"The afternoon was quiet," reflects Tian Dayton, author of "The Quiet Voice of Soul." "Across the lawn leaves rustled softly in a breeze that passed in all directions. The rolling hills created a soft horizon that seemed to go on and on in a gentle motion across everything that could be seen. The heat of the day hung in the air, slowly giving way to the cooler air beneath it. . . . One deep, long and beautiful moment, a summer afternoon. The soul that lay beneath this moment was like heat rising from a hot brick, filled with tranquillity, splendor and gentleness, the quiet subtle connection with the eternal. Time was standing still. Here it is, I thought. I am surrounded by it. It is enough."
Dayton is speaking of her soul, and its availability at that moment to the meaning, beauty and spiritual lessons in an event of ordinary life. "All too often," she observes, "we have to strive for, to run toward, bettering ourselves until that moment when we are good enough finally to be with it."She continues: "We think we must live the right life, thinking just the right thoughts, so that one day we will get lucky - somehow the trap door will fly open and we will see our souls. In the endless pursuit of soul, we miss it altogether, because soul is present at all times in all things. The soul is a constant; it is we who waver from it. That is why the path to self is also the path to soul."
And, she concludes, "Getting to know the soul takes a simple shift in awareness. We do not have to look outside ourselves to find soul; we only have to remove the emotional, psychological and intellectual blocks that we put in the way of our soul's expression." Here are some of Dayton's observations regarding the "finding of one's soul in one's self:"
- Regarding soul and self: Since the individual self is the vehicle through which the soul finds expression, when life is confusing or overwhelming, or when it allows little room for personalized variation, the soul goes into hiding. At that point, we often need a guide (a therapist, friend, sponsor, teacher, religious leader) to walk with us as we seek to find and to keep ourselves on our path. As C.S. Lewis said, "It takes two to see one," and thus, through reflective exchanges, to help the soul to come shining through.
Seeking one's self and soul requires accepting the ambiguities in one's self.
"To this end," Dayton says, "you might treat your emerging self the way a grandparent would. A grandparent has lived long enough and has enough separation from the grandchild to understand the value of indulgence and to allow the child a wide berth for self-exploration, while still being a compassionate and safe point of reference, grounding and boundary setting."
- The soul and learning: Learning is a process in which we take in new information, weed out what we see as no longer relevant, and anchor our new thinking to the cell assemblies in our brain. Contrary to what we once thought, the brain may be designed to grow and change throughout our lives.
"We can surmise from this that devoting ourselves to lifelong learning, expansion of consciousness and continual search to understand the self and soul more fully . . . actually creates health and allows us to live a more meaningful and enjoyable life well into later years," Dayton says.
The trick is to be open to new learning, which keeps both the self and the brain alive and growing. "I have noticed that people with strong spiritual beliefs seem to develop a sort of luminescence in their faces in their later years," Dayton emphasizes. In those later years, one can either generate personal and spiritual growth or fall into despair. The choice for growth requires one to continually utilize a life's worth of accumulated experiences and wisdom along with continually incorporating new spiritual awareness to thus challenge both the brain and the heart to expand and live with deeper levels of soul.
- The soul and home: "A loving, stable home provides a warm context in which the soul can safely arise into the experience of day-to-day living, the place to enjoy the company of other souls. A true home is a center that we can move away from and return to, a safe harbor in which we can drop anchor and allow ourselves to enjoy the waters that surround us. We can take risks in the world outside, knowing that we have a home to drift back to.
"Unfortunately," says Dayton, "sometimes we think of home as a place to keep our possessions rather than a place of commingling spirits." And this is the challenge, Dayton says: to make our home a place that can nurture soul growth, a place where we are not afraid to be. We all need a home and a sense of connectedness with those around us. We all need to feel that there is a well to go to for water, a spring from which we can drink when thirsty, a container in which we can experience soul."
- The soul and relationships: "Few situations in life are as conducive to soulmaking as that of a deep, committed relationship," reflects Dayton. . . . Unfortunately, we are rarely aware of this aspect of relationship.
"When we reach a place in ourselves that is too painful to look at, we see our relationship as the cause of our pain rather than our own personal issues. When the pain becomes too great, we may decide that leaving the relationship through an affair, a preoccupation with work or children, or even a divorce is a good way to solve our pain.
"Sometimes leaving a relationship truly is the only solution, but there are countless other times when leaving the relationship means leaving our own deep personal issues untouched and unresolved. Moving through these fears, experiencing them for what they are and integrating them into our total being, allows us to center ourselves within our own soul natures. Painful as they are to face, our unresolved issues help us move down the path toward soul experience."
In searching for self, Dayton says, "I would like to propose that there is such a thing as a `good enough' relationship. A relationship cannot be all things. If it successfully enough provides what we need to go on in our life process of personal developing - feeling loved and a sense of basic security - it is good enough."
Dayton finishes with a quote of Harvelle Hendrix's: "It is better to get rid of the problem and keep the person than to get rid of the person and keep the problem."