Instead of collecting ideas, I started collecting lost pieces of myself.
I am a master collector.
I love to put puzzles together by sorting through the colors, shapes, and sizes and finding just the right place for everything. The big picture comes into view. The riddle is solved.
The things I collect and organize are not always puzzle pieces, however. They are often information, ideas, and philosophies.
So when I say “I’m collecting my thoughts,” I mean that literally; I’m collecting them the way some people collect stamps or toy cars.
Once the last piece is clicked into its proper place, I love the satisfaction of structure and logic and progression laddering up to a final conclusion. My left brain sits back, reflects, and surveys its work with pride.
When I was first drawn to the spiritual world, I was used to approaching life this way and had mostly found success doing so.
So, I approached spirituality the same way I had anything else in my life at that time — by collecting information and expecting that it would all come together into a ladder. I would eventually solve the riddle of The Great Truth.
But the pieces of information that I was collecting, no matter how many I had, never quite came together. For example, I couldn’t reconcile reincarnation with a single afterlife, nor could I decide how theism and monotheism could coexist in the same final landscape. These incompatibilities and exclusivities boggled and upset the part of me that wanted clear, specific answers. This was the part of me that hadn’t yet yielded the floor to imagination, mystery, and the unknown.
The more books, teachers, and teachings I collected, the more scrambled my life became. My relationships suffered, my health deteriorated. The more information I collected the more I began to lose myself in the very process in which I’d hoped to find myself.
That is when I first met my soul, speaking to me intimately in a sterile emergency room:
Lying in a hospital bed at 3:00 a.m. while being medicated, I cried due to relief from pain but even more so due to sadness. My life was not as I had expected. My marriage was failing. My spiritual endeavor was stalled. Despite all the yoga and all the books, I was still as confused, scared, and foolish as ever. The insight was more than I could bear.
Suddenly, I felt dizzy. The room grew darker. I saw odd shapes and patterns moving behind my eyes. My disembodied hand moved toward the call button, but then I let it drop. I felt more alone than I’d ever felt. I wondered who would miss me if I were gone, who still cared about me. My yoga students were home sleeping. My children were home sleeping. My husband was home with the kids so I had driven myself to the emergency room. Even if he could’ve come, we were barricaded from each other in a way that neither of us had the ability to address.
But then I heard a quiet voice from within say:
“There are periods in a human life where you feel control slipping away. Everything you have used to hold yourself up — beliefs, promises, affirmations — dissolve, leaving you with nothing to give you shape.
This is part of the process of transformation.
For transformation requires melting away all of who you are not, so you can make room for me.
Who am I, you wonder?
I am the Me you feel behind your thoughts.
The Me you touch in the emptiness of your breath.
The Me you know in the deepest place of your heart.
I am your soul.”
After this and more conversations with my soul about my desperate quest to solve the riddle of the Great Truth, I finally accepted that I was not going to build myself a ladder to enlightenment. It was not my job to sort and reconcile all the world’s traditions and beliefs. All I needed to focus on was what was true for me?
I made peace with the fact that at least in this lifetime, I needed to keep my feet on the earth. This meant getting to better know my human body with all its emotions and pains while discarding broken promises and false beliefs.
The process I entered after leaving the emergency room was not one of getting enlightened, but one of becoming embodied. A journey of coming down and in instead of going up and out. And there, grounded, I committed myself to my life in ways that I had never before considered.
When I use the term “soul,” I don’t mean it in some literary or poetic sense. I don’t mean it as an adjective. I mean it as who we are in our essence, our core. The part of us that chose human experience for its evolution.
I don’t think this idea of a soul choosing human life willingly is a widespread belief. If there is a common thread between all the philosophies and religions I studied, it is that this human life and journey ranges somewhere from a karmic punishment to a test. There are infinite practices to get up and out of the body, to experience other states of mind and other realms. And by “other,” “better” is always implied.
But daily human life as a longing of our soul? As something that the soul chooses consciously, knowing all that might take place, fully understanding the pains and hardships inherent in human life?
Our soul is the part of us that knows that becoming embodied is the most challenging and yet most rewarding process any human can undergo. A process of naming and claiming our souls as the authority in our lives, as our companion, as our wisest self.
My path of embodiment has neither been smooth nor straight. I have resisted it and dismissed it many times. I occasionally still wish for a ladder to a cleaner, brighter, pain-free place.
But as I reflect back on this period of time in my life, I see that as I let go of trying to put pieces of information together, lost pieces of myself returned home and came together.
Rather than trying to make my vision of the outer world come into wholeness, I was moving myself into wholeness.
And I realized that the incompatibilities and exclusivities I experienced in the philosophies and teachings I studied had more to do with the incompatibilities and exclusivities that existed in myself.
In other words, it wasn’t the philosophies; it was me, all along, that needed my attention. It wasn’t pieces of philosophies I needed to collect and match up, but pieces of myself.
So instead of trying to find a way to transcend this life, I found my way to my best, most authentic life.