Nearly every day I wake up and I think about dying. I don’t mean in a suicidal sense, but dying in the sense of realizing how finite our time on Earth really is. Death has a way of putting everything into perspective, and as I reflect on my time here and whatever remaining time I am gifted with I think about living in alignment with my soul.
A few years ago I had a great therapist give me a book by Michael Singer called The Untethered Soul. At the time I thought it was a bit heady and off base. I was contemplating my future and a slave to my ego's drive for prestige, appearances, and money. I was not open to what the book was about.
Cracking the spine 5 years later is a much different experience. The book calls into question who we are, not in terms of our profession, our actions, or our thoughts, but who we are behind all of that. As someone who still battles ego, contemplating soul has a way of quieting my own thoughts about titles, money, or the car I drive (with its abundance of scratches and mileage).
I recently dug out another book I had skimmed in college by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight. The book chronicles Dr. Taylor's experience of having a stroke at age 37. What struck me most was the description of her experience when her left hemisphere goes totally offline due to a cerebral hemorrhage. The left hemisphere is responsible for logic, language, and houses our ego. Existing solely from her right brain, she describes the most peaceful, quiet, and enlightened experience of her life. She describes the absence of "brain chatter", the absence of separation. There was no sense of ego, no understanding of her credentials or herself as a separate entity from the world. She felt presence and energy from others and true connectedness to the world. She experienced pure peace.
I wake up every morning with sore hips from overuse and impingements. Despite my hip pain, I continue to run and hike, things that I know I should ease off of to protect the longevity of my cartilage and joints. Yet I stubbornly persist, in part because of the release and joy I get from being in nature, and in part because of my own over-identification with my body. I think about accidents and disability and disease. What if I was no longer able to move my body, which has aided in my sense of connection to soul, spirit, and God?
What would it be like, and what would I be like, if I could not ground myself in the physical ways that have given me such joy over the course of my life?
Every day I work with people who are in pain, people who feel trapped in their bodies and captive to their diseases.
I think about my own identification with my body and about being a soul having a human experience. Isn’t that what we all really are? We are all souls encapsulated in a human body which is a collection of cells, electrical impulses, and neural firings.
What does it mean to strip away the external capsule we are housed in? What does it mean to truly connect with someone on a soul level, to look past lables like rich, poor, Black, White, republican, democrat, doctor, social worker, or addict?
What does it mean to really see the soul of another person and to have ours be seen?
What if we are not our actions or our thoughts, but the entities behind those things? Our thoughts, after all, are nothing more than electrical impulses on a well worn neural pathway that we've fired over and over again. What if we could let go of our pasts and the stories we tell ourselves? What if we could look behind those things and find our true selves?
There’s a quote I like by Eckhart Tolle that says,
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having in this moment.”
I have found this to be incredibly true in my life and I often reflect on what the next lesson will bring – will it be complete disconnection from my earthly body? If I'm being honest, I know I still put too much identification there. I think about the impact of childbirth on my body, if I am so lucky in the next few years to experience it. What needs to happen for me to fully release my identification with my body and to live fully from the seat of my soul?
Whatever the lesson, what will I do with the struggle when it inevitably comes? Will I accept it? Will I resist it? Will I view it as the next chapter in my evolution?
What about you?
What lessons has life taught you through pain, strength and obstacle? It’s often hard to see when we are going through it but so apparent in hindsight. What is the lesson you can learn from your struggle today?