Awakening love in the soul
Fourteenth century Persian Sufi Poet Hafiz said, in one of his many beautiful verses, “People say that on hearing the song the soul entered the body, but in reality the soul itself was the song.”
If you read this and feel a deep sigh of longing, as if you wish this were true but it does not feel that way, take hope. We do not access, on our own, the felt truth of sayings like this. We need the song to awaken us to the soul actually being the song. This is one reason why we sing hymns in church or, among native peoples, in creating sacred space, at the start of a ceremony or ritual.
The song here can also be a metaphor for love in the soul. This can be awakened in many ways, such as the love of other people in community or in our daily spiritual practice. One example of the latter is “Metta,” an ancient Buddhist form of prayer that means “loving kindness.”
In this prayer, the one praying repeats to herself the phrases, “May I be filled with loving kindness, May I be well, May I be peaceful and at ease, May I be happy.” Practiced regularly, the phrases generate in the soul a reverence for itself. This may sound a little odd, but all of us have a tendency to slip off center in the midst of life’s “slings and arrows.” By nourishing our souls in this way, we keep alive the awareness that we ourselves are the song.
As the practice deepens, I am given to perceive the tendrils of darkness that creep in and cloud my vision of the soul’s beauty. In tandem with this growing awareness, though, is the deepening clarity we have about love’s desire to dispel our sadness and celebrate us. Christians may be familiar with The Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the ungrateful son demands his share of his inheritance early, goes off and squanders it, then returns, hat in hand, hoping his father will take him back. To his delight, his father not only takes him back into his home, but adorns him with the clothing of high paternal approval and serves a feast to celebrate his son’s return.
This is how love, at the center and source of the universe, sees and delights in us, and this is how best to perceive ourselves. At first we do this more on the level of taking it on faith, then, gradually, it awakens to our consciousness in a felt way.
Filled with this awareness, we find ourselves possessing the inclination to celebrate others, to rejoice over them because we see the same beauty in them that we see in ourselves. This is true even when we face someone who might otherwise strike us as “not our type.”
To revisit Hafiz, “No one could ever paint/A too wonderful/ picture of my heart/ or God.”
Bill O’Brien is a consciousness coach and shamanic practitioner. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org