the sacred realm. Some sense that there might be something more to life, seek and often find what they are looking for, and then spend the rest of their lives striving to live in the ultimate balance of that remembrance. Others may spend their lives wholly in the temporal realm, forever in that state of forgetfulness, never knowing, or caring, that there was ever anything else to know.

All of the divinely revealed religions help us recognize our origin as well as our destiny. Similar to the other sacred traditions, at the heart of the Baha’i Faith is the belief that our purpose in this life is to prepare for the life beyond, that the soul is on a journey from and back to God. As the Baha’i writings put it, the soul “is the repository of the ancient, Divine mysteries of God.” The nature, path and progress, or the journey, of the soul, as it has been understood historically and universally, through these spiritual perspectives, is of the essence to living our lives today.

A 32nd way to review your life story – If the soul is our eternal identity, the only thing we take with us through this life and into the next, perhaps the one thing that makes us truly unique, then remembering where we came from, who – and what – we really are, and where we are going, could even be seen as the purpose of life. Who are you, really, in the eternal sense? In addition to all the usual identifiers we draw on to answer this essential question of life, what would you add to this long list of identities that truly makes you who you are, eternally? What divine qualities or virtues have you discovered that have been deposited into your soul? How has remembering what you once knew before your descent to this world helped you in your return journey, in preparing for the life beyond? Please feel free to share the essential parts of this story with us here.

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