“Important encounters are planned by the soul long before the bodies see each other.” Paulo Coelho
The moment I saw him, I knew I loved him. In fact, I knew that I had loved him for lifetimes. It was that feeling—the one that hits us hard in that spot between the second and sixth rib and slightly to the left of the sternum.
This is our heart telling us a truth—the recollection that we have been with this person many times before.
I call this a soul relationship, and if we have experienced it, we know. If we haven’t yet, understand that there is a certain spark that comes with it and a subtle peace. An immediate bond of reassurance and stability will wash over us, one that could only be attributed to having been with this particular soul intimately, for centuries before this one.
It took me a long time to jump on the reincarnation bandwagon, a doctrine that has ancient roots and contemporary relevance, since one in four Americans believes in it. But due to personal experiences, now I do too. In fact, I believe we have each lived dozens of times before this one and will live dozens more after. I also hold fast to the faith that on each occasion we incarnate, we do so with similar souls. We choose to be surrounded by people we will recognize, so that this lifetime, we do not feel so alone.
Most of our relationships are not that deep, even if they may appear to be. We can share a lot of history with other human beings and still not be connected at the deepest level. We can have lovers with whom we’ve shared passion and profound intimacy and the sense of a connection that at least felt as if nothing could be deeper—and then, for one reason or another, drift apart. Then, if we meet our former lover years later, we may have the strange and sometimes disturbing sensation of there being literally no connection any more.
Soul relationships are eternal. A significant sign that we are experiencing a soul relationship is that these are the people we can’t resist—even though we want to. The bonfire attraction we have for each other might make us believe we should be together now, but often there is a tragic flaw to this reasoning—the practicalities in this life might not be in our favor.
The truth is, the result of coupling with these irresistible souls can be confusing and painful. Possibly with a temptation so electric, we use the motivation of “should,” a little too strongly. We believe meeting someone with whom it feels we have known forever “should” work.
But, timing is everything. Just because we were together in a previous life does not mean we can be together in this one.
This reminds me that soul relationships are more complex than I can intellectually understand.
Each soul evolves at different speed, and this time, we might be on a different trajectory. This does not make the relationship or connection untrue. It just means that the other is bound in their perception by limitations on the personality level and cannot register or be aware of the deeper significance. The discrepancy between our own perception of things and that of someone else can lead to disappointment and even to sorrow if we do not understand that what exists at the soul level has to find its way into physical expression in its own way and time. In some instances, this may not happen nor serve the highest good within a particular lifetime.
Life unfolds in mysterious ways and in the end, the connections with others on the level of the soul enrich life immeasurably, and add to the dimension of the physical, the dimension of the spiritual. These relationships will one day become quite natural and commonplace, for they represent the progressive unfolding of the beauty and promise of our capacity as spiritual beings to live a sacred life.
“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes a spiritual calling.”
Vincent Van Gogh
“I’m sorry I’m running a little late, I just made a nose out of a rib bone,” Dr. David Hecht casually said as he entered my exam room, his lithe movement reminding me of a warrior. He has on green scrubs and his tousled short hair is rich like mahogany. His light brown eyes look like sunlight shining through whiskey. The colors mingle together cascading an array of different shades throughout his gaze.
Everything about him is symmetrical, most obviously his cheekbones, but the symmetry extends to the way he smiles and holds his body. His rugged good looks are unexpected and even in his late 40’s he still possesses traces of what must have been loads of boyhood charm. This is my facial reconstructive surgeon: the man, and artistic genius that ended up putting my face back together after skin cancer had been cut out of my forehead and cheek.
Artists and doctors share many of the same approaches. They are visual people who study the intricacies of human anatomy. And they share highly developed observational skills and a fundamental love for humankind.
Each face is completely unique. Deciding how to shape it so that each feature appears in harmony with the others requires not only skill, but also an artistic vision and imagination. Plastic surgeons need a sense of aesthetics to design an appropriate surgical approach to the individual. An understanding of proportion—much like that expressed in the work of old masters such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci—combined with superior technical skills is imperative. With this combination, a surgeon links art and science, resulting in a more fully realized, beautifully proportioned outcome. The result is a walking piece of art.
But what makes Dr. Hecht a true artistic genius is his ability to access his inner world to bring out something not only meaningful and beautiful, but also necessary and incredible. Inner artistic genius is the inherent and indelible connection to the otherworld of great imagination, original thought and endless renewal. He sees the world for how it is supposed to be seen; with an open heart, mind, body and soul. He judges none and nothing. They are all the same to him; parts of life that are each equal and necessary, the art of the world.
Each artist is unique. And uniqueness has boldness in it and a core of imagination intended to transcend the common attitudes and collective patterns. Being unique is the spirit that is already there in each person, the inner intention, primary style and way of being that makes a true individual regardless of the pressure to conform to temporary social patterns and contemporary cultural fashions. At the individual level, each of us is an artist, here to give something that is not just unusual, not only exceptional, but that is distinctive and valuable by its very nature.
The inner uniqueness for life aspires to meaningful work and genuine purpose. It would have us undertake the seemingly impossible tasks of transforming culture and helping to heal the world. Not because the world can be saved or redeemed in a hurry, but because it is the impossibility of the great problems and projects of life that awakens the sleeping uniqueness within and changes work from a simple job to a life-long, life-enhancing project. And that serves the dignity and nobility of one’s soul as well as the wellbeing of one’s community.
More than raw talent or potential ability, genius gives a person their unique way of being in and contributing to the world. So the question becomes not whether or not you are an artistic genius, but in what way does artistic genius appear in you and how might it contribute to your own wellbeing and benefit the world around you.
A common idea found in many ancient traditions holds that each person comes to this world at a time when they have something meaningful to offer. I will forever be grateful that Dr. Hecht and his artistic genius are in mine.
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
If you ever had the chance to enter my closet, you would realize two things about me: I love shoes and I might have a shoe addiction problem. I have more shoes and cowboy boots than all my friends combined; and I have a lot of friends. But after returning from two weeks in Costa Rica I have decided to spend most of the summer barefoot.
I learned that Costa Rica is at the top of the world, the lone contender from the Americas in environmental performance distinguished in March this year for it’s environmental sustainability by the United Nations. Costa Rica’s relationship with Mother Earth is both remarkable and respectful and I found myself wanting to connect to Her in the same way. So I took my shoes off. And I kept them off. Aside from when I was at the beach or my backyard, I can’t remember when I last spent one day barefoot, much less several.
What I experienced from walking around without shoes was profound. Being barefoot creates presence. Mind chatter dissipates. The animals seemed to be less suspicious. I noticed sounds, smells and saw more detail as I slowly walked. And I discovered the earth is soft, so soft in fact that it deeply moved me. The temperature of the dirt changed step after step depending on the tree cover over me and the leaf litter under me. The moisture, the rocks, the shade, the direction of the wind. It all mattered. With each step I felt met by Mother Earth. Supported. Held up. And something I never expected, I felt better. I noticed improved circulation in my feet and ankles. My neck and shoulders lost all the tension they seem to always have. I had better posture and better balance. It’s amazing to me how wearing shoes has separated me from so much of what I am a part of.
When I returned home I continued my barefoot practice. It’s simple, convenient, and heart opening. It’s a mindfulness spiritual practice that uses our feet as connective soul bridges between body, mind and planet Earth. It raises our consciousness and raising consciousness in urban life is critical to sustaining the planet.
Our shoes distort our bodies’ feeling and function and also disconnect us from the earth. We don’t think about this, working in our offices behind non-opening windows, perched high above the earth on steel encased in concrete. We sleep and move in climate controlled homes and vehicles where we have to look at an instrument to know the temperature outside. Our lifestyle is more like life in submarine or spaceship than on Mother Nature, it seems. Conversely, there’s something primal, damp, sensual and connective about walking on the earth. Something of mystery. This is the thing I love about it: it redirects my abstract concerns. It plugs my attention into something much greater and more live-giving than the ridiculous flock of worries my mind generates.
We’re at a real crossroads now with Mother Earth, and need to change our relationship to Her. Recycling newspapers and buying hybrid cars isn’t going to do it because the mindset behind these well-intended changes still treats the planet as a commodity, a sort of gravel pit of resources for humans to plunder. We don’t need different ways to pillage the planet. We need different humans. A more evolved humanity that sees the ecological and spiritual implications of living as creatures in a much greater web of life all around us.
I’m not ready to kick my cowboy boots and Manolo Blahnik’s to the curb, but I do plan on spending most of the summer connecting to the earth’s chi by going barefoot.
When was the last time your bare feet hit the ground?
He has the kind of face that stops you in your tracks and the first time I saw the Colonel I thought the Norse God Thor was visiting from Asgard. He is a head higher than most people I would consider tall. His blonde hair, which is cut barely a few millimeters in length, frames an almost perfectly symmetrical face. He has distinct cheekbones and his angular jaw look as if it is molded from granite. His eyes are a vivid blue but sometimes they look as if a great body of water has softly melted into milky green hue, the perfect match for his army fatigues. If you get close enough you can see flecks of silver in his eyes. He appears to be in his mid-forties and everything about his body screams discipline.
But as handsome as he is, I always had a sense that his beauty was more than skin deep. Since he had been frequently deployed I didn’t run into him often, but the few times that I did I felt something odd, unusual, unexpected. Also there is an undercurrent of gentleness that seems out of place in his warrior body.
Right before Christmas I heard of his wife’s sudden death. I simply stood shaking my head in disbelief. Their daughter and my son are in the same class at school and just the week before, I sat with his wife, on a bench waiting for the last school bell to ring. I still feel a chill move through my body when I think of it. I didn’t know her well, yet I felt the impact deeply.
I now run into the Colonel in the school parking lot, in class meetings, at a band concerts, and at birthday parties. Wherever his daughter is, he is there too. I am on the outskirts of their lives watching as they travel through their grief. I know first hand that grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage not a place to stay; it’s not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. Grief is the price of love. I’ve learned it’s not the weight of grief that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it; and the Colonel carries his grief like Thor carries the weight of his hammer, with gentle dignity and grace. In doing so he doesn’t tell his daughter how to live – he shows her. Every day. Hard things shatter into a million pieces yet soft things don’t break. His greatest strength is his gentleness.
My grandmother used to tell me of the ancient Irish who had a mythic sense of how to weave the world back into fullness when the center failed to hold and all seemed to fall apart and be doomed into darkness. When disorientation became the common shape of life and the four directions seemed about to be blown to the wind, then the unifying fifth direction would have to be sought. This calming gentleness could only be found at the edges of the land in the darkest places and along the misty cliffs where the otherworld plays hide and seek with those of us on earth.
If people are willing to go to that place that seems darkest to them, each will find something of meaning and value. For as the darkness feels closer, the threads of existence move near as well. In facing the darkness one finds again the enlivening thread of gentle hope. If each then turns back again and pulls the thread of life toward the middle of things, then each automatically contributes to regenerating the unified center.
What the Colonel reminds me is that life is not always so certain; even straight roads have subtle curves in them. Perhaps the best thing one – anyone – can do is to listen more carefully to those hidden voices speaking from places beyond time and matter; places buried in the middle of the earth and the center, untouchable and gentle part of the soul.
(Please note: I’m not saying the Colonel is Thor, but come to think about it, I have never seen them in the same room together.)
Recently I was invited to Feng Shui the stunning home of Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame. I knew his Los Angeles neighborhood, Pacific Palisades was full of movie stars and I expected his home to be gorgeous. But I didn’t expect to stumble upon a goddess.
I never saw any Cheech and Chong movies so I had no preconceived image of Tommy Chong. I found him to be not only strikingly handsome but one of the kindest and gentle-natured men I have ever met. He seemed more like a sage than a pot-promoting comedian. His eyes reminded me of the old barn door: flecks of deep brown married with lighter hues, so much strength remaining despite the years of weathering, and they held an insurmountable depth that dared to drown anyone that met his gaze. I spent time with Tommy talking about his childhood, his career, his health and his vision for the next stage of his life. And then I was introduced to his wife of forty years, Shelby.
Shelby is a dancer, a seamstress, and an artist and her eyes look as if she used ten shades of blue paint to achieve the striking crystal clear blue color. They don’t capture light; they defy it, embellishing her petite features. Even at 68 no one could possibly outshine her. Five foot seven, flowing golden curls, flawless ivory skin with a willowy walk she had a face cut right from the pages of a men’s magazine. I thought to myself, if goddesses are real, then this woman is their masterpiece. She was all about simplicity, making things easy, helping those around her to relax and be happy. Perhaps that’s why her skin glowed, not from expensive creams or products, but from her inner beauty that lit her eyes and softened her features. When she smiled and laughed you couldn’t help but smile along with her. To be in her company was to feel that you, too, were someone. As if you had been warmed in summer rays regardless of the season. When I gathered up my things to leave Tommy and Shelby’s house, she insisted that I spend the night. Her genuine kindness was unexpected and I felt as if we had been friends for years – as if we shared some sort of history already.
As I got settled in for the night I said to myself, “Shelby is so graceful, calm and powerful and she knows exactly where she is heading with her life and future. I wish some of her goddess vibe would rub off on me.” The second I had that thought I realized that if Shelby can become so incredibly confident, empowered and sensual, then I can too. We all share the same essence, abilities and strengths. It is simply a matter of choosing to allow the goddess vibe to emerge and connecting to my own unique spirit and that means accepting and honoring what makes me – me.
When we step further into the story we came to live, not only does the mythic territory open, but the deep self moves and the world of imagination and meaning comes flooding towards us.
So, if your goddess vibe comes knocking on your spirit’s door, invite her in for cake and wine. She might look like the courageous and fierce Egyptian Isis, the outstanding Greek athlete and huntress Artemis, or the brainy politician and warrior Athena. She could be the sensual lover like Oshun from West Africa, or a promoter of prosperity like the Hindu deity Lakshmi. The goddess vibe can be sexual feeling, or a healing attitude, or even intellectual confidence.
What’s important is to cultivate a connection not necessarily to a particular female icon or ancient deity with shapely hips but to the divine feminine energy that ignites them all and, subsequently, all the material and mystical consciousness. In other words, divine feminine energy doesn’t have to take the shape of any particular goddess at all. Look around. Start becoming more aware of this universal She-She power that right now is rising up all around you- and inside you.
We are all goddesses. Or we could be with a little coaching and the right lipstick.