Connection with the soul is the beginning of the discovery of life purpose and is accompanied with passion and excitement for life

stock-photo-23289863-couple-in-lovestock-photo-20505017-kettlebell-exercisesstock-photo-2807197-good-news-travel-fastIn order to discover our purpose, the reason we are here on earth and at this moment in whatever circumstances we may be in – for there is a reason for that – we will need to connect with the soul. In order to find the passion and excitement for living, we will need to connect with the soul.

Ask yourself these questions: Am I happy and passionate about what I am doing in my life? Am I excited about going to work, or is Monday like going to Egypt? Do I experience joyful challenges in life and passion to pursue them? Am I discovering opportunities and the eagerness to follow them?

Only when we honestly answer the questions in the affirmative can we say that we have discovered our purpose for being here. Our life purpose has nothing to do with achievements or success. There are many examples of people who have achieved the goals they set to achieve. There are many who have reached the pinnacle of success – whether it is in business, career, wealth or politics only to discover their life purpose lies elsewhere.

Some people connect with their soul and discover their life purpose momentarily, while many have to be intentional and seek to connect. The momentary discovery comes in four different ways – which I list here, but my focus is on the intentional, conscious and disciplined process.

The first can be illustrated by the example of St. Paul or Martin Luther. Some momentous event shook them to self-awareness and they discovered their life purpose. From there on, they lived by the passion of that discovery.

The second is an equally momentous event that happens to someone beloved, for example death. A person close to the deceased may then be prompted to discover the true meaning of life. The third is a brush with death. A person who miraculously escapes death, for example in an accident or a terrifying illness, like cancer, may pursue discovering the true meaning of life and thereby connect to the soul.

Then there is the loss of material possession. When a person loses everything they have worked for, for example in bankruptcy or divorce, they often discover that their true life purpose is elsewhere. Through such losses, some have been able to say, “It was my worst best moment”.

I have already mentioned the fourth path, above, when the goals set are achieved and a person wonders: “Is this all there is in life?” This question may lead to connection with the soul and discovery of one’s life purpose.

Understanding, acknowledging and heeding the soul like the body, heart and mind

1405044_the_young_beautiful_girl_playing_with_sandstock-photo-17108927-happy-people-in-a-cabrioletstock-photo-23255265-woman-performing-yogaWe have noted that all religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions recognize the body, the spirit and the soul. We also generally know much about the functions of the body and the mind; the heart and the brain, as parts of the body. In theological terms, there is a lot of information about the flesh and the spirit, especially in the New Testament and in Christianity. Yet, we have been taught very little about the soul.

In the Hebrew Bible, soul is rendered as nefesh, and appears 755 times. English translations refer to it as “soul” 428 times and “life” 117 times. There are as many as 42 different English terms for nefesh.

There is no dichotomy in the Hebrew Bible that depicts nefesh, the soul, as the “immortal component” of the living being. Instead, it is the totality of the living being. In Genesis 2:7 it is the term used for the creation of humankind as a living being. In short, a mortal is a nefesh, a living soul, rather than a living being having a soul.

Clearly, there is need, not only to know and understand the functions of the soul, but to connect closely with it. In other words, we need to realize that it exists, know what exactly it is, and how it functions. Furthermore, we need to have the willingness and the courage to respond to it.

Let’s briefly look at our traditional worldview of how we see ourselves – especially in the west: The mind is our logical and analytical self. There is plenty of chattering that goes on in the mind all the time. It is our loudest “part” full of worries and concerns of what might not simply work or go wrong. On the other hand, the heart represents love and passion. It may, indeed, be illogical at times, contradicting the mind. Often though, the pursuits of the heart prove to be most rewarding in the long run. Then, there is of course the body with sensations and emotions from the past and the present.

We have learned to listen to, and attend to the body, with medical, hygiene and nutrition care. Similarly, we learn to reign on the mind and the heart, to not confuse the two, to control the chatter and momentary emotions

What about the soul?

We hardly listen to it or nourish it. At worst, it is not even acknowledged. When it is acknowledged, as in the New Age Movement, it becomes suspect and even undermined. If it is the principle living being of the individual, we do well to seriously and consciously connect with it.

Wake up from your slumber live consciously and let transformation prevail

stock-photo-23206785-be-in-loveistockphoto_15408259-restoration-of-a-soulstock-photo-14457422-young-female-doing-yoga-exerciseEvery spiritual and religious tradition and philosophy knows a moment of “enlightenment”, sometimes simply called “awakening”. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the “Enlightenment” is defined as “a philosophical movement of the eighteenth century, concerned with the critical examination of previously accepted doctrines and institutions from the point of view of rationalism” This is a philosophical perspective.

The term Buddha in Sanskrit, for example,  means “the awakened”, one who has attained the state of perfect illumination, or the perfect awakening.

In Christianity we find a good example in Paul who in Romans 13:11 exhorts, “wake up from your slumber…” and in Romans 12:2 urges, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. When this happens, there are far-reaching consequences. Consider his own life example: On the road to Damascus he had an awakening which completely changed the course of his life.

My focus here, however, is not that momentary awakening –  and yes, there are momentary conscious living experiences. Rather, my interest is the daily, 24/7 waking up and conscious living.

The second point, which proceeds from the discussion above, and again acknowledged by all spiritual and philosophical traditions is that most people sleep-walk through life. They are not aware of the environment around them. Most significantly, they are not conscious of the machinations of the brain; and there is a lot that goes on at any given moment.  Waking up from the sleep-walk means being enlightened.

How we respond to anything is affected by the level of awareness we have of ourselves and our environment. Our perception of the world is very much influenced by our self-awareness and the world around us.

Next we will explore why conscious living is important and the benefits of self-awareness. Bear in mind that the sages of old and spiritual leaders saw the outside physical world as a reflection of the spiritual inner world. Needless to say that even the medical field recognizes that spiritual well-being goes a long way in achieving physical wellness.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond

Jessica CoxJessicaOne day early this week, BBC World News America concluded that evening’s news with a clip about Jessica Cox. In it she states that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond”.Who is better qualified or more credible than Jessica Cox to make such a statement?

She was born on February 2, 1983, without arms – a very rare birth defect. Note, from the outset, that life is not perfect. There is ample proof  of this in the prayers we make everyday. For Jessica to see her birth defect as a mere 10% of her life is truly motivational. In her 30 years she has accomplished far more than most people ever accomplish in a lifetime. With her legs, she plays the piano, feeds and dresses herself, has a black belt in karate, drives a car and even flies an airplane and sky-dives.

Her story is the best illustration of the power of the mind and will. Accomplishments and achievement, and true success come from internal fortitude, not external circumstances.

According to a documentary about Jessica Cox, those present at the hospital in Sierra Vista, Arizona where she was born, were emotionally devastated with a sense of helplessness when they saw her. Today, that sense of helplessness has been swallowed in the motivational life that she has become.

There are many examples of people who have overcome adversity with spiritual resourcefulness, though Jessica’s example surpasses all. The overriding message in this story is that there is enough resource within each one of us to accomplish unimaginable feats despite external circumstances. What stands in the way of accomplishing those feats is two-fold: One is lack of knowledge of the spiritual resources and two, lack of connection with ourselves.

In the following posts we will explore how to access those spiritual resources by connecting with our inner being.

Who are we; Really

stock-photo-20807361-volunteer-accepting-donations-from-family-at-food-bankThere is a liturgy in the book of Deuteronomy 26:1-11 which the Israelites recited during the Festival of Weeks – or Shavuot – when they offered the first fruits of the harvest. It was a recitation of their history, from their ancestors, through the redemption from Egyptian bondage, to the settlement of the Promised Land.

This portion of Deuteronomy is also the First Reading of the First Sunday in Lent. During this season of Lent, many will give up something, do some service – like volunteering, –  or fast, all as sacrifice or emptying of oneself before the Creator. Whatever we do, or do not do, reflection is central.

We live in a society where we are driven; we cannot afford to stop. We must move fast to make bread and pay bills. Our society measures success by what we have accumulated and we must accumulate more and more. In this rat race we forget who we are.

The liturgy in Deuteronomy is a call to halt for reflection – the major theme of Lent. We came to this earth with nothing and we will leave it with nothing – and that is one of the messages of the ashes on Ash Wednesday. Often we forget this truth and immerse ourselves in this driven busy-ness.

The liturgy directs us to ” set it down (the basket of first fruits or the results of our busy-ness) before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house” (Dt. 26:10b-11).

It is a reminder of  our common origin and shared experiences. The Israelites were reminded that they were wandering Arameans, some time populous and prosperous, and some time enslaved. Above all, they were rescued by a powerful God who still cares for them all without distinction.

That is who we are essentially: human beings connected to one another and with the rest of Creation. That is who we are, before we build, create, manufacture, process or possess. That is what we reflect upon during the Lent season.

How are you, Really

stock-photo-907067-satelite-and-earth-1In an episode in Series II of Downton Abbey, Jane, a maid played by Clare Calbraith, asks Lord Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, (played by Hugh Bonneville) “How are you; Really!”  A question like this prompts deep examination of oneself. Most times we repeat the familiar phrase, “I,m fine, thank you” without the slightest reference to what lies deep inside us. To some extent too, the person asking, “how are you?” expects the formulaic response and would be impatient with a list of real life issues.

Sometimes, the season of Lent may mean a ritual of fasting or giving up something – usually a luxury like wine or chocolate or coffee. Or it may mean not eating meat on Fridays, or giving some change to a beggar on the street – the usual thing we do every year during Lent. For some, Lent does not mean anything – after all, why bother about seasons and special days, they reason (a subject Paul discusses in Romans 14:5-6).

In order to fully connect with our inner being, we need to continually ask ourselves, “how are we, really!”. For the spiritual, it is process of self-consciousness and reflection to see how we are aligned with the Universe. For the Christian it is examining our relationship with God.

All of us have a purpose for being here. We are not alone – there are other humans and the rest of creation. This is a season that reminds us to ask, “How are we aligned with God; how are we aligned with the Universe; how are we aligned with the Creation; how are we aligned with one another; Really!”

Without this self-examination and realignment, we lose bearing. Think of the satellites in space. To maintain their orbit and not be lost in the vast expanse of space, they constantly check their positions. Then they adjust accordingly.

It is within us, not without, to be joyful and happy

stock-photo-17886090-kids-soccerstock-photo-17886164-kids-soccerAs I sat in the waiting room of the medical office, my mind was trying to digest two often related subjects: success and influence. I was asking myself: What makes one influential? What lessons do they teach us and what lessons have they learned from society? Lo,and behold, my eyes spotted an old magazine with 10 Most Influential Women of 2012 on the cover. I picked  it up and was curious to read about Selena Gomez, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Selena Gomez is a successful actress, singer, and fashion designer – and very rich. That is a lot of success especially in a society where success and influence are connected with material possessions.

As part of her mission of goodwill for UNICEF, advocating for children and education, she traveled to Ghana. In an interview, she recalls how she was amazed to see children with plastic bottles and a bunch of rubber bands, with which they made soccer balls. That was their entertainment and they were very happy. She thought of what it takes and how expensive it is to get us entertained!

She also learned another lesson: The only thing the children wanted was education. As a 20 year old herself, she remembered how she hated homework. But, there in Ghana, those kids loved education and homework – and that is all they ask for, and that is their joy.

I have written previously about a church group which went to a very poor part of Tanzania and was amazed at the joy that filled the people there. There are many similar stories from around the world, proving that it is within us, not without, to be joyful and happy. It does not depend on what we have or don’t have; it depends on who we are.

Think about this quote from Marianne Williamson: “Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are”.

The greatest of these is love

1407387_sweet_loveYou have probably heard these words from 1 Corinthians 13:13 often enough, if not many times: “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love”. Throughout the centuries, faith, hope and love or charity, have been labeled the three virtues of Christianity, though in essence, they are the virtues of every spirituality.

Speaking about her recent book, The Law of Divine Compensation, Marianne Williamson remarked: “There is only one problem, deviation from love; and there is only one solution, return to love”. She is also quoted saying, “love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn”.

Actually we are born of love because God, our Creator, is love. Everything else, including fear, hatred, selfishness, pride, is acquired in the society and environment we are reared in. Infants don’t have to learn love, they respond to it, instinctively, because they come into the world with it.

Of the three virtues, therefore, love is the greatest because it is our being. It is more about being and less about doing. Indeed, as Marianne points out, there is an imbalance, a disconnect, disorientation, a distortion, and everything that is wrong when we deviate from love. Wars and bloodshed among nations and on our streets, hunger in the midst of abundance, fear and distrust of one another – everything that is wrong in society is a result of deviation from our being, deviation from love.

Again, love is about being, and less about doing. In the reading from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Paul lists some of the good things -very good things, indeed – that we may want to do: Good economics and planning, good policy development, excellent preaching and teaching – all the good doing, if they deviate from love, if they are motivated by simply planning devoid of love – will not correct the ills of society.

In Paul’s own language, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I my boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (verses 1-3).

As we struggle to understand the nature of violence in our society, it is wise to seek to return to our being. As we fight injustices and deprivation, let us seek to return to our being. In seeking security in our homes, streets, schools, malls and places of worship, let us seek to return to our being.

Indeed, there is only one problem, and there is only one solution.

Everything happens the way it was designed to happen: Discover your life purpose

stock-photo-19176591-jeremiah-at-the-potterEverything that happens was meant to happen. Nothing happens by chance, or accident, bad luck or misfortune. Everyone who enters the world stage, comes with a purpose. No individual is without a purpose for life.

Some discover that life purpose early while others take longer and some even never find it and their lives are unfulfilled. Often too, some go into directions that were not designed for them and they too end up unfulfilled, wasted and frustrated.  It is not uncommon, for example, for parents to guide their children into careers, professions and occupations that are projections of the parents and not necessarily the children’s call in life. Many, too, are influenced by society, and take paths that do not reflect their true calling.

Resistance is a very common reaction to the call or the challenge to pursue one’s given life purpose. Excuses are among the best examples of resistance.

Think of these three examples from the Bible: Jeremiah reacted with these words: “I don’t know how to speak; I am only a boy” (1:6). Moses before him, said, “Who am I?” (Ex.3:11). Later he would expound that with these words: “I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Then there was Gideon in Judges 6:15 whose excuse was: “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I  am the least in my family”.

Excuses serve to counter the calling. Thus we say: “I am not trained for that”. Other times we say: “I am just not ready”. Still, other times we may say: “That is not for me! Others have tried it and failed”. These are excuses from within us, and there are also counter-forces from without. Family members may say: “You are not cut out for that”, or “Oh, no! That is not for you”, and so on.

Our discipline is to listen to that inner voice. In Jeremiah’s case, it was God’s voice saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (1:4). To know as used in the Hebrew Bible means to have intimate knowledge.

In all the three examples, there is also an assurance, a promise: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you”. How come Jeremiah gained the nickname, “the weeping prophet”? How come Moses was driven to lament: “why did you put this burden on me”?