We can appreciate the soul better when we get to know her sister. Just as the soul transcends the limits of time and space, so does her sister: love. Does love have time boundaries? Can we give love shape? Sometimes it may seem to have qualities when we put limits on it. In fact, in some situations, we are able to feel the symptoms of love. But this is transient and love remains indeterminate, unbounded, timeless and completely beyond our comprehension.
Love can be viewed as a unity, a ubiquitous oneness. Yet we experience love in its multiplicity: paternal love, maternal love, romantic love, passionate love, divine love, familial love, brotherly love, and so forth. Each of these expressions of love has a different quality. Each is its own reality.
Would you like to explain love to someone? How does it work? Why doesn't it always work that way? How do we measure it? You mean we can never determine what pulls people together? Or what drives them apart? Of course, love is a mystical experience. That is why it is called the soul's sister.
Does the fact that we cannot explain love mean that it does not exist? Of course not. We all experience love. Soul is exactly like this. It transcends all limits of consciousness. In so doing, it is paradoxical.
At first, soul may seem more difficult to experience than love, but it really is not. We are experiencing soul all the time; we just do not name it. The sound of the sea, the flick of the fire, the wind at night, or the awesome spread of a starry sky all speak the language of the soul. The flight of a bird, shadow of a rock, purr of a kitten, or smile of a stranger pluck a mysterious inner chord.
Call it what you will. The mystic says this is the soul--enigmatic and paradoxical. When we say, "I love this person, I don't know why," we are dealing with enigma. When we say, "I love this person and I hate this person at the same time," we have a paradox. Many of us know both of these feelings. Enigma seems to be like a pixie; it plays with us. Paradox, on the other hand, is more tedious; it pulls and tugs at us, and can be quite tiresome.
In the same way, we can approach soul from a right-brained, intuitive perspective and enjoy an enigmatic dance, as if in a dream, never particularly wanting to awaken. Or we can dive into the paradox of the existence of a soul and wrestle with difficult questions, probing for a handhold, a way to grip the idea. Some say that the nature of paradox is so elusive that we will never succeed; others say that they have a way to turn paradox upon itself so that we can work with it.
THE LANGUAGE OF THE SOUL
Here are a few exercises that help us uncover the way the soul can be experienced. Each exercise can be done in less than five minutes. Pick any one of them.
1. Imagine yourself holding a newborn infant in your arms. Its eyes are open. You know that these eyes cannot focus, but they are looking straight into your own. Imagine this look and discover what it feels like. Close your eyes and take two or three minutes to do this.
2. Imagine you are holding an egg that has a live chick in it. Your hands are under a heat lamp and you can feel the tap-tap of the chick trying to get out. Allow yourself to cradle this egg, feel the movement within, and imagine that as you hold the egg, the chick slowly breaks through the shell to freedom. Close your eyes and feel what this is like.
3. Try to remember the first time you felt that you were falling in love. Do you remember the physical experience? Did it affect your senses, the way you saw things, the way things tasted? What was different about falling in love from your normal, daily life? Let yourself dwell in this memory for a few minutes.
4. Imagine that you have finally met the wisest being that ever lived, whoever that may be. It may have been someone known, or someone completely hidden. Notice what it would feel like in your imagination to be with this person. What question would you like to ask this person? Imagine what answer the person might give to your question. If you were able to take time to do any of these exercises, you discovered that the language of the soul is not cerebral, it does not speak in words. But it is quite clear, nonetheless. The gaze of an infant's eyes touches a gentle, tenderness within us. Unspeakable, it "hums," and our hearts are softened. The tap-tap of new life within an eggshell, about to be born, sends vibrations to the depths of our being. Life, quickening, bursts through to freedom.
Who can grasp falling in love? What is its language? Palpitation, heat, confusion, clarity, nausea, ecstasy, doubt, fear, an ocean storm or a peaceful calm. Pick any or all of them, but none dwell in the realm of rationality.
The wise being within each of us may be silent or it may speak recognizable words. If it speaks, often the message is so simple it is baffling: "Be yourself," "You are doing just fine," "I love you," "Let go." And if she, he, or it does not speak, notice the experience of being here in its presence. It may be calm, peaceful, comfortable, a feeling of coming home at last. Or, in fact, it may be questioning, curious, doubtful, wondering, or skeptical. This too is the language of the soul.
To attune ourselves, we need to broaden our range and let go of preconceived notions. We must learn to hear, see, feel every nuance of our moment-to-moment experience. The language of the soul lives at the edges of thought, or behind it. It is symbolic, metaphoric, poetic. There is always hidden meaning just a little out of reach. It does not matter that we are unable to grasp it with our minds because another part of us is touched, and this is sufficient.
Despite the limitations of our subjective truth, Kabbalists believe that via the soul, we get information from other realities. The way we attune to other realities is by using contemplative methods to pierce the veils that obscure our degree of awareness.
Commenting on Psalms 24:7, "Lift up your head, Oh you gates," the Zohar says: "the gates refer to supernal grades [higher levels of consciousness] through which alone it is possible for human beings to have a knowledge of the Almighty. Without this [awareness], human beings could not commune with God.... Some aspects of the soul can be known, some remain unknown. So it is with the Holy One. It is the Soul of souls, the Spirit of spirits, covered and veiled; yet through those gates [of awareness], which are the doors for the soul, the Holy One makes Itself known."2