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Steps to an Ecology of Soul: Chapter 2


Consciousness and the soul

We bring to our consciousness the contents of our soul, but this is only one part of our soul life. Our emotions and varying feelings – longing, impatience, hope and doubt – will draw us toward the future point, to some ‘where’ or some ‘thing’ beyond where we are now and where we may have wished to go. We may become drawn or pulled in a direction that hardly seems of our own choosing and yet we know it is happening only to us.

Our soul lives within two streams: one of concepts, ideas and memories that we draw from the past; one of our longings, feelings and emotions which come to us from the future. At every moment we are the meeting ground of these two streams. This is within the realm of the soul and this clashing of the two streams is our consciousness. The clash between past and future creates the present which is our form of consciousness; we experience the flow of it as ‘now’ and yet it goes on in time and through space, which in turn dissolves as our concentration slips into time once more. We might imagine it as a continuous process of becoming and disappearing, following and fading: an unceasing coming and going.

The body as the ‘temple of the soul’

The body as a ‘temple of the soul’, the cultivation of emotional equanimity, the need to cleanse our thoughts from mental detritus, and the cultivation of a sense of spiritual connectedness are universals in all the great traditions because there is a recognition that we are what we eat, we are what we think and we are what we do.

The aim is not to be so ruthlessly congruent and so deeply full of integrity that we are stiff, lifeless embodiments of doctrine, but that we find a realistic relationship to the varying aspects of wellbeing and have some sense of where the work for each of us lies. For example, not everyone needs to learn to meditate for years, nor does everyone need to change their diet, but all of us need to develop a conscious awareness of where our practice lies.

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