Create the Life You Imagine ~ January 2019
My Soul Wants to Lead
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver (1935-2019)
The brilliant and gritty American poet, Mary Oliver, died on January 17th at the age of 83. The Pulitzer prize winning poet was renowned for her love of the natural world and for her ability to touch the ineffable by entering into a deep state of presence with grasshoppers, bears, lilies and snow geese. Her poetry bubbles over with astonishment and awe at the blessings and beauty of this world, concealing the difficulty, challenge and cruelty she experienced in her childhood home. Although she rarely discussed the abuse she experienced as a child, she professed that she found an escape and refuge in the natural world, and her early morning walks with her notebook in hand became both meditation practice and discipline in her life work as a poet and spiritual light.
If we looked solely at the facts of Mary Oliver’s early life, no one would have predicted that a sage of the inner life would emerge from the circumstances of that child’s early life experiences. We have a habit of viewing ourselves and others through the lens of our small self, and by doing so we completely miss the possibility, power and presence of the Soul Self. Our small self gets weighed down by the challenges, difficulties and burdens of our current life conditions, and can’t see around the corner to the deeper possibilities that lie hidden within us, just waiting for our time and attention. Our small self gets buried in the goo of guilt, shame, disappointment and frustration, and operates in ways that often exacerbate the messes we find ourselves in. The voice of our small self tells us that “life isn’t fair, it won’t happen for you, you don’t matter, too bad, so sad, no way out, learn to live with it.” And despite our best efforts to break out of this mindset or to talk our way out of it, the small self is unrelenting in its anxieties and apprehensions and its stories of pain and peril, and the life patterns it creates to survive it all, steal from us the larger possibilities and the higher potentials of our life.
But as we have been discovering, there is another option. We can learn to shift from the limited thinking and madness of our small self to the boundless wisdom of our Soul Self. Our Soul Self, our True Self, lies beyond our life experiences and traumas and is never damaged, jaded, weary or discouraged by the events of our life. It is always and forever connected with the stream of Love that is the operating force of the Universe. It looks for our light and not for our limitations. It reminds us of our wholeness and not of our woundedness. It sees in us the exquisite capacities of our Spirit and not the failings of our small self personalities.
Transformation is not about becoming someone we are not, it’s about unveiling who we really are and always were. The trick of the spiritual life is to stop spinning around in the chaos and insanity of our small self, and to escape to the peace and possibilities that lie waiting in our Soul Self. Mary Oliver used the wisdom of her Soul Self to liberate herself from the trauma and cruelty of her childhood life. Her conditions didn’t immediately change, but she changed the way she was operating within those conditions. Rather than living trapped inside her trauma, she found the escape hatch into her Soul Self, and every day chose to live from that deeper truth that was always present within her. By choosing to live from the power and truth of her Soul Self, Mary Oliver transformed her life, and her work touched the souls of millions of readers and thus transformed the world.