Photo Credit: Camryn Rae (inworld)
It is human nature to ponder what happens to our souls when we die.
Whether we believe in a single and eternal afterlife, that we go through multiple reincarnations until we “get it right,” or that we linger in various layers of hell and heaven, what happens to our souls when we die is a question for which we might never find a certain answer.
I’m interested in this question of the afterlife too. But an even more interesting question for me has always been this: What happens to our souls before we are born, a time I call Before the Beginning?
Before the Beginning, is there guidance or support was available to our souls? Do our souls know where we’ll be born, and to whom? Do our souls have a singular purpose in mind, or are they more generally interested in the experience of being human? Most importantly, do our souls have any choice in the matter?
There are many afterlife theories that have us participating in some kind of sped-up life review. This makes a lot of sense to me as I imagine that we, likely with the guidance of a more advanced or supportive soul, get to see our just-lived human life from the perspective of the Soul Realm.
Perhaps, we also see our recent life from the perspective of mother karma, and gain understanding and clarity on the visible and invisible ways we touched others in our brief human life. We might gain answers to the questions How well did we receive? How abundantly did we give? Perhaps during this life review, we get a chance to reflect on what we could have done better, and where we really shone, during our short time in human skin.
But where, then, does this knowing and understanding take us, if not to another opportunity to put it into practice? Even in earthly life, there are few instances in which we have an opportunity to learn something about ourselves, but never given a chance to try again. And that’s the Earth Realm.
This is why, unlike those who believe in a single and eternal afterlife, I simply cannot get on board with the idea that we only get once chance. It’s never seemed fair that someone who dies as an infant and someone who dies in old age are viewed through the same dualistic lens of sinner or saint. There may be little grey areas in the Earth Realm, but I can’t seem to extend that same dichotomy to the Soul Realm.
And truly, if there’s no point to receiving the lessons, then was there no point to the living, either?
A theory that makes more sense for me is what is commonly known as reincarnation. What that means to me is we get to draw wisdom from our most recent life and use it (or, not, there’s always free will) in a future life.
And so, with this idea of reincarnation, combined with the idea of a life review where we get to make sense of our most recent human life, combined with a time Before the Beginning, my essential question became clear:
Did our souls knowingly say YES to this current human life?
Did our souls agree to the limited vantage point of a time-and-space trapped consciousness? Did our souls know that there would be pain in the forgetting of ourselves as soul as we grow up? Did our souls know that we would always feel a little bit lost here, trying to find our way, our purpose, a meaning to this life? Did our souls know all of these possibilities and certainties, and still say YES?
It was this question that churned inside me when I began writing my upcoming book, Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness—A Memoir of New Beginnings.
When I sat down to write my book, I was coming off a time in my life that in most circles would’ve been considered a missed opportunity at best, a failure at worst.
Here I was, in my early 40s, still struggling with what we are supposed to figure out in our 20s, that being, my career. I’d taught yoga, studied and shared Ayurveda, but I still didn’t completely understand who I was and why I was here. I struggled to find meaning in my stories, many of which didn’t even make it to an ending at all, let alone a happy one.
In writing my memoir, I sought clarity, meaning, and purpose beyond what I could get through the vantage point of my ego, immersed in the linear nature of the Earth Realm, and through the lens of hindsight.
So I wrote my story also from a second vantage point of my Soul, in the wisdom and timelessness of the Soul Realm, through the lens of foresight.
My vision of my time Before the Beginning, which eventually became Soul Realm stories, started off simply enough: a soul, preparing for its next human life, stands on the edge of the precipice, waiting for the moment of next incarnation to arrive.
But then, I grew increasingly curious. What else happened Before the Beginning, besides just the knowing that I was going to the Earth Realm? Was it a time of healing and restoration? Was it a time of study and reflection? I wanted to find out. So, I asked my soul, a part of myself I had only recently begun to dialogue with, to show me.
I began to see scenes in my mind that played out like a movie. I saw my soul, etheric and skinless, preparing herself for a trip to somewhere far away—the Earth Realm. I imagined this was an overwhelming decision, one that she would likely not want to make alone. My soul would’ve wanted a soul friend to see her off, a soul who could double as a guide.
As my soul friend’s personality began to take form, I learned that her name was Rasa, and that she, like me, was on a path of evolution. I remembered that we have helped each other through numerous incarnations. She takes her role of soul guide seriously, yet playfully and creatively too. She never tires of answering my questions, of which I have many. She brings plenty of wine and snacks for the extended going-away party.
Next, I assumed if my soul were going on a trip, she would, like any of us, would need to pack a suitcase. What would a soul bring to the Earth Realm? Why, soul tools, of course! The kinds of tools that can be used in the Earth Realm but are originated in the Soul Realm. Tools that bring the clarity and focus of the Soul Realm to cut through the cloudiness and confusion of the Earth Realm.
Next, I imagined that my soul would like an animal companion as well. But not just any animal. This animal would be what some might call her power animal, or her spirit animal. This animal would represent my soul’s most unique personal quality for this particular trip to the Earth Realm.
I knew my animal would be bold, courageous, and, curious. With her by my side, life would be an adventure with no rules. Without her, life would become stale and dull, and Depression would be waiting.
Hence, the introduction of the silver-eyed wolf, Endless Curiosity, who lives and travels between the realms. She traveled with my soul to the Earth Realm, and is the link that connects me back to the reservoir of healing and love of the Soul Realm.
Finally, I imagined a role for my emotions, the very ones that have plagued me and yet also given me my character. I decided rather than leaving them as a peripheral, even unfortunate part of being human, I’d bring them along willingly, from the very beginning. Even Depression. Maybe, especially Depression.
In my story, I give my emotions voice, I give them body, I give them dialogue, I give them purpose, I give them what writer’s would call an “arc,” so they grow as I do.
Fear, Guilt, Shame, Anxiety, Depression, Joy, Contentment and Gratitude all take on the skin of a snake, while Anger, perhaps appropriately, is a dragon. They are not part of my soul, but they are friends with my soul. They are imperfect allies and often necessary informants on the human path.
With these main characters all showing up in the Soul Realm Before the Beginning—my soul, known as Serene Voyager, or Sëri for short; Rasa, her soul guide; Endless Curiosity, her soul animal; and her many emotions—my soul explores her past lives, gets to know her upcoming family, and starts to gain a greater understanding of her purpose, her lessons, her growth opportunities.
From there, the possibilities were suddenly endless, and the story grew wings.
For instance, given that the Soul Realm is a timeless place, not a linear one, Sëri and Rasa have opportunity to not only imagine her future life, but to witness it and talk about it in real time. This gave me an opportunity to see many of my stories as I imagine my soul would see them.
As this continues, the Soul Realm and the Earth Realm, which begins as two distinct places, grow closer and closer. As do my soul and I. As do my emotions, and my soul animal, and all that is distance and disparate joins and becomes one, and I become, in the words of the title, embodied.
Ultimately, I found a deep sense of meaning and purpose in my stories. I found healing though them, not despite them.
But soul embodiment is a fluid thing, not a permanent state. There are times that I feel embodied, and I feel my rich connection with soul, as well as connected the surface of my human skin, to my organs, to my heart beating and my feet walking.
There are other times that I don’t at all feel that I belong in this world, or any other, and I lose the feeling of connectedness. This is my ongoing process of being human. It’s not easy, there’s a lot of disappointment, there’s a lot for which I still don’t have answers.
But now that my book is complete, I do have an answer to the question that brought me all this play in the first place:
“Did my soul say yes to this human life?”
Oh yes, she did. She most definitely did.
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