Despite what mainstream media and public personas may suggest, we need a lot more in this world than what the material and commercial realms can offer. We need more than material things, surface beauty, scientific facts, and escapes from the trials of life. At some point, we need deeper, more spiritual, and more meaningful qualities to feel whole and balanced in life. We need a better understanding of ourselves and our world. In reality, a great pizza, a large screen TV, and a good movie cannot solve all our problems or fill all the gaps inside of us. At some point, we find ourselves faced with problems or questions that ordinary life barely acknowledges and is even less prepared to resolve. That’s when we need to turn inward, and when we look around for like-minded companions and mentors. That's when we need to make time to rediscover and nourish our inner self.
If we had a good childhood, our soul-self may have been nourished and even encouraged, but odds are, somewhere along the way in life, you began editing your inner nature. Some of that is merely part of maturity, like learning not to say everything you think or take everything you want. But sometimes the editing is far more disfiguring to our true nature. We may get hurt in a way that teaches us to live in fear or lose self-confidence. We may be taught that progress, power, strength, or winning are better than our desire to be artistic or friendly. We may be taught that what we want cannot be achieved or what we don’t want cannot be shed. We may wake up and find that we don’t really even know who we are anymore. We cannot change the material history of the past, but we can absolutely change the way that history is recorded in our mind, body, and life. Learning to work at the soul level, look beyond the patterns and beliefs of your life routine is a first step to tending the soul.
As a first step to looking deeper into what you need at the soul level, do this journal exercise. Draw a vertical line to make two columns on your page, and write these two headings at the top of the columns: “Who I seem to be” and “Who I really am.”
Under the left heading, write words and phrases that describe how you present yourself in the world. How do others see you? How do you feel and act in your daily or routine life? How do you spend your time? What roles do you play? What attitudes or emotions drive most of your behavior?
Under the right heading, write words and phrases that describe who you feel you really are. Try to look below the routines of your life to find the underlying emotions and personality traits that you may or may not be giving voice to in your life. What are your unused talents or passions? How would you do things differently if you had more control, time, money, etc.? What were you like as a child when people let you be yourself?
While you may believe that other people or situations are driving who you are and how you live, the truth is that most of the patterns of your life are being run by your own programming. Even if an event drove you to certain reactions, you have become who you are and have created the patterns you live as a result of choices you have made as a result of such events. That is, an event can cause a particular defensive response, but once the period of influence of the event is over, how you continue to behave or believe is up to you.
Yes, there are some material constraints. If you are married with children, you really aren’t likely to be able to run away from your responsibilities and join the circus or circumnavigate the globe on a one-person sailboat. However, you could nourish your adventurous nature without leaving your family, and your spouse and children might possibly like you better for it. The point is that while there may have been causal experiences in your past to trigger certain patterns in your personality, how you respond to those events and live out the rest of your life is yours to decide. In traumatic cases, a lot of healing support is needed. But there are always things you can do for yourself, also.
At the bottom of the left column, write down one trait or behavior in that column that you can do differently and be more authentic to your nature. That is, choose one thing you can do that will change something in your persona to bring it more in line with your true nature.
At the bottom of the right column, write down one thing you can do to nourish or unleash one of the listed under-used or neglected parts of yourself. Our sailing dreamer above might take sailing lessons, or join a boating club. You might bring your inner artist out to play with paint or other mediums. You might join a choir or take dancing lessons. You might start offering to help someone at work who is doing the job you wish you had, providing you an opportunity to do what you like and perhaps get your talents recognized. It is never too late to open up and give voice to our soul parts.
We cannot really expect others to see our potential when we can’t even see it for ourselves. We can’t expect others to love what we cannot love in ourselves. When you begin to look inward, awaken and value your inner qualities, then you can receive the most important thing we need to feel whole in this life: genuine self-love. Not an egoic selfish love, but a deep spiritual connecting love that reminds you of your own spiritual nature, and connects you with the living energy that runs through all creation. Namaste