The author contemplates the meaning of the year gone by in a unique way that allows his mind to open to the new year’s possibilities.
- by James Inabinet
I have found that reflection and resolution work best when the “right energy” is brought to bear. Place matters, and the best places seem to be natural – like a forest, beach, or park – a place that offers some sense of solitude and yet remains in and among the other.
In such a place, I begin by not reflecting at all, but by “building energy.” The required energy seems most abundant when I am able to bring my spirit and soul into communion. Soul and spirit are vibrational aspects of person. When these work together, a person begins to experience a sense of rightness, a sense of flow; things seem to be clicking. That’s the energy I want to bring into a new year.
What is the difference between spirit and soul? That’s a very old topic of debate, yet what I have come to understand is that, though distinct, they are not separate. Soul and spirit overlap and interpenetrate and are essentially one thing. I separate them for the sake of discussion.
In alchemy (yes, the “lead turning into gold” thing), spirit was associated with the element “air,” to the breath that breathes life into. The air of spirit enlivens, animates, inspires. Like air, spirit cannot be observed directly and is known more for what it does than what it is. We watch air move the tops of the trees but not the air itself.
Spirit is like that. Associated with mind and thought, it seeks order and clear distinctions, ever moving straight and upward. Brought to bear through concentration and meditation, spirit vivifies, bringing energy into what we do.
Soul, associated with the element “water,” is the “I” of oneself, capricious feelings and sensations flowing hither and thither like water. It’s our inner reality as experienced, and there’s nothing linear and upward about it. Soul meanders and advances, moves upward and back, takes everything in no matter how reasonable. Watery soul is a never-ceasing flow of impressions and urges, memories and fantasies – fears. To “make” soul, one must attend closely to experience.
At the conjunction of spirit and soul, meaning is found – meaning in what we do, in the sum of our lives, in relationships. When meaning is experienced, abundant energy arises in us that can be brought to bear in the world so that we may become and be ourselves. All of this requires reflection (spirit) and attending to experience (soul).
To aid in my journey to meaning through a conjoining of soul and spirit, I made an anhinga effigy rattle to use as a sacramental to facilitate the process, especially in the beginning. An anhinga is a bird that is just as comfortable swimming underwater as flying in air and is thus a threshold being between air and water, and symbolically, between spirit and soul.
To initiate soul-making, I get comfortable in a favorite forest spot and close my eyes. The rattle shakes. Following the sound, I try to imagine myself, feel myself swimming underwater like an anhinga. My whole body undulates; cold water rushes by my face as I meander and turn, this way and that.
Continuing with the rattle, I get up and walk around, spontaneously making up a chant that pertains to this now experience. “I am walking here.” “Look at that rotting stump.” “It’s got a big old fungus hanging off the side.” “There’s a bush behind it, green and brown.” “Pine straw straddles its limbs ... etc.”
After a while, I sit down again to get quiet without the rattle and rest. Then, I begin the rattle again to “make room” for spirit (it ever pushes upward). Following the sound, I now try to feel myself flying in the air, the breeze blowing past my face. The air is cool; I can see forever. The more completely I embody the energy of the anhinga, the better this process works.
Continuing to follow the sound, I let my “mind screen” go black and think of nothing. If something intrudes, I allow it to move through, then back to nothing. Only now do I stop rattling and open my eyes to spend a moment thinking about my life and what it means, following anything that comes up. Through spirit, inspiration arises.
If I receive anything at all, I write it down but only what it is, not what it means. Now I begin to reflect in a way that makes soul by sticking to experience, about what happened this past year and how I felt at the time. Anything received is again noted, maybe written down. Now I get quiet again to allow space for inspiration to arise.
I have found that if this is done faithfully, back and forth – spirited meditation and soulful reflection – spirit and soul may move into a communion that can lead to a profound sense of meaning and to an understanding of the past, accompanied by energetic resolve. It takes more than thinking and reason to gather energy and passion enough to make progress in the enacting of one’s humanity.
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