“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~The Little Prince
The life of a writer is not as glamorous as you might think; it’s not all sweatpants and eating dry cereal out of the box and royalty payments stuffing the mailbox. This morning, for instance, I awoke from a spicy little dream and stared into the dark thinking about the dream and what it meant and trying to drag out the good feeling for as long as I could. Two minutes later I was writing this column in my head. I struggled (unsuccessfully) to get to the core of what it was that I was wanting to communicate. After some twenty minutes I was irretrievably awake and decided I should get up and actually write something down. I looked at the clock; it was 4 a.m.
No, it’s not sexy, this process, but it’s necessary and it’s valuable. Distilling the essence of a piece is a process of finding its core meaning and extrapolating its purpose. It is finding the truth lying within, it’s soul. If I don’t know what a column is about it ends up being a stream of consciousness piece of fluff. Without a clear message it has little if any value. Moreover, it is a wasted opportunity to use this space to share something good and useful.
Getting to the essential essence of a story, or yourself, is a process of asking again and again, what wants to emerge? More importantly, it’s a process of deep listening to hear the answer to that question. All of my work, be it as columnist, writer or therapist, is really about this one thing: finding the essence, the soul of the column or the book or the person. To find the essential truth I must let go of my own thoughts about what I imagine the piece or person is about ,and allow the inner soul to speak. I must take time and not impose my own brilliant, preconceived ideas and interpretations and judgments. I am usually surprised and delighted by what emerges, and what is revealed is always perfect: not in the sense of without flaws, but in the larger sense of being what it is meant to be.
The Latin word for soul is “anima,” from which we get the word “animate,” to bring to life. Soul is an invisible, interior animating energy. It is personality, but it is more than that; it is what Aristotle called our entelechy: the perfection within. The soul of something is the central core. It is not just potential; it is the fullest realization of that potential. The soul of a book or person or place is what that thing is in its fullest perfection.
To connect with the soul of something you must move past the superfluous and see into it’s essential nature. This an exercise in openness, alert attention and a nuanced perception. It requires that you slow down and become quiet, listen with the inner ear and see with the inner eye. When you do this, the soul responds by sending more and clearer messages. It wants to be seen, it wants a relationship to the person or thing it inhabits. It wants, above all else, to emerge.
Connecting with our soul animates us. Awakening to our soul’s desire we come into our perfection, our truth, our reason for being. We become connected to something more and we come alive. Soul is the bridge between spirit and matter; seeking our inner essence frees us to become our fullest selves and imbues us with energy and purpose. Without this connection we become dull and dissatisfied, leading busy little lives devoid of meaning and purpose. We waste a precious opportunity.
Do you know who you are, what your soul wants? Do you know what your purpose is? Are you living in your fullest perfection? If you feel like you’re still rooting around in the dark for the answers, there are techniques to finding your essence, and you can find them on my website under “S.E.O.”: that stands for Soul Energy Optimization, by the way. Just a little idea spawned in the 4 a.m. darkness.
Kate Ingram, M.A., is a writer, therapist and soul coach who loves helping others find their soul’s calling. Her first book, Washing the Bones, a memoir about loss and spiritual transformation, will be published later this year. You can follow her on Twitter @kateingram425 for daily inspiration, like her on Facebook (it makes her feel special) schedule an appointment or read her blog (which is much more entertaining than this column) at www.katherineingram.com.