My long-time friend who embodies a scholarly shamanic approach to life, Gordon Baker, spilled out this treatise-like email response to me in the wee hours of the morning last week.  We had been sharing our inner metaphysical experiences and I am accustomed to his thoughtful replies but was blown away but this spiritual missive.

Dear Vanita,

Matters of the soul:  O my, I could expound on this, for many pages… reams of paper, entire books… matters of the soul…   What does this mean?  In a simple sentence or two…  To me, matters of the soul, are… what matters to my soul… what matters to all souls, is, I believe, what purposes souls have for incarnating in this very moment of the apparent here and now.  Or, put another way, the way I like to say it, the Soul Contract….   I have spent a great deal of time thinking about Soul Contracts… and I have come to some conclusions, formed some very strong opinions about what a soul contract is, and what it is not… and I suppose, not everyone would agree.   That’s obvious.     But let me say this, Soul Contracts do not exist in isolation from the mechanical operations of the entire realm of spiritual evolution of the planet.  So, in order to understand what a soul contract is, a fairly complete understanding of every aspect of the spiritual realm is required.   So let me summarize my beliefs-
As I said in a previous email, each of us incarnates into the material form of body, with an ego and identity, and physical form, a gender and historical context… over and over again, and the part that lives and dies, the body, is merely a vehicle of a temporal nature, and in the larger picture, this particular body is insignificant.  And, at the same time, there is also an eternal part, apart that is never born and never dies, it lives entirely in an ephemeral dimension, in the trans-consciousness, the mind of God, the shamanic realm.  This is also called, the Soul.

Now, here is what I believe, based on this idea about the soul…  (that perhaps might be different from what others may say.)  I believe that the act of incarnation is, from the perspective of the soul, an act of great forgetting.   The whole process of being incarnated, the act of procreation, of male and female joining and inception, and gestation, and finally, birth itself are like squeezing toothpaste out of the tube.  Entering this world is like a kick in head.  We forget everything, we forget our divine nature, we forget our soul purpose, we forget why we came and we forget what we are doing here.  We forget our soul contracts, and we show up, as if we were empty vessels.  We are not, of course, empty vessels, far from it.  We are, merely forgetful, and with good reason.   It takes some getting used to being in body.  It takes a dozen years, it can take two decades, to fully embody… or more correctly, we forget everything when we are born, and it takes a couple of decades to remember why this particular body and this particular life was chosen.   Remembering, the act of the soul re-entering the physical form takes place in such strange and unpredictable ways, it really is amazing to watch.    Sometimes, it is like “zot!” a hit on the head, other times, it happens slowly, some people come on strong early, others wait till the moment they are about to leave this earth plane!  All very strangely arranged by the soul, as if there were some grand design run completely amuck.  Who can say?  I certainly have not figured it out.   And I have spent a good deal more time than most looking directly at it, looking directly into the nature of the soul and its thousand ways of awakening, and all I can say, is no two souls have the same journey, no two souls wake up their host in the same way and no two souls can ever follow the exact same path.  For some, waking up is a moment of epiphany, for others it requires being cut low, for many it has no ostensible cause at all.  One day, you just find yourself awake, and then life goes on.  It is very Zen thing, and nobody, at least nobody I know has figured out any sort of formula.   Which is to say, it’s personal, and either you get it … or you are still sleeping, and those that are asleep don’t know it, until they wake up, and those that are awake have no way of knowing how or why they woke up, but they do know one thing, you can’t wake anyone else up, until their time to wake up has arrived, and then you can’t stop them once they start, they wake up entirely on their own, on their own schedule and by causes that are completely independent of any intention that might pass reason.  And that might seem a bit discouraging, but really it is not.  It is, in fact, the mystery of the process is the source of eternal hope, and faith, that world can and will wake up… just not necessarily on my time schedule.
So, I don’t really know when I woke up.  I had… tremors of awakening when I was very young, age 11 or 12 maybe.  I was visited by masters when I was 15 or 16… but really, awakening, I mean, getting the big picture, the full understanding, or as full as I understand it now….   Not until I was 40…  Even when I turned 50… I don’t think I was fully awake.   The last ten years, waking up, has been a very slow process.  But there were all sorts of wake-up calls in all my life experiences, some very dramatic, some very subtle, but in the end, it has been a very personal process, and not one that lends itself to offering a model for any other person.  My process is so personal that to try and generalize it to others is a waste of time.
Am I fully awake now?  It is a peculiar question.  Let me ask a different but related question.  Can you be happy but not satisfied?   Everyone knows you can be satisfied but not happy.  Think of the person who finally gets the job, or the car, or the house, or the relationship they always wanted.  They can be satisfied, they got what they wanted, the universe finally gave them something they had been seeking, a goal was met, they have something that satisfies their desires, but… in the end, they are not happy.  We all are familiar with that sort of scenario.  I think everyone has had some version of that play out in their lives at some point.   But that is not what I was quarrying about.  I wanted to know, can you be happy and not be satisfied.  Can you be happy, and longing, wanting, needing, in essence, can you be happy and yet, not fulfilled?   I believe every spiritual teacher I have ever had has indicated this was not only possible, but a necessary understanding that is a prerequisite to spiritual advancement.  Counter intuitive as it might seem, there is a deeper level of logic to this spiritual injunction.   Happiness is independent of satisfaction, and in fact, happiness can only be achieved in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction.  That is a tough pill to swallow, in our consumer oriented instant gratification, live in the moment, don’t regret anything world of spiritual advisors.  Being dissatisfied seem like it should be a disqualifying attitude in the greater pursuit of happiness.   But that is simply not the case, at least, it is not case if I correctly understand all the most advanced teachings of highest masters that made it clear to me, that … indeed, happiness and satisfaction are very different affairs, and one needs to master dissatisfaction, make it the centerpiece of one’s life, before one can truly enter the Kingdom of Eternal Light and the pass through the doorway of our human-self and into our roles a benefactors, avatars, and the bodhisattva consciousness that is our greater destiny. Happiness, lies in the greater destiny, not in what this or that moment might provide or deny to our material self.  And that is the hard lesson to accept.
But teacher, my teachers any way, have been kind in rolling out this lesson.  It is not something one has to learn on the first go-round.  For a long time, it can be resisted, it can be resented, it can be denied, it can be played at the edges and experimented with, over and over…  you can win the lottery, and see if that makes you happy, you can recover from great tragedy, and see, does that make you happy?  You can have great love and lots of money, and see, does that make you happy?  And only when all of it, all the human experiences are passed and done, even then, a part can say… but maybe if I get this or that, one more time, then I will be happy…. And the teachers, they, wait, and smile, and ask… are you done yet?  Like children who have gorged themselves on ice cream, the stomach acre that follows is worth it!   And the teacher just smile, are you done yet?    Happiness, is found in the absence of satisfaction.  The fast, the abstinence, the self-control, these are all metaphors, mere teaching devices.  Ways of manifesting, the deeper lesson, which is, nothing that is, makes for happiness.  Only in things that might be, is true happiness found.   Heaven on Earth is not a possibility, it is an ideal never realized, never experienced, a hunger never satisfied, and it is, of course, the source of true happiness.  Not as an expression of what is, but only a longing for what might be but is not.   Every teacher says, the student who longs, has arrived…
So, what practical matter engages me?   That is a better question than am I awake? (or fully awake)  you see, to be awake, is not the same as being satisfied, to be awake, is to long for things that will never be in this lifetime.  And in that way, that longing, creates desire, and desire is the fire that burns and sometimes destroys and sometime creates, and never really satisfies.  No, I am no Buddhist.  I reject that teaching, I a western mystic, defined by my earthly mission, which is happiness, not in the absence of desire, but in all the work that remains to be done.   Eternal vigilance, was what one of my teachers called it, and that stuck in my head.   Time to get back to turning the wheel.  This lifetime is lived under the whip, and I grateful for each lash on my back, because it wakes me up.  In that sense, my burning backside where the swift kick reminds I have to get up and do more work, it the essence of be wakefulness, and the source of all my happiness, even as I never get what I want, can never get what I want, and in deed, would need to go back to sleep to be satisfied with whatever it is that has arrived.

Authored by Gordon Baker

If ya wanna chat with him some more:  gordon@gordonbaker.com

I am sure he would love to hear from you.

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5 thoughts on “Matters of the soul

  1. Gordon Baker seems extraordinarily interesting! His writing style makes it very easy to continue reading. The topic is of very interesting nature as well; how is the soul related to the body? I actually just wrote about this in my own blog post from the scientifically supported position of positive psychology, which asks what it means to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Feel free to check it out and leave any contributions that you would like to the content. Great post, I may have to learn about Gordon Baker a bit more!

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  2. Hola Vanita,I enjoyed his writing. How are you ? I’m in Roatan now enjoying the Ocean and island life. I have 8 years October 10!  Hope you are well .Michal

    Sent via my Samsung Galaxy, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

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  3. Hello Beautiful Friend.

    I had such a beautiful time in Hyden, though it was a bit melancholy to think of being one of the last classes to be there. The new site was close to my hotel so I drove in and looked around a bit. It is nice for being new and they have preserved a good number of trees on the site but it is still rolling horse country and lacks the history.

    I am so enthusiastic about this program and feel like I have really made a good choice with FNU. It seems academically rigorous and the classmates are wonderful. I do feel well held and set up to succeed. Thank you for being that role model of study that encouraged me. It was so good to see you working hard and learning. I know you are smart so the hard work said to me that you were learning a lot of good things. It seems so long until I start the actual clinical content, but there will be good things in the meantime.

    You have inspired me in something else. One of the things they recommended that we do is join professional organizations, so I did. The AANP has a map on its website of places that are good to practice for NP, not CNM’s. I think that is different. California is surprisingly terrible, one of the worst. I did know that there was legislation before the State Assembly this spring that died in committee. So I am moving. I had thought about it previously as you know and thought for life happiness that western North Carolina or eastern Tennessee would be great, but they do not have great Nurse Practice acts either for NPs. Unsurprisingly, of the places that are on my desirable to live list, it is Oregon (which has a law requiring that Psych NPs be paid the same as psychiatrists) and Washington which does some of the most innovative maternal mental health work in the nation. I think that both the Seattle area and the Portland area could be good for me.

    It seems like working on finding a clinical site is a big deal and starts from day one, so I am looking at moving sooner than later. So exciting!! I am also still considering living abroad while studying the didactic part. How is your housing unfolding? Did the house you were considering pass its formal inspections? The child inspections were big, but I know there are more to come. Any romance budding for you? What about jobs?

    Much Sunday love which is a bit more special than weekday love,

    N.

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