Rue Anne Hass, M.A.
I like simple and profound the best. Here is a way I have used the NLP tool of Perceptual Positions to elicit what we might call a person’s Soul Dream. We could think of the Soul Dream as the dream that our life shapes itself around, the inner longing that calls each of us to be here in this life.
This is a story that illustrates how I use this tool in my counseling/coaching/spiritual life-path work that I call Intuitive Mentoring. You might also do this for yourself!
Recently I saw a client whom I have been working with for quite awhile, who has a degenerative spinal disease, a form of scoliosis. She has been in a wheelchair for about 25 years. She is in her 40’s, a bright, creative woman who has done a lot of interesting things in her life. She has also had some huge challenges, such as emotionally abusive family, severe dyslexia, depression. She has taken some incredibly brave actions, like jumping out of an airplane strapped to a skydiving instructor, only to have him misjudge his skills and land on top of her, breaking both her legs. She does a lot of public work around disability rights, and she is a mediator and an instructor for an emotional development program that does self-esteem training.
We have done lots of deep identity level work. I have learned a great deal from her, both about disability and about human identity. I discovered early on that the main fuel for most of her life has been anger, anger at her family, insensitive teachers, other kids, doctors, life itself, and above all, anger at her body. She hates going down the street in her wheelchair and seeing people who can walk but who don’t take care of their bodies. In her mind, if she could only get up and walk, all of her problems would be solved. She has spent her life seeking healing. She has gone to all manner of doctors, and does a great deal of work with alternative healers.
Healing, to her, means having a straight spine and being able to walk. Anything short of this means defeat, failure and low self worth. Interestingly, we have been able to shift her off of anger as a motivating life force — but then she found that she had no will to live, no energy for life.
In my mind, our work all along has been about reframing the meaning to her of having a “dis-abled” body. She has a set-up equation that is going nowhere: She can’t love her body because it is disabled. Therefore she cannot love herself. She understands this, but keeps coming back to the old story, though with less anger than she used to have. I have used all the work I know how to do with her. Every time we come close to something deep, she actually falls into a kind of unconsciousness/sleep. Sometimes she can’t be roused enough to go on with the session. But usually we manage to work our way around it, or use it as a trance state.
One strategy that I have had, and keep coming back to in various ways, is seeking something that she could do in the world that would use everything she knows, all her experience and wisdom, to share with other people, in a way that would foster in her the kind of sense of worth and sovereignty that comes from within. It is tricky, because the Catch-22 of public assistance is that she can’t make too much money or she will lose the assistance, and the work that she could do won’t make her enough to cover all the attendant care she needs. So she can’t really develop meaningful life work that supports her. The other interesting aspect of her resistance, I have realized, is that if she gives up assistance to live in, say, a nursing or group home, she will have to give up the quasi-social life complete with ready “friends” that attendant care offers. To say nothing of giving up a lot of attention.
I have always thought she could teach inner emotional/spiritual coping skills to others with disabilities. But she shies away from that because it would mean accepting, in some deep way, her own disability. Accepting that she has this body.
In our recent session she was talking about having gone to her physical therapist who basically told her that no matter what she does, “gravity is winning,” and her body is collapsing in on itself as her spine collapses, and there is nothing she can do. Nice work, PT. That reminded her of a doctor many years ago who said that if she didn’t have spine surgery, which had a 50% change of killing her, and would be debilitating in other life-limiting and threatening ways, her spine wouldn’t collapse! Talk about a double bind… In both cases she just gave up. Why struggle? Why bother? Why try to eat healthy, exercise, take care of her, why live at all?
She has been gaining weight, and is having a hard time finding attendants who can lift and transfer her from her wheelchair. She says, “Now I just eat for pleasure and rebellion against having this body and this life, and having worked so hard, and it didn’t matter.” This first position place of anger and self-hatred and victim-ness is where she usually lives.
I asked her a question that lives in me too: “So, if your soul is dreaming this life of yours as a way to bring something specific to the earth, what would it be?” The question itself threw her into an altered state, and she said right away, “Living out this body to understand its limits.”
I asked her to imagine that she was the Soul of the World. I didn’t specify what I meant by this, just said it. Even though she has had a basic distrust of spirituality and is “angry with God” for giving her this body, she trusts me and over time has become more open to my use of weird statements like this.
I asked her to BE the Soul of the World. To imagine, as the world, “calling to herself” the life forms and patterns and energies that she needed, in order to grow and expand and deepen and fully open toward what the world was meant to be, sort of in the same way that a person might take on an intention to evolve, and draw to her or himself the experiences that would catalyze evolution in that direction.
As the soul of the world, I asked, what was her purpose in calling this particular being, this woman with these challenges of physical disability, anger, self-hatred? What would a world want from incarnating a being like this? How could a world benefit from having her here?
She said slowly, thoughtfully, “It has something to do with a network, a connection, crossing paths with other beings, being a delivery vessel. It is about waking people up, opening them. I get to make people’s perspective better.” She doesn’t usually speak this way. She says these ideas, but with anger. This was softer, a spilling out of possibilities.
As she was talking I realized I had an image forming in my mind of her spine, S-curving in on itself. I was thinking about how her life–issue, her soul dream, was really focused around finding a purpose, a way of standing up for herself even though she cannot stand physically. Seeking a support, a spine, in fact. She had all of her life been looking for a “spine” outside herself in a belief system, a healing modality, a kind of work, a healer or therapist. Looking for something to make her life worth living. But unconsciously, her deepest positive intention sought a way to stand spiritually, from within.
I thought of what my favorite mystic/spiritual teacher/mentor/father of four David Spangler has said about this sense of Standing:
How simple an act, yet how profound.
Standing embodies that inner act through which we move to a co-creative boundary between order and chaos–or for that matter, to any co-creative boundary between two or more different states of being.
Consider that when I stand, I immediately place myself in jeopardy of falling. When I am lying down, I do not fear that I will fall to the ground. I am already there! But standing puts me precariously on two feet and two legs up above the earth. Falling is now possible. When I stand, I am at the boundary between falling (chaos) and uprightness (order). I cannot take standing for granted in the way I can being prone. Standing requires work; my muscles are active holding me upright. It demands attention and balance on my part. I am engaged with my world in a way I am not when I am lying down. There is a dynamic tension here that is co-creative, filled with energy.
When I stand, I put myself into a relationship with the world that is energetic, risky, and co-creative. When I stand in my individuality, I also place myself into a similar relationship with the world.
Standing is a profound spiritual act. It manifests our inner power, our inner grace, our inner alignment and balance. It is a foundational act, from which other acts of movement and manipulation can emerge. It is Spirit, the sacred, taking form.
Standing is a miracle.
If we can fully appreciate all that is involved, all that is invoked and evoked, just by this simple act, we might not need any other spiritual exercise. Just to stand is to be in the presence of sacredness and to claim our participation in an emerging cosmos.
—David Spangler, “Standing in Mystery,” online class text
I began to tell her about an exercise that I had done in a class with David, part of an apprenticeship training. He had asked us to go out and find a staff, a piece of wood, large or small, twig or trunk, something that spoke to us, called us to it.
This staff, he said, represents the dream of life incarnating into the physical. It holds within itself the most ancient of stories, clouds of stellar gasses and dust, transforming into a vessel that can hold life. It is not just a portal into the dreams of the plant it came from, but into the soul of the world itself. It represents the whole world. The staff is a reminder that we are part of the earth, we are the earth, we are rooted here, the soul of the earth incarnated through us.
The staff is a symbol of the spine. Both physically and symbolically the spine enables us to be upright, to stand, to stand up for ourselves, to take a stand, to stand out. It is a metaphor for our personal sovereignty.
Having found our staff, we had done certain exercises and work to charge it with our own personal soul dream, used it in blessing others and in receiving their blessing.
Then I talked a bit about how we envisioned taking this charged, powerful personal staff into our own bodies, into our own very spine, and experienced it standing there, ourselves Standing as the staff connecting body and soul, earth and heaven, the sacred.
The staff as Standing to honor my individuality, my personality, my specific human life. I could see the wheels turning in her as I talked about reframing her perspective on standing.
With a flash of intuition I said, “This would be a powerful workshop for people with spine problems! You could teach it! I could help.”
Suddenly she whirled her wheelchair around to her computer, opened a new document, and typed, in big, bold letters: “THE SPINE WORKSHOP — Create Your Staff of Life.”
She was seeing herself now from an objective observer position, visioning herself doing something powerful, evocative, expressive. Using her disability as a staff, in fact, a positive creative spiritual tool, instead of a stick to flog herself with.
It is too soon to say how this experience will affect her over time. But it certainly gives me a new foundation to build upon in our work together, and that vision of herself doing something in the world with a powerful purpose can’t help but have a cascading effect in her life.
It is a good question, that one about “What is your Soul Dream?”…. And going into being the World and imagining inviting your own Self to come to be part of Life here. What does the world want you for? You know, the World can’t be fully and completely itself without the transformation that YOU bring.
Here is how you might work with this question within yourself or with a client:First, be in your own body; take a moment to just be in your life, doing what you do, going where you go, feeling your usual responses to people and events, both positive and negative as you live your life in the World.
Let a part of you drift out of you and off to the side, and in an Observer Position, watch yourself, without judgement, move through your life.
Drift up to a higher overview, and take the position of a wise mentor, a guardian angel, a “higher self.” Look through the eyes of someone who knows your weaknesses and your strengths, and completely loves you, wants only the best for you, honors and respects you. Ask this question: What is the Soul Dream of this person that I am watching? What is the deepest yearning that shapes this person’s life?
Find yourself floating down now, and in some way that feels right and is appropriate for you, imagine that you are becoming the World itself. Take a moment to appreciate this perspective.
Now, imagine that you can sense something of the consciousness of the world as if it were an evolving being itself, a citizen of its own community in the cosmos, with challenges of its own, yet filled with a powerful, loving, willing intention to learn how to integrate all of its richness and dramatic diversity into a harmonious symphony.
Be the World, and watch that “human identity” going through life. Imagine that you, the World, are calling that person purposefully to you, to be part of you, to incarnate here in order to express the specific quality or story that is contained in their Soul Dream. How does that person, in all the richness of who they are, benefit and add to you, the World, in a way that only they could do? How does their Presence honor and awaken something in the life of the World?What images, words thoughts, feelings, intuitions come to you as you hold these questions inside?
Come back into your own body, see from your own eyes, hear from your own ears, feel your own feelings. Consider the wisdom you have gained from these different perspectives. Re-imagine your life.Of course, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions, just your answers.
Learn more about David Spangler’s work at http://lorian.org.