“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
If you haven’t heard the above quote, you’ve probably heard something like it. Such quotes remind us that our human life is more consequential, and more meaningful, than we might think. They remind us that our human life is neither defined by nor limited to the jobs we take, the successes we collect, or even the failures we experience. Momentarily, we remember that there is some part of us that views our lives not as a growing list of checked items but as a deepening well of experience.
The part of us that sees our lives in this broader, more faceted context is our soul.
Our soul is the part of us that existed before this human life and will exist after it. It is the part of us that has access to the divine realms and cosmic knowledge, and yet, still believed that this limited lifetime, this imperfect human body, and yes, this fraught time, had particular value for its own growth.
What happens when we remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience is that we give new priority to the soul’s way of looking at things.
We then remember that:
• What is painful for the ego can be enlightening for the soul.
• What is uncertainty for the ego can be freeing for the soul.
• What is comfortable for the ego can feel lifeless for the soul.
• What is failure for the ego is a fresh, new beginning for the soul.
• And, what is a satisfying purpose for the ego can feel constraining for the soul.
Egos, because of the culture in which they are raised, tell us that until we find our purpose, we will feel dissatisfied and incomplete. Yet, our souls remind us that we are already whole, whether or not we have found this purpose. These two messages feel incompatible, and in fact they can be, because the goals for ego and soul in this human life are entirely different.
Therefore, when we adopt ego’s language of “finding one’s purpose” and apply it to our soul, we do ourselves a disservice, in much the same way than if we applied the hierarchy, rules and limitations of the Earth realm to the Soul realm. It is a trick of the ego to try to make the soul conform to ways of life it, the ego, wishes to live by. More than a trick — it is a clever method to contain the soul so that the ego can get what it wants, whether that be a life of praise and validation, or a silent, compliant, safe life.
Our souls are far too curious, adventurous, wild and non-conforming to follow the steps and checklists that ego so prefers. As such, our souls probably have little interest in ego’s many ideas of purpose.
Our souls did, however, come to the Earth realm with a reason. Here are some distinctions:
• Whereas purpose is associated with a driving force, a reason is about a guiding influence.
• Whereas a purpose is about the path, a reason is about the motivation.
• Whereas a purpose is about completions and endings, a reason allows for fresh starts and new beginnings.
• Whereas a purpose often takes the form of an individually-focused goal, a reason can include hope and vision for many.
Seeking our soul’s reason for being here rather than its purpose might seem like an inconsequential adjustment. But words have associations and these associations, many unconscious, have power. Consequently, when talking about the life of the soul, switching from “purpose” to “reason” shifts our mindset just slightly, just enough so perhaps we can begin to see the world and our lives the way our souls might. And then, our life becomes a powerful opportunity for growth and learning rather than an obligation to fulfill, and our souls’ true reasons for being here can be realized. Then again, given the ego’s tendency to make us feel undeserving of living such an untethered life, perhaps our soul is wise to not reveal all its reasons.
Perhaps we would be wise to not try to pin it down.