As the old saying goes: in this life, no one gets out alive.
I have my own version of this: in this life, no one gets out without a few stains on their soul.
We come into this world innocent and unblemished, joyful little sponges of wonder and potential, and as our lives go on we are forced to deal with the sheer magnitude and complexity of being alive. Through this crazy predicament of floating through infinity as mortals and finite specks of consciousness, we will inescapably suffer in ways that shake us to our very core.
The clear slate of our child’s mind becomes muddled and tainted through life’s trials, making our hearts feel hardened and weary.
We all have stains on our soul…some deeper and darker than others.
Now, every good inquiry starts with a question, and the question I’ve been thinking about is, “How can we clean the stains off our souls, our damaged minds, and our broken hearts, without resorting to childish and neurotic behavior?”
That’s a big question, man.
I can only say how I approach the problem, and the first thing for me has always been to start by admitting that I am vulnerable.
My humanity makes me susceptible to being hurt, both within and without. I’m sure I’ve had experiences in my early childhood that created neurotic habits and pathological tendencies, conflicting with my capacity to be present and attentive in my daily life. But the path to wellness begins by admitting that we are in desperate need of healing, that we have stains on our souls that are in need of being cleaned off.
The next step is shadow work—looking at the parts of ourselves that we usually like to neglect, such as our emotional stress, reactionary thinking, penchant for interpersonal conflict, conflict avoidance, and poor self-esteem.
There are aspects of our personality that operate unconsciously, often because they are born of pain. The right way to expand our perception in a way that heals these damaged parts of who we are is to willingly face and accept our shadow side.
When we observe ourselves in action, without fear of what we might stumble upon, we learn something about ourselves that will be relevant in our healing process. And in my experience, self-knowledge is innately healing.
The last step for when I’m really feeling overwhelmed by the stains on my soul—my shadow, my baggage—is to organize the conversation that is taking place in my head.
If I can create a healthy dialogue between the multiple parts of myself, the voices in my mind that seem to embody different pieces of my personality, then everything seems to flow in unison. Instead of beating myself up mentally, the voices seem to work together for a common goal: to stop suffering.
We tend to have two prevalent voices moving around in our skulls, which I call the judge and the victim. These are the two pieces of our ego—the one that makes us feel bad for not being good enough and the one that plays the victim because we’ve had it so tough. I like to play a little game with myself where I pay attention to both voices and recognize that they are both me. I don’t give either persona too much importance, I just watch them closely from the standpoint of a passive observer and objectively try to determine if what they’re saying is true. When I do this, the ego becomes less important and the essence of who I am—my soul—seems to come to the surface.
I find these three steps to be really helpful: acknowledging the ever-present need to heal myself, not being afraid to look at my shadow side, and improving the dialogue in my mind by simply standing back and watching it unfold.
We all have stains on our souls; this comes with being human. What matters is how we clean them off, the steps we take to overcome our own limitations, and how we honor the better angels of our nature. We have the power to change our lives. We have the inborn capacity to navigate our consciousness through profound hardship and orient ourselves toward the highest good.
All it takes is a little effort, a touch of humility, and a lot of heart.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Mohammad Faruque/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina