I’m going to tell you a story. It includes bits and pieces of my journeys, my spiritual travels in this and other worlds, in this and other times. It is a story of separation physically, emotionally, spiritually, and it is a story of returning to myself and to my God.
In this story, I am myself and in some ways, I am also “everyman.” I might be of any race or creed, of any color or condition. I might be male or female. I am simply human and, thus, a child of God.
Through my journeys, I have discovered that our souls are sparks of the divine, God individualized. Our souls are our connection to God and to spirit. When we rise high enough, all our souls are of the same essence, and so we are all connected. We are all one. We are all of divine spirit.
In the journeys of my lives, I have come to believe that the suffering of humankind lies in its perceived separation from God, which is the ultimate source of our power, creativity, and life. I believe the separation is a temporary condition and that we have the power to “come home” when we choose, to return to our awareness of the divine, to the knowledge of our souls and spirit. I believe this is the message of all great spiritual teachers throughout all time. It is a universal message and remains the same, no matter the time, culture, or tradition. In the gospel according to Luke, it is written that Jesus taught the parable of the lost son, the prodigal son who realizes the error of his ways and comes home to his father. (Holy Bible, Luke, Chapter 15). Though in the parable, the emphasis is on the son who comes home, I think of it as the parable of the “forgiving Father” for it exemplifies the nature of God which sees the perfection of each soul no matter what the circumstances and experiences only love.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
It is natural for fathers and mothers to rejoice when their children come home. Homecoming celebrations are repeated worldwide on many occasions and in many circumstances. When there is great loving and times of separation come to an end, we all celebrate the homecoming of our loved ones. Does it not follow that when we, who are the children of God, find our way home to the Father, there will be rejoicing beyond anything imaginable to our human consciousness? But that is closer to the end of the story. This story begins when “The younger son said to his father, ‘Father,
give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”
I look upon myself as someone very like the prodigal son. I “left home” long ago and have wandered the lands of the emotions, mind, imagination, and materiality for a long time. The lands of spirit, soul, and God—my true home—became dim and nearly forgotten. I cannot tell you exactly what caused me, in this lifetime, to “hear” the call of my Father, “When are you coming home?” I only know that I did. Perhaps there is a timing that exists outside our conscious awareness. Perhaps God calls to each and every one of his sons and daughters, and perhaps we all hear and then, in our own special timing, choose when and how we answer.
The awakening of my soul has been a gradual process. It has involved many experiences, teachers, mistakes, highs and lows. The awakening of my soul has taught me about the soul, about its qualities and strengths, about its journey, and about its eternal nature.
When I was a young man and went off to college, I left the physical home I had known with my parents, brother, and sisters. I left the security of that home, my community, friends, emotional support, and a kind of intrinsic caring and loving I had known since childhood. I moved from a small rural town to a bigger city. I went to a larger school. Some normal insecurities appeared which I did my best to conceal with bravado (which might also be called ego).
To allay my feelings of separation and insecurity, I tried to win the approval of potential new friends, teachers, whoever was around. I spent a lot of time trying to please other people, thinking that would bring me security in the world. And I was actually pretty successful at it and had some minor social successes as a result, but after awhile, I sensed I was missing the things that I really wanted in my life.
I was missing true loving and genuine caring. I was worshipping the god of opinion way too much. I was too concerned about what “they” said and what “they” thought. I kept modifying or changing my responses into the world to please others. And gradually, I lost the sense of who I was, the boy I had been in the context of my family and community. I knew that my body was doing certain things and my emotions had some feelings about those things. My mind had a lot of negative thoughts about myself, people around me, and the world in general because I didn’t like either what I was doing or what was happening around me.
In school, I studied, not to learn, but to get a good grade on the test. I didn’t pay any attention to what I actually thought or felt about a subject. I just tried to memorize what I believed the teacher wanted to hear on the test. I was busy sacrificing my integrity and feeling uncomfortable about it.
I remember wanting rather desperately to be “in” with a certain group of my peers. I tried to say what they would say and do what they would do and answer what they would answer, so they would accept me and like me and let me be one of them. But unbeknownst to me, they didn’t want another one just like themselves; they wanted somebody different. So they didn’t choose me. In looking back, I can see how fortunate I was, but at the time I just thought the world was against me. I was busy judging myself and them and the system and everything around me. I was so busy judging that I was losing track of who was doing the judging. Where was “I”? Where was that part of me that was the essence?
I found out that when I tried so hard to please others, it became easier and easier to lie. Someone would mention something that I’d told another person, and I’d think (judge) that the person talking to me now didn’t like my point of view, so I’d deny what I’d said and change my story. I’d say what I thought this new person wanted to hear. And then when the next person came along and mentioned they’d heard what I’d said—if I thought they disapproved, I’d tell yet another story. In time, I knew this wasn’t working well at all. I was confused and upset most of the time, and the result of all my “people pleasing” behavior was that no one at all liked me very much. Some people tolerated me, but it didn’t seem like I was making the kind of friends I wanted. Nor living the kind of life I wanted.
I seemed to have lost the sense of my own center that I’d experienced at home when I was younger. Now I seemed to be almost “outside myself” much of the time, more concerned with what other people believed and thought than what I did. The sense of belonging was gone. I felt alone and separated whether I was with the people who had become so important to me or whether I was by myself. I was fast becoming miserable. Something had to change.
I decided I’d watch my life for about six months and see if I could simply observe what was happening, be objective about myself, and see if some kind of objective neutrality might bring about insight and change. I began to watch my own behavior with more honesty. I began to admit to myself when I was lying, when I was changing my stories in order to please. I began to question myself about why I was behaving these ways. In time I realized I was afraid that if I stood up for something—expressed a firm point of view and didn’t back off at the first sign of disapproval—I would not be able to support myself emotionally. I was afraid I’d look weak or stupid or uneducated or any number of other things I judged as being bad or wrong. With this realization came the awakening of a voice deep inside of me that admonished me to speak my truth, whatever my truth was at any given time. I recognized the rightness of that admonition to speak the truth, even though it was pretty frightening to me at the time. Who within me stood up for truth? I sensed my soul awakening, though I had no words for it. I knew this was the right path, though I did not know where it might lead me.
Somewhere deep within, I could sense God’s presence and could hear that silent question, “When are you coming home? When will you recognize you are spirit, you are soul, you are a rightful heir to the kingdom of heaven?”
I resolved that, no matter how popular or unpopular it would be, I would say what seemed correct to me. I would say what I believed to be true. I decided that I wouldn’t seek to speak out just to hear myself talk, but if asked or if it seemed important, I would say the truth. For many, many weeks after I came to this decision and decided to implement this change, I had very little to say to anybody. My mind, for once, became very quiet. One reason for this was that I was so practiced at discovering what other people thought and then saying what I thought they wanted to hear, it took me some time to discover what I thought. When I didn’t know what I thought or felt about something, I consciously chose to stay quiet.
As I spent more time being quiet, I found that my mind became still. Then my emotions seemed to settle down because I didn’t have to be concerned about what others thought. Then my body stopped aching and hurting. And a small voice from deep inside me rewarded my new behavior with the thought, “Now you’re getting smart.”
There was still much separation within me. I cannot say that I “knew myself” in any significant way. I still did not know that there was a spark of God that lived within me and would guide me if I would listen, comfort me if I would allow it, and provide the connection and the sense of belonging I was looking for. These things were still hidden, but they were beginning to be revealed.
As time passed, I sought people who had more knowledge than I, who seemed wiser, who seemed to have an experience that I was after, however vaguely, and from whom I could learn. My quest became to “know myself.” My quest was to find out who I was, to discover who said “my body feels this” and “my feelings are these,” or “my thoughts are unclear”—and to find out who said, “Tell the truth. Now you’re getting smart.” Who claimed “my body,” “my feelings,” “my thoughts”? I was not yet thinking about soul, but the sense and the awareness of there being something beyond my physical form was becoming clearer.
In the Bible, the story of the lost or prodigal son takes only a few paragraphs. And the narrative is told mostly from the point of view of the father and the good son. There is not much in the story about the prodigal son’s point of view. One might imagine, however, that the process of the prodigal son—looked at from the prodigal son’s point of view—would be a complex and interesting one. The story as we know it, however, says, “After he spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need.”
Need is not always a physical need. In my late teens and early twenties, one difficulty I had in my life was my attitude toward it. This is not an uncommon problem, particularly in our western culture where so much is given to us. We have such abundance that we often come to expect it. Perhaps the prodigal son experienced this, too. The story implies that he had once been wealthy and experienced abundance. Sometimes, when we have a lot, we begin to think it is our due, that we are owed a certain level of comfort and convenience. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth… which doesn’t stop us from projecting our own ego point of view out to the universe and God and demanding to be provided with goods and services to our heart’s content. One need I had was for a change of attitude and more gratitude for what I did have. In time, I experienced that moving toward greater gratitude moved me closer to my spiritual home. It was part of my journey and of my soul’s awakening.
Take a moment and consider that beyond your body, mind, and emotions, there is something more enduring, something greater. Have you sensed it? Have you ever wondered about it? Do you ever feel like you don’t belong here or feel a kind of yearning for “home” without even knowing what that is? Have you ever heard an echo of a whisper inside of you that might be saying, “When are you coming home?” What if your life here on planet earth is only part of your story? What if there is more?
Soul transcendence begins when you start awakening to the possibility of yourself as a soul on a journey home. When you cease to look at life as being only about the physical level and expand your point of view to include other experiences, you have begun your path of soul transcendence. As you begin to look at life from the perspective of your soul, you see from a vantage point that is at once more distant and much closer than usual. The more distant vantage point expands to include, not only this moment of time, but all other moments of time. It includes past actions as well as present and even future actions. It recognizes cause and effect over a space of years, perhaps lifetimes. And winding through all the actions of balancing and rebalancing your life, it sees a path leading home to God and is willing to walk that path even though there are sometimes bumps or potholes or roots that get in the way. The closer vantage point sees the soul reflected in the smallest of experiences and expressions—every kindness, every moment of integrity and loving, every sense of gratitude or hope.
If you would practice soul transcendence, you might begin by practicing gratitude or loving or integrity. Try it for an hour or a day or a week. Be grateful for all sorts of things in your life—for little things and for big things. Look for where and how you can love. Observe yourself and your actions. See where your truth lies and follow it. Be true to yourself. And when life seems too difficult or too sad or too hurtful, move your perspective up and ask your soul to show you how you can use your experiences to learn compassion, gain strength, be grateful, let go of judgments, and love more. If you can do any of those things, you are on your way home and the loving Father that awaits you at the end of your journey rejoices.