By David Benner
No one can satisfactorily make either the human or the spiritual journey alone. We all need soul friends and spiritual companions. One of the reasons for this has to do with the nature of the human soul and spirit. Bodies are substantial – often much more substantial than we desire! But souls and spirits are ephemeral and insubstantial. In fact, they are so insubstantial that they often seem not even to be there. Witness the many people who develop a strange look on their faces when you talk about taking care of your soul or nurturing a broken spirit.
Sensing this essential lightness of our inner being we tend to feel vulnerable when we recognize the spaciousness and emptiness that accompanies it. Sometimes it triggers outright terror. Our default defense in the face of this is to grasp onto our ego since it appears to have more substance. But unfortunately, not only is that substance more apparent than real, strengthening our ego in this way restricts our freedom, diminishes our lightness of being and distances us from the soulful and spiritual dimensions of our existence.
Spirit and soul each call us in what appears to be different directions but when each journey is followed faithfully we see that it fully includes the other. Soul calls us down and into our experience and the world while spirit calls us up and beyond to the transcendent horizon of our existence. However, followed deeply, each journey leads to the other. But because of the insubstantiality of our essential self we easily ignore the call from our depths to purse these journeys.
This is why we need soul friends and spiritual companions. We need them to help us attend and respond to the messages from our depths. Communities or individuals may play both roles and assist us in the development of our inner self. In some seasons of life we need to attend to our spirits while at other points our souls will come into ascendency.
Soul friends and spiritual companions need to be sensitive to this. Not only do they need to help us pay attention to our inner life and the calls that emerge from within it they also need to be able to help us notice when we are using one journey – often the spiritual – to avoid doing the essential work of the other – typically the soulful.
The outer life may be lived with some degree of success simply through willpower and rugged individualism but the inner life demands accompaniment that holds us and forms our spirits and souls within wombs of love.
Where do you presently find this accompaniment, and how adequate is it at this stage of your journey? Often friends and communities of support meet our needs at one point of the journey and not another. Notice the tension this produces as you “outgrow” communities or relationships and struggle to let go in the way that is needed to live the truth of your being.