Excerpted from her book:
Kabbalah of Prayer ~ Sacred Sounds and the Soul's Journey
As I wrote in the first part of this article, the Kabbalah has a very specific view of the soul. Each soul is unique and one of a kind and each soul is on a very special journey here on earth.
Journeying back to the One, our life is our lesson plan. It is designed to give us the opportunity to address unresolved issues from past incarnations, as well as fulfill commandments we have failed to honor.
Understanding that life's challenges are actually meant to be opportunities for spiritual growth and the awakening of our higher soul, we respond to them differently. Instead of feeling angry or victimized, we are able to ask: "What is this difficult person, or challenging circumstance meant to teach me?"
Sometimes, in the midst of our greatest challenges, we can sense our Neshamah, our higher soul, calling out to us. In these moments, when we listen very carefully, it is as if God is whispering in our ear. For the most part, however, we are unaware of this hidden treasure within. It is a treasure that lies quiet and dormant, until we are guided through study, intention, yearning, and prayer to awaken it.
In contrast, every human being is born with a fully awake and engaged Nefesh or animal soul. This part of us is highly intelligent, emotional and resourceful. The main goals of our animal soul are survival in the physical sense, and taking care of our wants and bodily desires. To our animal soul, everything is food, to be consumed, digested, enjoyed, hoarded, and fought over.
The animal soul lives in struggle and battle, some of it with outside forces and much of it in a self-created civil war between the various aspects of our personality and desires. On this level of our being, we are constantly on the alert, continually caught between seeking pleasure and fleeing pain. We think only of our power and powerlessness relative to the physical world around us.
Living on the level of our animal soul, our perception of ourselves rests with the external roles we perform and how successfully we perform them. We identify completely with our day to day accomplishments and failures. We rejoice in our preferences and opinions, our loves and our hatreds, and think of our worldly achievements as defining who we are. The result is that for years we can fail to notice that our material successes do not provide a sense of abiding completeness and in fact often feed its opposite, an underlying loneliness and despair.
For many, this is essentially the sum total of what is, in fact, a very limited existence. This is not to say that such a life is simple or uninteresting. On the contrary, it can be complex, colorful, and quite absorbing. It is, however, in an ultimate sense, empty, unrewarding and permeated by fear of loss.
Each one of us, living only on the level of our animal soul, experiences this emptiness and longs for something more. However, at this early stage in our soul's journey we are literally trapped animals. Our longing for completion simply drives our animal soul to search ever more desperately for fulfillment in the only places it knows--in the external world of things like careers, friends, lovers, spouses, physically fit bodies, ever increasing numbers of material possessions, and ever more pleasurable physical experiences.
As long as we live our life only on the level of our animal soul, stalking the perimeter, ever on guard, the possibilities inherent in our Neshamah, our higher soul, will elude us. This includes all perception and experience of the upper worlds. Our activities are therefore little more than simply moving around the furniture in our cage. What is called for, instead, is to open the cage door and to walk free.
This freedom begins with our yearning for something more. Perhaps we are worn down by sorrow and the cycle of longing and loss. We may have a brush with death, become bored with our toys, or find that our worldly successes suddenly lack meaning. Perhaps a vision takes hold, or we may find a teacher or a teacher may find us. Whatever the reason, driven by the whispering of our higher soul, our yearning causes us to begin to search in earnest for what we have forgotten. At this point the study of Kabbalah, under the direction of a knowledgeable teacher, can be extraordinarily helpful.
When we fully awaken our higher soul we live in a place of surrender, embraced by God; we neither cling to the past, nor wait upon the future, since our higher soul resides in a timeless world. In this awakening, concepts and ideas about how things should be fall away. Our higher soul understands that what belongs to us comes to us, and therefore it feels neither pride nor resentment. It simply recognizes our individual place in the nature of things.
Unlike our animal soul that fears for itself and its future, constantly alert to the worldï¿½s countless dangers, the Neshamah, the higher soul, fears nothing. Its connection with the body and the ego is of an entirely different order since it carries with it the knowledge that physical death is not the end.
At the level of our higher soul, feelings exist deep within the moment, to be experienced in the now; we laugh with complete abandon and weep profoundly. The rewards of living at the level of our higher soul are the rewards of a life fully lived. We no longer turn to others with the expectation that they will repay us with things such as love, appreciation, or money. We thereby allow others to be genuinely free. Sensing that there is no price tag attached to our friendship, people gather around us for the sweetness of our energy, to bathe in the radiance that surrounds and imbues us.
As our higher soul awakens, the constructs of our personality invariably begin to loosen. In many cases, the awakening is experienced much like an earthquake. As the old ground beneath us falls away, our relationships alter as we stop participating in the old ways, for they cannot bear the scrutiny of our new awareness.
While it may appear to us that in this awakening we are becoming something different, we are actually becoming more ourselves, as our animal soul assumes its proper place. Each and every thing we lose is replaced by something much stronger and much greater, and we come to understand the words of scripture: "Those who cling to the Lord God, have eternal life in the present."
When our higher soul awakens, we still exist on an earthly plane and share in the pleasures and sorrows of the physical, even as we dwell with the angels and partake of the higher worlds. We continue to have the same physical obligations and the same need to tend to the body. We still have to eat, sleep, and breathe. What is different is the level of our consciousness, and hence we have an entirely different relationship to these needs. In this transformation, everything is the same, yet everything changes. As the Buddhists say: "Before enlightenment, chop the wood, carry the water; after enlightenment chop the wood, carry the water."
©2005 Shulamit Elson
SHULAMIT ELSON teaches the spiritual path of Kabbalah worldwide, to students from varied backgrounds & traditions. She is, also, a pioneer in the use of the sacred sounds of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life for spiritual development, prayer and healing. Author of Kabbalah of Prayer ~ Sacred Sounds and the Soul's Journey, she has also created CDs: Beyond Words ~ The Sounds of the Kabbalah and Vibration ~ Shulamit & the Drepung Gomang Buddhist Monks.
Shulamit is a frequent lecturer throughout the U.S. and at SoulSongs, her retreat center in upstate NY. www.SoulSongs.com