Musings on the Soul’s Reflection

The journey I had been taking in the world found its reflection as a journey of soul.

-Rainer Marie Rilke

Eyes closed, I lay silent in my bed. Motionless, held firmly down by the piercing dagger in the core of my spirit. All I can do is breathe- breathe into the pain and suffering of an aching heart that has overtaken me this night, feel the depths of the repetitive cycle and the ripples throughout my body, penetrating the vast sea of my soul. The breath is the only system in the body that can be under both conscious and unconscious control. In Greek, psyche means breath, literally  “butterfly leaves the mouth”. Psyche or soul is the creative life force that flies between its individual entities, transforming and yet sustaining its pure essence. Breath is how I connect to soul- it is what my spirit flows through, what deeply draws me inward and at the same time expands me out to the rest of the world. Lying here, in my sacred box, my expanse of life delicately decorated with peacock feathers, old thread, shades of rocks, the dance of flickering candles, the sound of my breath, my soul is safe and free to flutter out for the time being. It is secure to experience a chrysalis- to explore this teaching and to journey in musings (Sexson). All this beauty, I am woven into and it in me- a deep sense of life, the spectrums of the soul.

Breath is the very thing that invigorates our soul. By bringing fresh oxygen to every cell of the body, it nourishes us with life. To breathe is to sustain life. The soul is this essence, which pervades all living things. It is alive, active and “self-moving” (Phaedrus 245e). It pulses out through our bodies, enlivening our veins, animating our emotions, vitalizing our thoughts, and radiating our aura. It interconnects nature, humans, and the higher divine. As Emerson poetically puts it, “I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the universal being circulate through me; I am part or particle of god” (8).  There is a sense of Milesian quality to the soul, an elemental fluidity and universal linkage.

Soul however is not limited to the body or to time- it is immortal and eternal. We long for this totality and deep-rooted unity.  As depicted in Aristophanes myth, each human was divided in half and thus they desired their other half. They “are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another” (Sym.192b: 7-8). Our souls long for this- they long to be one. We desire to return to our original nature of wholeness. Remembering our former condition of union is our own work and to do so we must infuse our lives and our world with love, for “’Love’ is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete” (Sym. 192e:10-11). We must move from “head to heart,” leading our journey by intellect of our heart and wisdom of our soul (Hillman, 14). As “loving is a way of knowing,” we must love ourselves, our fellow humans, and the planet, in order to know we are whole (Hillman, 15). With feeling of universality and longing for immortality, our soul is the deep essence and rootedness of interconnection to the endless and infinite divine.

We however are mortal beings. Therefore situations are always changing and the cycle of birth and death does not escape our own lives. Becoming present with our breath and acting consciously, we can sit with the constant change and see it as part of the mystery. Understanding the tension that the soul holds, the balance and the “inbetweeness” only teaches us the reality of our true nature as mortal beings, and only then can we creatively act from our soul.

The soul is a process, a metamorphosis. To recognize our wholeness, we must be willing to open and transform. As if we were to reflect back on our past, to find our constant patterns and stories and to look again with a new vision. As Hillman puts it, “looking backward makes it possible to move forward” (Hillman 27). We must look at the totality of our being, not just our light but also our darkest shadows as they are too part of our souls.  This night, I must look straight into the darkness and hurt, ask what it is and receive its message and teaching. Accepting, acknowledging and allowing it to be me- the inhales and exhales allow me to move through and into it, recognizing I am already whole. In this experience “the seemingly so unique, so truly my own is utterly collective…. [making me] feel both archetypal and personal at the same instant (Hillman 49). There is some past pattern; some past belief that I was not good enough, not complete, and I haven’t let go of it. But it is exactly that- it is the past and in order to be free, for me to act in the present, I must engage in inquiry and compassion- letting go of one form and transforming into another. It is “not only the caterpillar which sacrifices itself in process of transformation but the spirit of the butterfly, who must descend into the dark before she can reemerge in her fullness (De Vries 153).

The breath helps me remember and reconnect to my soul. Whichever method or way we choose, the pure fact of opening, listening and accepting all the parts of ourselves, allows for coexistence of our fragments- a “disintegrated integration” (Hillman 27). We have a choice to relive old stories and patterns, to keep old accounts in the shadows to replay in the future, or we have the option to remember our divinity and shine light on all that fragments us. This “work of reflection, [asks] us to reach deeply into the core of our lives, to open our hearts, in order to recover what we have lost, in order to remember what we have forgotten” (Romanyshyn 95). When we do so we engage on a dynamic journey to becoming aware of, in touch, and connected to soul. We become alive, radiant beings amongst the beauty of the universe.

I believe this journey of soul is guided by spirit, by syncronicistic moments and in-between messengers that Socrates would call daimons. Archetypally or mythically depicted, “the angel comes through our feeling function and as a mood of melancholy, touches the orphan in us, which is the beginning of spiritual transformation” (Romanyshyn 96). These oracular reverberations “grab one’s attention, to jolt consciousness out of its customary position” (Skafte 113). The momentary yet profound shift is something of awe that there is truly something greater than us guiding, calling, and singing to us. The voice of “intuition, heightened perception, and imagination … carry the psyche beyond ordinary boundaries of time and space and … generate a thousand methods devoted to bring the human and the transhuman into more intimate relationship” (Skafte 113). Whether dreaming, praying, meditating, or creating art, a spirit of light is communicating to our souls.

While words may in a way communicate to our souls, many times words are hollow and our interpretations and liberalizations of these signs may completely take us from the true nature of the sublime essence. With Skafte’s words “stay close to sounds, images, sensations and feelings” (117). In this sense I feel the presence of the spirit in my own sounding of mantras. In my own experience with silence and echo, I am rooting down, connecting my soul by vibration to the collective soul, to the ancestors who have practiced before, to the elemental world of pulsations. These are the songs of our souls, helping us to remember and inspiring us with love and union.

While the soul is immortal and eternal, it is also shaped by our experience. It is both self-moving, yet longs for the care and connection to others. There is a sense of individual and collective, an inward and outward unity that we slowly learn to remember our wholeness and our divinity. There is a friction of patterns and order with creative spontaneity and intuition. It is this balance between these paradoxical tensions, between the silence and the words, between the inhale and the exhale, that we glide to our soul. It is the poetry, the imaginative art, the startling dream, the majestic mountain, the aged medicine cards- these are the expressions, the angels that communicate messages from our souls calling us to remember, we are already whole. These teachers remind us the only constant in our lives is change. That the internal and external, our believed separateness is only an illusion and within the beautiful quilt of the world, we are each our own unique reflection of the kaleidoscopic divine stitched together in an interwoven blanket across the world. “Nature always wears the colors of the spirit” (Emerson 9).

What colors do you shine?

What is the soul calling you to do?


Works Cited

De Vries, Hendrika. “The Chrysalis Experience: A Mythology for Times of Transition.” Depth Psychology: Meditations in the Field. Ed. Dennis Slattery and Lionel Corbett. Daimon. Print.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. Boston: Beacon Press, 1836. Print.

Hillman, James. Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper, 1975. Print.

Plato on Love. Ed. C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006. Print.

Romanyshyn, Robert. “The Orphan and the Angel: In Defense of Melancholy.” Psychological Perspectives. Fall-Winter 1995: 90-105. Print.

Sexson, Lynda. Ordinarily Sacred. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Print.

Skafte, Dianne. “Listening to the Voices of Earth: Hosting Oracular Consciousness.” Psychological Perspectives. Fall-Winter 1995: 112-122. Print.


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