2. Explore the nature of your ego
If your Soul is your True Nature, your ego is your false self: it’s the mask you present to the world. Your ego is much like a cloud. It appears to have form, but it changes and morphs constantly.
Question: have you ever noticed that you put on different roles with different people? Yep. That’s your ego in action – it’s not solid, and essentially, it’s a misrepresentation of who you really are.
Unfortunately, our ego genuinely believes it is who we really are. Because it’s so convinced that it’s real, it will reject any attempt to dismantle it because it perceives that as a death threat. And so, growth of any kind is extremely difficult because the ego is always trying to protect itself.
As we can see, exploring the nature of your ego (and learning to gently see through it) is a crucial step in your soul-searching journey. In fact, it’s the single biggest block to tasting and embodying who you really are.
Some ways to explore your ego include:
- Journaling – writing down your thoughts, self-beliefs, habits, likes, hates, and so on
- Self-inquiry – asking constantly “who am I?” and see what changes, fades, or dies (these are your ego elements); paradoxically, we discover who we are by seeing who we are not.
- Meditation – learning how to witness your thoughts and the stories constructed by the mind
These three simple practices can have a tremendous impact on your ability to see clearly and experience the truth of who you really are.
3. Reconnect with your child self
As author and psychotherapist, Dr. Neal Marshall Goldsmith writes:
The soul … is this part of us that is the earliest, deepest, and the most authentic part of us.
Your inner child carries the original qualities of your Soul that you were born with. And thankfully, it’s not that difficult to reconnect with your inner child.
I’ve written a lot about inner child work on this website in the past, but to summarize, here are a few ways to tap into your childhood self:
- Write a letter to your inner child
- Do an inner child visualization (there are many for free on youtube)
- Look at pictures of your inner child
- Do something your inner child loved to do when you were little
Approach these activities gently. Make observations about your younger self: did s/he smile more? Was she more in touch with emotions? Did she seem more curious and creative? Reflect on the you now and the you then. What qualities from your inner child can you integrate more into your life?
4. Reflect, introspect, and visualize
Soul searching is an inwards adventure. Therefore, the practices and steps you take toward finding your inner Center will often require reflection and introspection. Visualization enhances these two qualities and helps you to retrieve knowledge and guidance through the power of imagination.
Poet and philosopher, Mark Nepo, shares a beautiful visualization in his book The Book of Awakening:
Close your eyes and breathe your way beneath your troubles, the way a diver slips to that depth of stillness that is always waiting beneath the churning of the waves.
Now, consider two things you love doing, such as running, drawing, singing, bird-watching, gardening, or reading.
Meditate on what it is in each of these that makes you feel alive.
Hold what they have in common before you, and breathing slowly, feel the spot of grace these dear things mirror within you.
This example of reflection, introspection, and visualization is perfect for soul searching as it gets you in touch with your basic aliveness: the essence of your Soul. You can listen to or create any visualization that appeals to you, just make sure it’s Soul-centered.
5. Connect with nature and the wildness within you
Nature is tremendously healing and revivifying to the human Soul. We often think of ourselves as separate from nature. We’re human and “above” nature, after all, right? Wrong. We’re an inseparable part of nature. Our blood, bones, hair, skin, and entrails are all stuff of the earth: animalistic, carnal, corporeal.
Despite centuries of domestication, the human Soul still retains its innate, fundamentally wild nature. We are not wild in the sense of ‘uncontrollable’ or ‘feral,’ but wild in the sense that the Center of our Being can’t fully be tamed: it is essentially free. We are, at our core, all free spirits. We see this in moments of heroism, in the primal screams of childbirth, in the grunts of lovemaking, and the belly-deep laughs of mirth.
To get in touch with our basic wildness, our inner wolf, is to unite with a fundamental quality of the Soul – and that can easily be rediscovered in the domain of nature.
It’s not difficult or taxing to reconnect with nature. All it requires is just a couple of minutes a day outside, mindfully observing the trees, the animals, the clouds, and the sun rays beaming through the clouds. If you’re lucky enough to live close to a natural reserve, you might like to practice the Japanese art of Forest Bathing or take a blanket and have a picnic.
If you’re in the city, there’s still the opportunity to connect with nature. Go to the local park, listen to the sounds of nature on your phone, buy a potted plant. When your heart is open, there are endless ways for nature to creep, dig, weave, and sprout its way into your life.