by Dr. Judith Rich
Some people say we live in a “soulless” world, or they refer to a place as “having no soul.” What does it mean to have “no soul”? What does it mean to have soul?
Some people are called “lost” souls, some are “old” souls and some look for a soul mate. We have our soul brothers and soul sisters. What does it mean to share soul with someone?
How do you know if you’re in the presence of soul, be it in a place, in a person or even in a thing? Does art have soul? Does food have soul? Does music have the quality of soul?
The answer, of course, to all of these questions is “yes.” We could look upon everything in the world as either having that ineffable quality we call “soul” or missing whatever it is we think of as soul. But what does it mean to have soul? And how do you know if you’re in its presence?
The very first time I ever walked into the house that is now my home, I knew I had found, at long last, my soul’s home. Its bones spoke to me and welcomed me home after a very long journey in search of the place where my soul could find peace.
Even though the walls needed painting and it needed a few cosmetic touch ups here and there, this structure, built in 1926, had a story to tell, and I began to hear it when I first set foot inside. Without even knowing the details of its story, I recognized that the story of this house is the story of my home. It’s been my sanctuary for more than 10 years, the longest amount of time I’ve ever lived in any house.
But what is it about a place, person or thing that endows it with soul? As I wrote in last week’s post, soul is not defined as an object or a “thing,” nor are we assigning any religious connotation to the word. Rather, we speak of soul as a quality of expression that touches our deepest relationship to the very essence of the “thing” itself.
The quality we call soul is what instantly takes us from the mundane to the sublime, from the surface to the depths. Soul is what pierces through our carefully-constructed defenses that protect us from life’s harsh realities and throws cold water in the face of our denial.
When soul rises up, it’s time to fasten your seat belt, for something’s about to change. It might not be cataclysmic, life-altering change that’s afoot, but on the other hand, all change has that potential, depending upon how we meet it. And when soul is in the equation, we’re likely going to meet it with our guard down and our hearts torn open, for soul is the thing that requires we get real.
You’ll know soul is present when you can no longer lie to yourself about whatever it is you’ve been pretending not to know. Soul demands nothing less than the truth.
One day, you’ll look in the mirror and you will see clearly; it’s time to start or time to stop, and you’ll know exactly what that means. You’ll not hesitate, you’ll not second guess. You’ll see with a clarity beyond anything you’ve ever seen or known and when you do, you’ll know exactly what to do, who to do it with, and where to do it. And you will.
You’ll know soul is “up” when you find yourself out on the dance floor of life, dancing your own dance and singing your own song. And you discover that you always knew the steps and the words.
You’ll know soul is evoked when you feel something deeply, for when something touches us deeply, we say it “touches my soul.” The soul loves the deep waters. The soul feels intense emotions, which run the gamut from melancholy and depression, to ecstasy and joy. Whatever it takes to get the job done, soul is there to serve. It is an equal opportunity servant.
You’ll know the soul has been stirred when you look at your life and say to yourself, “This is me.” Or say to yourself, “I’m seriously off-course.” In either case, soul is happening, for soul is that part of you that will not rest until you’ve gotten the thing down and wrestled the very essence of it into your bones, into your DNA.
Soul is the quality that has you sit up and pay attention, like when the teacher shows for class on the first day of school. Soul demands your undivided attention or it will give you extra homework just to make sure you don’t miss its point. And the soul always has a point to make. It came with a point to make already baked into the cake. And its job is to make its point. And our job is to get it.
You might even think of your soul as the fingerprint of your DNA, for while you cannot see the soul itself, you can see its imprint, and you’d be wise to pay attention to the tracks it leaves. The soul is here to impact, push, pull, sing, feed, and love you into a more honest, complete and authentic expression of who you are. And it will accept no substitutes! The soul means business.
The soul allows no shortcuts. It knows the way from A to Z, but along the path there is also the journey through B, C, and D, all the way to Z, and the soul is not about to miss any of it. As egos, we want the quick fix. We want the pain to stop. We think that if we can shorten the path and get to our destination sooner, we’ll be ahead of the game.
But the soul has come to discover what lay on the path itself, for it is the journey, not the destination, that counts. The soul already knows the destination. That’s the place from which it came to take on a physical body in order to chart a new path and expand its horizons. The soul knows the way home, and it knows when it encounters a thing, a place, or a person that emits that mysterious quality that smells like, resonates with, or vibrates the same vibration as home.
That’s why soul matters. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the matters of your soul, for if you don’t, soul has a way of getting your attention anyway, and the harder it has to work to get your attention, the bumpier the ride. It’s a good idea to pay attention to those invitations when they come as whispers rather than wait for them to show up as tsunamis, for somewhere in between whispers and tsunamis, the soul unfolds itself, and this is what you call your life.