As this is a conclusion I have only fully come to realise, recognise and understand through the experience of living in my own skin, I thought the easiest way to explain it would be to personalise it. Although what I write here is very personal, I'm hoping it might just resonate with others who are in a similar place to me....
Being Human/Human Being
For most of my life I have been aware that as well as having multi faceted personalities, human beings are also composed of, and operate on, a number of different energetic levels. It's easy to recognise and understand the physical, mental and emotional aspects of being human - and I known how important it is to keep these aspects as balanced as possible. However, I have often struggled to understand why my inner self (soul, spirit, essence?) seems to be pulling me in so many different directions. This has never been more apparent to me than during the last ten years or so - a time during which I have made a commitment to dedicate my time and energy to help raise awareness of the important environmental, ethical and ecological issues facing planet Earth and its inhabitants at this moment in time.
I imagined, rather naively, that once I had made this commitment, the way forward would be obvious. But it hasn't been. In fact quite the opposite; I have found myself absolutely torn between...
'getting out there to learn and share as much as I can, with as many people as possible, about how they/we can all be the change'
'staying quietly at home, living the lowest impact life I possibly can, and 'being the change' all by myself'.
As there is no reason why these two ways shouldn't be mutually inclusive I have attempted to follow both paths at the same time. But this has not made for an easy life. It has at best caused some degree of inner conflict (not to mention confusion) and at times has resulted in me feeling I am in danger of losing my sense of direction. Which is not good!
So what have I got wrong - and what's it all got to do with spirit and soul???
Being a Busy Bee
Until recently I have spent most of my waking hours traveling from A to B, meeting people, doing talks (mostly about bees!), campaigning, writing articles and blog posts, sharing information on social networks and generally buzzing with energy and the extraordinary life force that comes with knowing you are following your chosen path. This is all fine on one level, because I absolutely LOVE doing what I do, but it's not really sustainable. It leaves me little time for friends and family, even less time for myself, and is, ironically, pulling me away from the very path I write and talk about. I know that if I don't find a way to bring some balance back to my life I'm in serious danger of losing touch with all that I hold sacred.
A few years ago, in an attempt to find a way to recharge my batteries and stay in touch with that which nurtures and sustains me, I came up with the idea of going 'Off-grid' on Sundays. I've written a few blog posts about this so won't go into any detail about it in this post, but basically it means that from Saturday evenings till Monday mornings I try to 'switch off' - both literally and figuratively.
The idea is that after spending 24 hours or so without using electricity, gas, car, mobile, computer, car money etc - and having used this time to immerse myself in nature, I'm ready to start afresh all over again on Monday morning. And it works!
It is typical of human beings that we don't always notice ourselves losing our balance. Our bodies give us warning signs (sleepless nights, headaches, lowered immune systems etc) but we have become past masters at ignoring and overriding these signals.
For the last five years or so I have been promising myself a little break, but I never actually get around to taking one. As I've already mentioned, I absolutely love what I do so it doesn't feel like work, as such - BUT - I am extremely aware that I'm treading a very thin line and that if something new, difficult or unexpected is added to the pot, I could easily fall over.
So, bearing all this in mind, and given the fact that this is a great time of year for reflection and inner spring cleaning, I recently took some time out from 'doing' and spent it instead just 'being.' I had no preconceived idea what I would do with this time out and, as it happened, I spent most of it sleeping. But, with rest comes clarity and, for me, this clarification came in the form of an awareness of the difference between spirit and soul....
My spirit is full of passion, joy, anger, rhythm, life, wonder... It is the spirit of an activist, a communicator, an explorer, an adventurer and a pioneer. It wants to be free, to be wild... to walk the hills, to dance on the moon, to swim amongst the stars, to play, to sing, to love, to laugh... and to stand, arms outstretched, on the highest mountain top in the world and ROOOAAAAAR for the Earth!
For reasons unknown to me, my spirit has lain dormant for most of my life... hiding in the shadows whilst life's ups and downs have formed my human self into what I am today. Since it has made itself known though, it will not be repressed and fills me with boundless energy so that I, in my human form, may fulfil its aims.
I can hear my spirit speak as I write this blog post. It says.....
"Tell how I shine! Explain how I hold the key - AM the key - to some of the most amazing, vast, untapped source of energy in the universe and how - if you allow me - I will shine my light so brightly that darkness will be no more!"
My soul is quieter than my spirit....much, much quieter. It yearns for peace, solitude, a sense of place and a deeper connection with the earth. It is my anchor; utterly steadfast and constant as it nurtures and sustains me whilst it, in turn, seeks to be nurtured and sustained by nature and by source. In line with what I recognise to be the most basic needs of my soul, I have been drawn to spend more and more time outside in nature. When I am at one with nature I quickly become lost in time, invisible to the world and completely absorbed in the moment. It feels like I have come 'home'.
Sensing, at last, that I have 'Come Home' is the most amazing feeling for me. Having spent my entire life moving from home to home, never living in the same place for longer than four years, and mostly for less than two - I have never before had such a sense of 'place'. The problem recently though, has been that it feels so wonderful to have this newfound sense of place that I find it increasingly difficult to come back to the world of campaigning....
So, you see, I have been torn between my soul's deep, primal craving to just 'be' and my spirit's burning, driven desire to 'act'. At times it has sometimes felt like I'm two different people living in the same body, but now that I understand - I have regained my inner peace once more and know exactly what I must do.
It's simple.... I must nurture my soul because it is the core of my very being - and - I must nurture my spirit because it is the essence of who I am. Most importantly I must make enough time to honour the needs of both in equal measures.
So, as the future gallops towards us with all its magnificent unknowns, I know that by honouring and fulfilling the needs of both 'spirit' and 'soul' - in equal measures - I will reinforce my inner strength and be ready to take on whatever the universe has in mind for me!
I hope, whoever you are, that you also find your own peace and strength to sustain you through these incredibly challenging times - and that our souls/spirits/beings/selves all meet as one to rise to those challenges.
I just want to add that what I have written here is personal to me and my own world view. I know that many people believe there is no such thing as 'soul' or 'spirit' and I fully respect these views
With much love,
Update. Dec 2014, 3 years after I wrote this blog post: Until earlier this year the Off-Grid Sunday routine worked beautifully for me on every level, but I needed a bit of a 're-think' for a number of practical reasons.
1. I am increasingly getting bookings to deliver workshops on Sundays.
2. I am fortunate enough to be in a wonderful, loving new relationship and am no longer living on my own. I don't feel it is right to ask someone else to live by my precepts when they have family who they need to see and communicate with on Sundays.
3. My father died earlier this year and I am now responsible for caring for my mother who is elderly and disabled. I don't live in the same house as my mother, so wouldn't want to switch my phone off in case she needed me.
However….. as Sundays are no longer completely my own, I find time during the week to switch off and connect with the wild world instead. I am also increasingly taking whole chunks of time out to refresh and revitalise. I still struggle to get the balance right. I guess that's because I'm human :)