Who I am and who you are doesn’t matter
For some odd reason there is a conversation I had in my early twenties with my college roommates which has never left my mind. Perhaps because I have kept bringing these questions up with every other soul I have become intimate with since then. Do you FEEL your soul in your daily life, that timeless, eternal part of you? Do you feel this core inside you? Do you return to it? When I started asking these questions I always assumed the answer would be yes. The question was in fact rhetorical for surely everyone could feel their soul speaking to them in the practise of everyday life, just like I do. Life taught me this is not the case, for there have been periods when I forgot my own soul and my heart hardened into a victim of events. To be blunt, the 20 year old me was wrong to believe that every human being is spontaneously connected to their inner core- soul – that part of the Divine – inside them. I have become convinced that this spark of the Divine, this fire so transparent, is so smothered by the smoke of culture, religion, politics, and identity that ironically the quest for me leads us away from who we really are.
Take for example the stories we construct about our “pasts” and our “baggage”. We do not have to look into our past to know who we are. We are not a series of events which have happened to us. We are so much more than the skins of cultures we have worn, the beliefs we hold, the opinions we develop, the personalities we construct, the little boxes of gender, religion, geography, ethnicity, etc. that we use to construct ourselves. We are influenced by all that. Sure. That’s identity, the skin we walk it. For those of us who have worn a few of these skins, we know how tenuous and fragile they can be.
We do not need to destroy these created selves to find ourselves for these skins allow us to interact with others and navigate the social spaces which enrich our spiritual growth. We can and do acquire multiple identities and sometimes become so involved in their construction that we fail to feel the flutter of our souls deep deep inside, underneath. We tell ourselves we are “good” people without even questioning the source of this goodness. We groom and swoon over ourselves while ignoring the Divine. We follow the mortal and ignore the immortal.
If we are going to find out who we really are, we need to be fully cognizant of the selves we have created. We need to understand they are created selves, created by us, and changeable by us.
We need to befriend those selves with a sense of humor about our own conceit. If we insist on identifying ourselves by the markers of this world, we will splinter off into smaller and smaller groups, and fragment into a series of selves. If we insist on asserting identity we will withdraw and constrict. If we are willing to leave our narratives of self-justification and simply experience the Divine spark inside ourselves we will learn that who we think we are really doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the quality of our souls – their ability to nurture the Divine spark within. When I step outside the boxes I construct for myself, when I observe my identities, I feel myself return.
I know this is not a revelation for many. I had said the word of Unicity before. But I had not truly experienced this till now. It is this simple. One night in Ramadan the sky called me and opened before me. Stars collided and smashed in pulses of Light and my light, grown dim by identities and anger, began to throb. Allah heals what we break.
When the sky opened to me it did not matter if I were Muslim or Christian, male or female, black or white; no label could contain me. That Divine light inside sparkled and I expanded. I witnessed the alchemy of anger into humility inside my heart. As a Hu-man I witnessed my absolute singularity and my absolute sameness; my uniqueness and my unique place in the whole.
Then I felt the soul inside myself relating to the soul of another.
What it really means to remember
Souls do not require language, just the ability to be clear enough to catch the reflection of another soul, like a clear running river from one heart to another. But how often really do we connect to the soul of another? Most of our interactions are cluttered with words and associations and we are oblivious to energies circulating in and around the soul we are communicating with. If our own souls are so laden with the stories we have told ourselves about ourselves, how can the eternal self in each of us be nurtured? Soul-interaction has become rare because most of us are not even aware of the soul living inside us, and thus are incapable of discerning the soul, the Hu-man, in another. Perhaps we only become aware of our souls when we see them reflected in the souls of others. As such, pain is a highly contagious Hu-man experience. Awakening too is a highly interactive process. Both are the predecessors of transparency.
In order to be transparent it is essential to live in the deep place in your heart that holds your essential goodness and purity and is connected completely to the Divine. We all know it’s there even if we can’t rationalize it or name it. We believe we are “good” people don’t we? Then where is the source of this goodness? Return to it. As we return to the source of goodness we move away from seeing ourselves as a series of events and interactions to an understanding that goodness is our essence created not by ourselves but by the Divine. Goodness is a gift, not a right. It is the Divine in each of us shrouded by the veils of our many outrageous selves. It is only when we are in touch with that Divine that we can discern the Divine in others.
But I am here
But what if that Divine is nowhere to be seen? This Ramadan over 1300 people have been massacred in Gaza. I feel the death; I smell the evil of genocide. I sense the absence of the Divine. We are witnessing the acting out of a collective identity illusion as Israelis massacre while at the same time seeing themselves as the “good”, chosen people with a right to exist. I can see what happens when an entire nation of socially constructed selves replace an awareness of the Divine self within. I can see the empty soulless shells of men who seed destruction in the name of their conceited right to existence. Their light has been dulled by their own selves.
I can see you. I am here only to tell you that I can see you.
Ya Allah forgive their conceit. They see their existence as a right not a gift. This is a veil so thick that the skies may have to open in order for it to lift.
And yet we march, we hold vigils, we weep together. I see the Divine light in my comrades all over the world. I see it in the eyes of the survivors as they turn in devastation to their Sustainer. And this light, like pain, is part of a highly contagious Hu-man experience. It is the seed from which awakening grows. As we wake up we learn to see with the open heart rather than the myopic eye. Only when we stop seeing through the lenses of ourselves can we ever grasp the Divine in ourselves or others. And only when we occupy that space where we breathe with the Divine, entering our wounds like light, and catalyzing a glorious alchemy from anger to humility, can we really ever connect with another soul.