Friday, April 4, 2014

Soul Searching

"Call of the Wild"
-Outside the Desert Retreat House-

Yesterday someone told me that he was hoping to come out here to spend some time in the desert so he could do some "soul searching" before the season of Lent ended. For some reason I was really struck by that one little phrase: "soul searching." I wondered what my online friend meant when he talked about "soul searching?" More than that I wondered how he was going to conduct  his "soul searching" exploration when he came out into the wilderness? 

I think lots of people are on some sort of "soul searching" mission nowadays. Religious people, people who walk a variety of spiritual paths - everyone searching for a more intimate connection with a Divine Presence, a Higher Power.  Even my atheist and agnostic friends talk to me about "soul searching" - drawn to seek a deeper peace, they are also on a "soul searching" journey as they seek some sense of transcendence in their lives. 

I've been doing a good deal of thinking about my own "soul searching" journey.  It occurs to me that I have come to totally re-think what "soul searching" actually means to me.  

In the past I would go off to some retreat house, where especially during the season of Lent, I would spend some days in quiet prayer and silent reflection. In these times, I was the seeker and the searcher.  I would pray that "God" would fill up my soul with the Holy Spirit so I could feel a closer connection. 

As I think about it now, what I was doing was actually quite self-centered. "I" wanted to be filled up with a Higher Power so that "I" could feel comforted, so that "I" could be empowered to do "my" important work.  

I now realize that I had the direction of "soul-searching" completely reversed.  

Some of my favorite poetry comes out of the mystical tradition of Islam. The great Sufi poet, Rumi, has wisely understood what the "soul-searching" journey is really all about:

Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret, 
and in exchange gain the Ocean.
Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honor,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.
Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!

What you seek is seeking you

"Soul-searching" is not about being filled up.  It is a journey of being emptied out, and the desert wilderness is actually quite a wonderful place for a "soul-searching" journey to take place.  

All I need to do is walk a few steps from my house and I find myself at the threshold of the vast, wild, untamed wilderness. I walk there almost every day, but no matter how many times I walk out into the wilderness, I always have the same response. It is just so big and so vast, so borderless that it is just too much to take it all in. 

Whenever I walk out into the wilderness, my very first response is always: "I am not in control."  I always  feel that I am somehow being called out of my "self" - called out by an abiding Holy Presence, a universal energy. My soul is drawn into transcendence- connecting me to that which is greater than me. 

Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An Ocean wooing a drop!

What you seek is seeking you.

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