The Soul-Guided Life: Nurturing Your Divine Presence

Explore the soul-guided life as a journey of spiritual unfolding, where divine grace and self-awareness converge to reveal our inherent divinity.

The journey of the soul begins in the present moment, embracing both the beauty and challenges of life as gateways to a deeper spiritual existence.

What wonder is this…a garden among the flames! —Ibn’Arabi

A Garden Among the Flames! How is that possible? How is it possible to see divine grace, love, peace, beauty, healing, or regeneration—in other words, “a garden”—among the fires of destruction? It is necessary to look beyond appearances and see with the eyes of the heart—which is the way of faith, of living a soul-inspired, soul-guided life.



The Foundation of a Soul-Guided Existence

The soul-guided life always starts right where we are and includes any difficulty we may face. We begin with being present to what is, then open our heart and mind to a spiritually infused vision of possibility. We lift our awareness beyond conditions. We cultivate faith in possibility, then engage in inspired action with trust in the natural process and the supportive presence of divine grace—considering that if we do our part to cooperate, a garden will come forth.

"Wonders happen if we can succeed in passing through the harshest danger; but only in a bright and purely granted achievement can we realize the wonder."

—Rainer Maria Rilke, as translated by Stephen Mitchell

We learn how and when to plant to bring forth our harvest as we prayerfully commit to be instruments of divine love and peace, doing what must be done and never giving up as we tend the garden. This dedicated engagement is “Living the Soul Life”—the 3rd message in this series.

Nurturing the Garden of Spiritual Awakening

I should clarify that we all live the soul life already—because there is no other life! There is only the soul, only the reality of God expressing as everyone and everything. However, it is possible to live without awareness of the soul or with a mistaken or confused idea of the soul.

We can live on the surface of life—believing that we have a soul (or not), or we can live from the depths, realizing that we are the soul and the infinite, omnipresent Reality called God is expressing as us. In either case, the life of the soul remains the same. The soul is unchanging, but the experience of it is profoundly different. The soul life I want to explore with you this morning is the life of becoming by bringing forth our divine power and potential—“the garden among the flames.”

Rilke's Vision of the Soul's Unfolding

Here is a poem by Rilke that beautifully describes the process of the soul unfolding.

As once the winged energy of delight

By Rainer Maria Rilke

(English version by Stephen Mitchell)

As once the winged energy of delight

carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,

now beyond your own life build the great

arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed

in passing through the harshest danger;

but only in a bright and purely granted

achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable

relationship is not too hard for us;

the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,

and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out

until they span the chasm between two

contradictions... For the god

wants to know himself in you.

The Dance with the Divine: Working with Things Indescribable

Being swept along is not enough. We are not satisfied to be driven by conditions, pushed by pain, or pulled by enticement. To live that way is to be unmoored, tossed to and fro by the currents of time and circumstance.

Learn to work with Things in the indescribable relationship. Delving into the secrets of the soul will reveal to you that there is an enlivening power nurturing the universe. We can learn to cooperate with it because we are not separate from it. This cooperation with the Infinite is essential.

Why is it essential? Because God wants to know himself in you (as you). Right where we are, God is. The spiritual path is not “to” a destination but a living “in” experience.

The mystic poet John O’Donohue wrote: If you really live your life to the full, you are activating the presence of God within you.

We know when the presence of God is activated within us because we feel it as a sense of aliveness or buoyancy, a fullness of being. Living the soul life is living from the wholeness of our essential Self.

How do we work with Things in this indescribable relationship? How can we work with Life, work with our essential self, and not against our self?

An answer is given in chapter 6, verse 5 of the Bhagavad Gita:

Lift yourself by your own Self alone, do not degrade or lower yourself, for the Self alone is the friend of oneself, and this self can also be the enemy of oneself.

The Journey of a Soul-Guided Life

Discover how embracing a soul-guided life transcends everyday challenges and opens us to divine presence, nurturing a garden of spiritual growth.


Paths to Embracing the Soul-Guided Life

Here are three ways to be a friend to the Self and support our soul-guided, soul-inspired life.

  1. Realize who you are through spiritual study and self-inquiry;
  2. Discern that because Ultimate Reality (or God) is omnipresent, that reality permeates our life;
  3. Continually encouraging yourself;

From Self-Ignorance to Self-Realization: The Journey Within

Realize who you are through spiritual study and self-inquiry. We all must make the journey from Self-ignorance to Self-knowledge and then Self-realization. The journey is from not knowing who we are or what the soul is to knowing about it, realizing it, and actualizing it by living it.

The Vedic tradition identifies this journey as having three stages:

a. Hearing the truth about the soul, about what we are. Learn about it.

b. Contemplating it. Understand it intellectually and perceive it intuitively.

c. Experiencing it ourselves. Realize it directly. Know it.

Every year at CSE we have blessing of the children. We explain to them that the blessing acknowledges who they already are as spiritual beings, expressions of God. I rejoice when I think about all the children who have participated in the blessings and were given the gift of hearing about the truth of their being at such a young age by their parents and teachers.

As a child, I wanted to know about God and the soul. My parents didn’t tell me about that, not because they didn’t believe in it, but because they didn’t know. They didn’t know the spiritual truth about life, and I knew they did not know. This situation is challenging and puzzling for a child.

But as the poet Rilke put it, “because God wants to know itself in us,” we are impelled on the journey of the soul’s longing to awaken fully and find the truth when and where we can.

The essential insight on the journey of Self-discovery and Self-realization is recognizing God in and as our Life. Then, we take up a daily spiritual discipline—some form of prayer and meditation—that calms the mind and allows us to connect to the divine Self, the Lord of Love, dwelling in our heart. We can then learn to be aware of that Reality permeating all that is--what the mystics have called practicing the presence of God.

Omnipresence in Life: Seeing Through the Surface

The second way to befriend the self is to discern that because Ultimate Reality (or God) is omnipresent, that reality permeates our life. Everyone and everything is of God; nothing is left out. We train our heart and mind to see through changing conditions to the unchanging Reality that is the unfailing, ever-present support. This insight saves us from getting stuck on the surface of things.

We learn to see through conditions to causes. We come to understand how life works, how to cooperate with the Infinite, and “work with Things” through applying natural and spiritual law.

And we learn to see through causes to freedom. Paramahansa Yogananda described liberation as being free to live by the intuitive promptings of the soul rather than the reactive patterns of the mind or emotions. We live freely—not being swept along. Instead, we live in the highest way by cooperating with the Infinite, as God comes to know itself in us.

Befriending the Self: Encouragement and Love

The third part of living the soul life is continually encouraging yourself. Even when we know who we are as spiritual beings and know God as our life, life can still be hard. Difficult things happen; we make mistakes and experience losses and disappointments. Learning to encourage ourselves (to be a friend to our Self, lift ourselves up, not degrade ourselves) and learning to love our Self requires appreciating everything in life (not just the parts we like).

It means accepting ourselves as we are, appreciating our failures, defects of character, and difficulties, and coming to terms with our humanity as well as our divinity – being as we are, “perfectly imperfect.” It means loving ourselves through it all as a divine work in progress. That work in progress is God coming to know itself in us, finding ways to be revealed through us.

Remember Leonard Cohen’s lyric: Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.

Living the Soul Life: The Ongoing Process of Spiritual Unfolding

Living the soul-guided life is a process, not a destination. Self-acceptance is a foundation for learning how to live skillfully. As long as we reject or degrade ourselves, we cannot learn what we need to know to live a soul-inspired life.

Life is full of wonderous grace; we only need to develop our capacity to recognize it. Sometimes, that capacity requires patience and faith, and always, the love that sustains both. No matter the situation, the solution is this: go straight to the goal—reconnect with your divine Self, open your heart to the Infinite, and live the soul life.

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Explore the soul-guided life as a journey of spiritual unfolding, where divine grace and self-awareness converge to reveal our inherent divinity.

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