As I continue to track the pleasure theme one thing gets clearer. Unlocking Pleasure is soul work. But what is soul work anyway? Anything that supports going deeper, below the surface of our lives, beyond the ego’s experience of life. The soul realm is the aspects of life that the ego isn’t in control of, the aspects that add richness, depth, mystery and purpose to our lives. So often this level is opened when there are questions and challenges that force us to surrender to a truer version of ourselves - including our beauty, our warts, in essence our wholeness.
In my experience, this level of life is where the deepest pleasures lie. It’s not always comfortable. There’s usually a level of risk, getting me out of my comfort zone, pushing me to confront myself and my often-self-imposed limitations. But it’s so alive! The deepest pleasure is being fully alive.
One of my spiritual teachers, Sagewalker, was frequently heard to say, “The soul doesn’t give a shit about your life.” By this she meant, the soul isn’t particularly interested in fame or fortune or all the other appearance values. The soul cares about what is real! The real things of life slay the ego; what brings us to our knees; dismantles us so we can be put back together in a finer form. Everyone’s life will offer these doorways – it’s for us to enter into the fire or not. That choice will determine the quality of soul we live.
Soul is a Body Experience
I’ve participated in many, long discussions about the nature of soul. So often these conversations can feel like just so much blah, blah, blah. The mind is not the terrain of the soul, as intellectually curious as we may be about it. Soul for me is a very body experience - deep experiences, opening me up to deeper feelings.
Poetry the Best Soul Guide
Poetry for me is the surest soul guide. Especially the poems that strike me to the core and wake me in the night, with its fragments, rattling my psyche.
Marie Howe is one of my favourites. Her book of poems, What the Living Do, is a tribute to her brother who died too soon, and much more. It is full of instruction on simultaneously living in the mundane and at the soul level. Her poem The Gate is included below.
The Daily Bread of Our Lives – Soul Material
We need our everyday lives. They provide the fodder for the soul - our joys and disappointments; our gains and losses; our births and deaths. Soul lives in our daily bread that can be experienced as mundane, or can be mined for the magic and mystery, depending on our capacity to digest it all at soul level.
Take for example the upcoming holiday season. Year after year you perform the collective rituals whether you’re religious or not; of one creed or another; or completely non-religious altogether. But these rituals can become hallow and tedious. Holidays can be something to just get through.
Finding Soul in the Holiday Season
But what if you sought the soul in it all? What if your practice this season was to open your heart to it all - which is a soul act? All of it, Uncle Theo’s repetitive stories, the stress around who hosts what and where, the presents we don’t need, the too many invitations to be sanely juggled. If you tuned into the soul level how might you create a holiday season that’s more meaningful and deeply pleasurable?
Again, this year, Sunday, December 1st, I’m hosting a day to support soul through the season - The workshop is called Spiritual Survival in the Holiday Season. Information is on my website at www.madelinedietrich.com. I hope you’ll join me.
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world
would be the space my brother’s body made.
He was a little taller than me: a young man but grown,
himself by then, done at twenty-eight,
having folded every sheet,
rinsed every glass he would ever rinse
under the cold and running water.
This is what you have been waiting for,
he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.
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“Madeline offers a safe space to explore what it is that blocks our capacity to live in pleasure. She supports us to recognize our unhealthy associations with pleasure, so we can finally open up to that which provides real power, serenity and love.”