Hey there! 👋 This is Episode 1 of 10 of XL on the Soul. I hope you enjoy it!

(Here’s a link to the Intro to the Series in case you missed it.)

There’s SO MUCH stuff going on in our lives: work, school, relationships, the personal stuff we’re working through.  It’s easy to feel like we’re just bouncing from one thing to another, and lose ourselves in the process.   

There is also so much stuff going on INSIDE of us

Do you feel like part of you wants to pursue a dream of yours, but another maybe more sensible part of you wants to stay put?  Or just that you brain is telling you one thing and your heart another?  Do you ever wish that you could bring all these parts of you together to live life with a unified sense of purpose? 

There’s no shortcut for this conversation.  

We’ve got to get talking about who we are AT OUR CORE.  

We have to talk about OUR SOULS.

Almost Everyone Believes in the Soul

If you look across the globe, and add up the populations of Christians, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, those who subscribe to indiginous faiths, and the handful of us Jews in the world, although we may disagree on a huge range of our beliefs, this mammoth 83% of the world’s population agrees on one thing:

the existence of the human soul. 

What percentage of Americans do you think believe that the soul continues to exist after the death of the body?  A recent Pew study put the figure at 72%.  That’s a lot of people believing in the eternal existence of something that can’t really be explained by science.  Which brings up the question of how does the notion of the soul work with science?  Does it have to?

We’re going to get to these questions, but our main question is a more simple question: 

What IS the soul??  

What exactly are we talking about here?  How would YOU put it into words?  

I distinctly remember as a kid picturing my soul as some anonymous ghost that was assigned to me in the sky.  If I were to do a good deed he would get a point on the cosmic scoreboard.  If I were to misbehave, he would lose a point (or worse).  All of this was happening in some alternate dimension that I couldn’t see or really relate to, but I was told would matter to me a whole lot after I’d die!   

The first thing I want you to know is that studying the soul is not learning about some THING out there in the depths of space, some specimen under a microscope, or a rare species on the ocean floor.  

Studying the soul is studying the SELF.  

And to be specific, it’s studying YOUR SELF.

Seeing your soul isn’t hard to do. You just have to clear the outer layer of residue.

As we explore together, make sure to not only listen to what I’m writing over here in my self-published, non-peer-reviewed article-for-friends-and-family.  Check in with YOURSELF:

What are you thinking?  What are you feeling?  What are you looking for in this series?  

Just keep in mind: we’re not talking about an airy fairy spirit in the stratosphere. 

We’re talking about YOU.  

Knowing who you are in your core is the only knowledge that can help you bring together all the moving parts of your life in a way that makes sense and resonates.  

Getting to know your soul is what allows you to organize and align the jumble of thoughts, aspirations, and feelings inside of you around your deepest identity.

And don’t think this is just about getting in touch with yourself alone. What’s great about this is that if you come to understand yourself better, you will better understand every person you know.  Every soul is certainly different, but FUNDAMENTALLY, every soul is the same, and if you come to recognize and appreciate the Divine spark within you, you’ll be able to see it in others as well.

But if you don’t even know yourself, how could you truly know and come to love anyone else?  To quote perhaps the most famous line from the Torah: you must love your fellow THE WAY YOU LOVE YOURSELF.

To love yourself, you must KNOW yourself.   

Why It’s Hard to See Our Souls

So, how can billions of people be so instinctively sure that they have a soul, but be so hazy about what it is?  

The answer to this is the same answer as to why so many of us don’t know ourselves all that well even though we spend all day and everyday with ourselves. 

  • Why do we struggle choosing a spouse?  
  • Why do we fumble around through trial and error choosing a career that makes sense for us?  
  • Why do certain patterns in our lives have to repeat again and again for us to have the self-awareness that the problem stems from us?

To quote a line from a meditation that appears in the Jewish classic, the Talmud:

the soul sees but can’t be seen

Your life is full of THINGS.  BUT THE SOUL ISN’T A THING.  The soul is the YOU — the awareness and consciousness that is experiencing and interpreting all the THINGS of your life.

You’re so busy looking at the world THROUGH the soul — through the lenses that makes up your identity — that you and all of us easily lose sight that we’re looking through a lens in the first place.  

A question for you to think about…

If the soul is the lens through which you see the world, why do different — sometimes conflicting ways of seeing the world, ourselves and others come from? 

Is our lens broken? 

(Yes, but it’s not just you!)

Originally published at The Expression of Life – by Rabbi Jack Cohen

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