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What I Talk About When I Talk about Soul

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

Apologies to Raymond Carver for butchering the title of his 1989 book, "What We talk About When We Talk About Love," but I just love his suggestion that we can talk about the concept of love - and as I am about to do, the concept of soul - but we all have unique and personal understandings of the word's meaning.

I use the word “soul” a lot. It is one of my favorite words in a space where we are frequently struggling to find the right words, and often the best we can do is find language that indicates or points towards something difficult to measure or define. I like "soul" because most people I work with agree it is a bookmark, a placeholder for something ineffable, a concept anchoring the unseen in the seen, the unmeasurable in the measurable, if you will. I suspect it is hard to find shared language that resonates in the metaphysical realm because our innate extra-sense resists being intellectualized. It is implied in the term extra-sensory, i.e., it is meant to be a felt experience for the most part, not quantified or explained. On some level, sensing our soul is an instinct that we have fallen out of practice with – maybe fallen out of love with. I say fallen out of love with because current culture encourages love of the shiny new thing, the quick fix, the latest external “technology,” to create ease, when it is quite possible we all possess within us the best technology to operate our body/mind system. I think of soul as the home we are always looking for, where the constancy of our essence, the aliveness, joy, love and, yes, answers and wisdom reside – an essence that is longing for expression through our personality.

My understanding of soul landed many years ago when I encountered the idea of Aeolian harp in a Samuel Coleridge poem (although he spelled it Eolian). It is a small harp played by the wind; as soon as I read that, I thought, wow, that’s it. Our personality, body/mind vessel in this life are represented by the harp’s strings, and our soul is the wind blowing through it, creating a unique tune/ life experience that each individual expresses. As life went on, and I encountered different challenges, tragedies, and illness within and around me, I began to wonder if our sense of self, sense of satisfaction and indeed, all-system health depends on our expression of our unique song. I do know this: when I am attuned to and allowing my soul’s expression, I am in resonance. And my feelings and energy are high. When I am not in clear expression, things look bleak. When I listen deeply and am intending to be in resonance with my soul, I can also be in clearer resonance with another’s soul, without need, clinging, grasping. blaming or any of the other many ways we try to makes sense of and derive meaning in our lives.

So, that’s a brief glimpse of my understanding of soul.

Does the idea of soul resonate with you? And if so, what is your understanding of soul?

Leave a comment below!

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