Are we human beings having a spiritual experience, or are spiritual beings having a human experience?
Sitting in an auditorium for a 2014 event focused on women’s empowerment, the woman who had just finished her speech announced, “Before you go to lunch, reach beneath your seat. There you’ll find an envelope that holds a message from your soul.”
I was at this retreat because I was at a crossroads in my life.
I had just given up my Ayurvedic practice, which I’d been studying and working toward building for several years. But, the last time I was in a one-on-one consultation, I couldn’t focus on the client’s needs because my own body was covered in itchy, red hives.
Suddenly, the hypocrisy of preaching self-care and balance while I myself was so far out of balance was clear. Resignedly, I folded up my practice.
Several months later, though, I still had hives every day. By this time, I’d tried everything you could imagine (and a few things you probably couldn’t) to rid myself of them.
Most doctors told me that my hives would eventually “go away on their own,” but, as someone who has always believed that diseases come with a message, I knew that my hives were going nowhere until I understood what they were trying to tell me. I believed there was a message for me, somewhere in all of this suffering, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t translate it.
I was plagued with questions: If not Ayurveda, what was I supposed to do? What was I missing? What had I missed? What could I not see? What was my purpose? What did my soul want of me?
My hope was that this empowerment retreat, which included speakers like Brené Brown, Kristen Neff, and Alanis Morissette, would offer this clarity, and I could make the life changes I needed to get back in balance. I’d packed my suitcase, some prednisone, and flown to Boulder, Colorado in search of answers.
So, when the speaker said that there was a message from my soul waiting for me beneath my seat, you better believe I tore into the envelope like a kid in a candy store; I couldn’t wait to see what my soul — my inner self — needed to tell me.
Inside the envelope was a page torn from a magazine. I unfolded it and scanned quickly for a message. But, all I could see were photos of kitchen displays and a list of shopping tips. Amidst cries of “I knew it!” and “Just what I needed to hear!” all around me, I sagged in my chair. I folded the page back up and tossed it in my bag.
On the flight home a few days later, however, I had an urge to look at it again. I laughed cynically at myself for doing this; why would I purposefully hurt myself all over again?
But, I did as I felt called to do.
This time, when I looked at the page, a single word popped out: travel.
Curious, I scanned the pictures again. They were of shops and streets in Charleston, South Carolina. The pictures were accompanied by a brief article entitled “A Perfect Day.” I laid my head back on the headrest and sighed aloud. My skin tingled — tingled rather than burned! — as I considered the potential message for me.
I thought about it, and realized that of course! Without the pressures of running a business, I did have complete freedom to travel. And, it was a good time in my family’s life as well; we could go together. We’d never been to Charleston, but the pictures in the magazine — the same ones that in the auditorium had seemed mundane — spoke to me.
I was overwhelmed with the urge to go.
But — that’s what my soul wanted to do? My soul wanted me to quit offering Ayurvedic consultations so I could…travel?
It seemed outrageous, and maybe even slightly blasphemous.
Here I’d always thought that messages from beyond should be pointing us to our greatest purpose, or challenging us to do something new, or something more…soulful.
And yet, the message was so powerful and clear that the moment I landed, I called home and shared the news with my family that I wanted to plan a trip to South Carolina for us all.
I used to think of my soul as being held captive in my body and wanting more than anything to get out. Have you ever heard this quote from the genie in the movie “Alladin”?
‘PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! Itty, bitty living space.”
That’s how I viewed the life of my soul — trapped in a body that did things like produce hives day after day, with no apparent reason.
I’d tried meditation techniques before to get out of my body and connect to something more “spiritual.” I’d believed enlightenment was what my soul wanted — enlightenment meaning detaching from the experiences of my human body and my emotions and connecting instead to Spirit.
I never considered how much my soul craved embodiment.
But when I couldn’t escape my body (because the hives kept me fully in it) then, I thought, I at least had to do something “really important” with my life. I had to satisfy my soul’s purpose — which I assumed was grander than anything I could probably ever hope to accomplish.
Inside, I felt that I had disappointed my soul when I left my Ayurvedic practice.
And here, the message I got from my soul was: none of this matters. All that matters was this desire to go places and do things and explore—in this imperfect, flawed human body.
I was consumed with a bittersweet joy for just the love of living my human life and in my body. The bitter part was realizing how hard I’d fought against taking in such simple wisdom.
Such a difference from feeling that my soul was some kind of taskmaster and that I was failing at every turn to heed its calling! I must have grinned the whole flight home, as tears of joy continued to pool in my eyes.
When we did go to Charleston a few months later, we followed the advice from the magazine page and had A Perfect Day.
And at some point later, the hives stopped. I have not had them since, as I’ve continued to live my life like a grand adventure for my soul’s pleasure.
Our souls did not come here with agendas or checklists. They came to experience life in a human body. Why?
I think of it this way: it’s said that the reason God created the world was so that s/he could see her/himself. Meaning: until God became Everything, s/he couldn’t observe anything.
So it is with our souls, too. In order to move back into unity, we first have to explore our uniqueness and differences. Whether through traveling physically or just exploring more metaphorically, our souls are here, just for the whole humanity of it.
Just for the embodiment of it all.