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Friday, December 14, 2007

Celebrate the Soul

In the celebration of who we are, along with the mind and body, the third aspect of us that needs attention is our soul.

Celebrating the soul is about giving purpose to our lives, and trying to nurture and connect with our spirit. How do we do this? Well, there is no need to give a long list for this one, the answer is a simple one-word solution.


Living with Love

Painted heartsWe could have all guessed the answer. Love is the staple diet of a healthy soul. Let us not worry about falling into the trap of cliché. There's no danger of that, because some things are too important, sincere and timeless to easily be the subject of overkill. And besides, the reality is that love is hard work. It will make you sweat, and make you feel burn, as much as any of my most strenuous military exercises.

For even though the solution is simple to state; the way to its achievement is harder to define. The process of getting to a point in our lives where love is our main goal is difficult, because the basic principles are hard to clarify.

The reason for this is the fact that the road to love, in all its forms, will be a different journey for all of us. The benefits will be the same, its necessity will be the same, but the way we bring it into our lives, and more importantly work to keep it there, will differ from one person to the next.

Alongside that, there's the fact that hatred is easier.

I refuse to accept hatred comes naturally to us; it's just in our nature for us all too often to choose the easy route. It's always easier to destroy than to create. For example, think back to the last time we said something bad about somebody, or they said something bad to us. It's too easy to badmouth others behind their back, or to lie about them, and far easier still to reciprocate in kind when you're the object of that hatred.

One of my heroes, Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying that an "eye for an eye makes the world blind". I believe in that. I believe that we must pick up what those that hate throw at us and turn it into something positive.

Of course it's harder to stay silent and to endure, or to defend yourself without losing your high ground, but it's the best way. In my opinion it's the only way. If the only other option is to hate, or throw dirt in return, then that's no option at all.

Don't Starve the Soul

Hatred can be addictive. An obsession with our hate, or the object of our hatred, can be a vicious circle that is very difficult to get out of; starving our soul in this way will ultimately make us so weak that we'll realise we can't do anything but hate.

If we honestly scrutinise all aspects of our lives, how many things do we think we "hate"? If we were to list them, how long would the list be? Would we be surprised at its length? If we could cut down the list to only one thing, would we still be able to truthfully claim that this one factor alone is the cause of the unhappiness in our lives?

No, because once we let hate in, it's like a virus. It will spread to all areas of our daily living.

An Obsession with Hate

How do we know if we have an obsession with hate?

Does it consume our lives? Does it stop us from moving on and progressing with our own agenda for living? Do we find that everyone else has managed to continue on to better places, but we are still stuck like a carelessly scratched CD lost in deep grooves, harping on at something that might possibly just be in our own minds?

If we continue with our hate, we will fall victim to a universal law. The law of cause and effect. Put another way, we reap what we sow. If we make good causes in our lives, we will have good effects in our lives. If we make hateful causes, we will get hateful effects. Hate will come back against us.

There is another fundamental rule we must keep in mind, from the law of nature. In life, a negative is always bound to a positive. Yet, in one body, and in such close proximity, a negative will always repel a positive. We must keep the negativity out of us, and as far away from as as possible. Even if it's a reality we can never fully extinguish, it's one that should be the exception, not the general rule, of our lives.

If we succumb to hate, we can never be truly happy. Think about it, whom do we know who has made hate a priority in their lives and is happy? When, in extreme instances, we see a person happy after taking someone's life on television, we label them psychotic, don't we? We feel there is something wrong with them. A less severe example, but it's the same feeling we get when we find a person badmouthing something with pure hate one minute, and trying to be all peace and goodwill the next. It's because we subconsciously understand that no one can be full of hate and happiness at the same time, for at close quarters a negative will always repel a positive.

We may smile to mask what we feel, we may act happy, but if we are truly filled with hate, then the smile will be a sham, the joyful personality as thin as an eggshell. If others tap it a little, the cracks will start to show.

There is only one way to really be happy. We need to let go of our hate completely. We need to fill the gap left by bringing love in, sincerely and truthfully, and not as make-up to mask what we feel.

We need to start feeding our soul what it needs the most, and make this fundamental of homes the happiest one we possibly can. Only then can we start to celebrate the soul.

Letting Go

Letting go of our hate is an arduous task, and one that will need constant evaluation. We must learn to turn the page regarding certain chapters of our lives, and train ourselves to constantly see the positive. It's not easy. Have we ever tried to forgive someone, even though they've just said something bad about us? It's tough. Especially when we might not even know that person; forgiving strangers is even harder. There is no credit of history on which we can draw reasons for our forgiveness; it is easier to hate those we do not know even more.

What if the best thing to do is cut our losses and leave? Then we must do so. However, we must not be afraid to trust again when the trust is broken, or to love again when the love has gone, because every new person we meet is just that - a new beginning. The trust and love shared with each person is different, and no one can pay for the mistakes of another. Don't let any love on the outside kill the love on the inside.

It's all part of learning how to let go.

The way we deal with relationships and love in our lives is a good indication of the way we house love within us. What we feel is what we project on to others, and if our soul is hungry for love, instead of being able to give love in a relationship, it will always want to take.

We must strive to make it a defining aspect of our being; this determination to make giving love central in our lives and to be able to move on past the hurdles of hate, however high. Jump over them, bang into them, fall down and get up again, or simply walk around them - do what we have to do, to get away from the hurdles and make it to the finishing line.

Once we've made it, we can also thank those that placed hurdles in our way during the victory lap; because the passing of each one will have made the end that much sweeter. As long as we don't mirror our actions to the hate we might initially feel, and add another hurdle to our lives, then those hurdles already there will have inadvertently helped us to win a greater victory.

We will have grown spiritually as a result.

Now, think back to that "list of hates". Write a letter to each one saying goodbye, and post it out of existence forever.

Soul Progress

After we have let go of the hate, the main way to provide our soul with sustenance is to bring purpose into our lives. We can do this by loving something or someone, or by putting our love in a divine being or in our own humanity. Actively sharing love around will benefit us in ways those of us trapped in their "hate obsession" can hardly imagine.

Sometimes we can put that purpose into our lives in the strangest of ways.

I decided to spend my summer holiday in a unique way this year, out in the streets of Nicosia in Cyprus, to be with the refugees that were harboured in its capital city. When I left I knew I was getting far out of the world I knew; yet it wasn't leaving something behind that stirred me, it was heading for something that was nascent and ill-defined that did that. I didn't know what it would be like when I got to the streets of Nicosia, and to me initially not knowing had been the most terrifying thing about making such a trip.

Yet, my purpose had been stronger, and so had my trust in love. Due to my lucky life, my spirit was filled with so much love that I had to give some back. I knew as long as I was sincere that the law of the universe would work, but I had to go off the beaten path and go beyond that to find something worthwhile.

That's where I met some amazing people and discovered their personal stories. The extent of the numbers of displaced people in the streets, and the way they lived, was a huge eye-opener. Sometimes seeing the world at another person's eye level is the best education you can get, and the journey was a type of soul progression for me. I saw sorrow, but I also saw great spirit and the will to survive. They made me realise something that we who live such different lives forget. It's a simple truth, but an important one nevertheless.

We're basically all the same.

I also discovered on my travels this summer that the real adventure was inside me - as it is inside all of us. In our modern society, there is a richer kingdom in our psyche than any that waits on earth. It is a joy from within. And to realise that in each of us is a similar spark, or source where our spirit comes from, is in its own way a celebration. It is not only our actions, our thoughts and the love we grow inside that give us purpose, we give each other purpose, too.

There is so much negative focus on our differences. We are burdened with a heavy chain of egoism ("I am better than you" - "I'm right, you're wrong") that pull us down. It's when we forget we all have the same feelings on any side of the world, that we lack the courage to find common ground instead of the obsession with our personal list of hates that we need to throw away.

I left my ego as dead-weight luggage, and decided a long time ago that I don't want to be part of that, or any kind of hatred.

Bending God

Although religion gives most of our lives purpose, the main beliefs can be interpreted in a very ego-centric way, with guilt used to seemingly keep everyone in line.

This is why most of us have at one time pushed back against religion, because often it is re-worked as mechanism of guilt, or an engrained system that attempts to keep the flock in servitude. This guilt is the most evil method that a church can employ to press home its message of the divine. It's the thing we should rail against the most. Guilt should not define what we believe.

Love should help us define what we believe. Our faith should give us a soft place to land in times of despair, and it should be something we use to make sense of the world and tell us there is something bigger than us out there; and that it's going to be all right in the end. It should work because it can bend to suit our every need, and because it also sustains the soul in the correct way.

Besides, what can't be achieved with a push or a shove, can be won with a kiss. Pushing people just makes them dig in that little bit deeper.

I can't understand a religion that stipulates: "I am the only way", when I see that to arrive at the truth in life we must first travel a thousand different ways. I can't understand the idea of a God who says, "You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!" Isn't that about ego? I can't see God operating from ego, so it makes no sense to me.

The God I know, the God that exists in us, is not one who will stop us at the stairway to heaven and weigh our right and wrong, to see how well, if at all, we towed his line. As long as we celebrate our mind, body and soul with respect for what has been given to us, when we get home (to where we all came from in the first place), God will welcome us as the prodigal child simply saying, "What took you so long?"

Celebrating the Soul

Love is the key. Love yourself, love others, love our world; whatever we do we should keep it as the main priority. It's that simple, but equally as hard to put into practice. This is the way we should communicate; and the way in which we should connect with our soul and the soul of every living thing on this planet. Whether we eat, exercise, make love or pray, all should be done with the requisite amount of love.

We may knock this is as spiritual nonsense, that it sounds too idealogical and that it can't work in the real world. Well, we make our world, don't we? In my world it not only works, but it makes the day go around.

And don't forget, what goes around, comes around.

If celebrating the mind gives us understanding, and celebrating the body gives us fulfilment, than celebrating the soul gives us meaning. When all three come together in harmony, that's the real celebration.

And once we have them in sync, we can get on doing the most important thing, celebrating each and every day.

Main | Part one | Part two | End of part three | Part four

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