“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.” ~ Angeles Arrien
We can collectively feel the loss of soul. It’s palpably cringe-worthy. Our culture reeks of it. Our society moves without it, rigid and machine-like, grinding us through its unforgiving gears.
We’ve inadvertently created a system that praises the independent ego at the expense of the interdependent soul, a system where the majority of people have uninitiated egos that are crushed by a codependence on a profoundly unhealthy and unsustainable state.
The uninitiated, so far removed from feeling, cannot even fathom a regaining of the soul (let alone soul-work), and they cannot even fathom that they cannot fathom it.
But hope is not lost. Soul lies dormant even within the seemingly soulless. It’s just waiting to be lit. An uninitiated ego is just a caterpillar that hasn’t found its cocoon yet. Shaman’s since time immemorial have known this.
There are methods, soul-tactics and soul-craft, that can trick the ego into falling into the cocoon. There are sacred plants and mysterious entheogens that can be used to trip our caterpillar self into the cocoon.
But perhaps the best strategy is to provide simple but challenging questions that the uninitiated can “answer” for themselves, thus stumbling naturally into the cocoon where soul can be retrieved. The following four questions might be a good place to start.
1.) When did you stop dancing?
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
The ancients knew that nature exhibits a fundamental drive towards equilibrium: Shakti; while it also has a fundamental drive towards change: Shiva. Shakti is the dance. Shiva is the dancer.
Like yin and yang, the dancer and the dance exist as one.
Also, like ego and soul, the dancer and the dance exist as one. What matters is the dance (life / energy / soul / yin / Shakti) must go on. And, lest we give into inertia, atrophy and entropy, the dancer (body / ego / yang / Shiva) must keep dancing.
The problem is fear. Fear keeps the uninitiated ego inert. Fear prevents the caterpillar-self from even seeing the cocoon, let alone the work it will take to become a butterfly. Fear sets up walls around the uninitiated ego to the extent that it cannot even conceive of an energy like Soul.
Whether it’s the fear of retribution from the unhealthy state, the fear of looking like a fool, or the fear of being shunned by our peers, it’s a very real fear that has very real consequences. But, as the Japanese Proverb sates, “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”
So why dance? Why move into new challenging territories when we can just remain still and safe? Why stretch our comfort zone if we’re content with where we’re at? Put simply: Life is why we dance. Life is why we move. Life is why we reject inertia, complacency, apathy, entropy and death. We dance so we can grow. We grow so we can live life to the fullest.
We live life to the fullest so that we can feel the divine energy of Soul moving through us as we challenge ourselves to overcome our previous self. And overcoming ourselves is the essence of the dance. As Barbara Deangelis said, “The journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.”
2.) When did you stop singing?
“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” ~ Voltaire
So you’re in the gutter? Roll over and look up at the stars. Howl at the moon. Open up your throat chakra and let the universe hear your unique-as-your-own-fingerprint song. Rock bottom is a great foundation to begin again.
That’s where our core self is revealed, where our root nature is unmasked, where the ugly ego is allowed to growl and kick and scream and rail at the universe.
Because we’ve got to get that shit out of the way if we’re ever going to be able to touch Soul, let alone harness it into soul-craft.
Once again the problem is fear. Fear keeps the soul from rising up into our voice box. It tampers soul like it tampers our inner-child, suppressing it to no end. Singing is art, and the tiny, woe-is-me, uninitiated ego is scared shitless of art.
Especially art that challenges comfort zones and breaks mental paradigms. Better to just shut down, says the uninitiated ego afraid of individuation. Better to put in ear plugs and curl up into a ball. It’s safer that way. But the soul says “screw that! I want to sing!”
Singing is letting your inner-child whistle despite the surrounding storm. It’s a humming, a vibration of the soul that recalibrates the negative energy of a place into a healthy song. Like dancing, it’s a performance, a rendering of the crucibles and vicissitudes of life through poetic verse before a live audience.
It’s singing, “fuck the audience! I’m going to sing how I want to.” In fact, it’s a life-lyric that only you can sing. The voice box of God is sitting there collecting dust, and all you have to do is pick it up and then have the courage to blow your truth into it. What are you waiting for? Sing!
3.) When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
“Reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” ~ Terence McKenna
We are social creatures who need each other to survive. Similarly, we are storytelling creatures who need stories to survive.
Mashing these two concepts together, we are psychosocial mythologizing creatures who relate to each other through ever-evolving mythological stories.
We seem to have a built-in need for stories and storytelling that cannot be explained by reason. These stories reveal to us secrets of the universe that our pithy rationality and rigid logic simply cannot. They satiate our hunger for meaning and purpose that our science and philosophy cannot compare to.
Soul work and soul-craft are really about changing outdated stories and then being enchanted by new ones. The defining narratives and myths of our unhealthy civilization simply do not work anymore (if they ever did). They don’t resonate anymore. They are anti-nature and thus ecocidal.
We need a new narrative, a new story to tell. We need to tell each other stories of interconnectedness, and then mythologize those stories into an underlying ethos. We need to tell each other stories of balance and health, of moderation and equilibrium, of love and compassion. Heroic stories that transcend money and things-things-things.
Being enchanted by stories is being enchanted by truth, meaning, and purpose. It’s being enchanted by life moving through our unquenchable imaginations. Stories are where the fire that we stole from the gods is allowed to burn fierce in all its glory.
Stories are where the golden elixir that we discovered on our Hero’s Journey is allowed to work its magic. Stories are where the secrets of the universe are decoded into human understanding, where the heart of God is ripped from its cosmic chest and dissected beneath the scalpel of human imagination.
4.) When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.” ~ Rumi
Solitude and meditation. Silence and contemplation. As it turns out, the great loneliness isn’t so lonely, as long as you’re striving soul-centrically despite your ego-centric upbringing. No easy task.
Our ego falsely accuses silence as a lack of something. Coming from our hyperreal cultures hell bent on jackhammering and car-honking itself through the clanking steel and blaring ambulances, it’s no wonder silence seems like something has been taken away from us. But as Anne D. LeClaire said, “Silence is not an absence but a presence.” Indeed.
Out there, away from the things of man, in the deep wilderness, there is a silence so deafening you can hardly hear it.
It reveals to us a vital truth: It’s only when we’re alone with the silence that we realize we are never truly alone.
For all things are connected. A great interdependence is at hand, unfolding itself within an even greater interdependence known as the Great Mystery. God is out there, revealing itself as us, speaking a language older than words; communicating with trees and rivers, mountains and deserts, wolves and the wind.
The truth spoken out there cannot be put into words. It can only be revealed through love. Which is why it is so important to reanimate the soul. Your soul. Out there in the sweet territory of silence, there is a truth that only you can hear. That only you have ears for.
So it must be you who goes out there and listens to it. Be there with it. Find a sacred space, a place that speaks through you, and then simply let it speak. Hear it with the ears of a mythological hero, and then come back and teach us what you heard through your love.
Maybe we’ll understand it, maybe not. Enchant us with your story anyway. Sing your newfound truth anyway. Dance your unique dance anyway. Because you never know whose soul may need reanimating.