Updated: Jul 28
You are a person with three parts. Those three parts are spirit, soul, body. There is order to those three parts. Our spirit has the highest, or more dominant place in our being, then the soul, and then the body. This doesn't mean that any one is more important than the other. It has to do with function.
Our bodies are the least permanent part of ourselves. It is also the neediest, and least equipped to bring fulfillment. Because of this, the body center must not be dominant Center of Being. But neither can we just forget or neglect it. As the Apostle Paul once said, sometimes the weakest part of our bodies requires the most attention (1 Corinthians 12:23). That’s also why the body does, in fact, often usurp the majority of our focus, if we’re not intentionally giving time and space for the other two. This is why we need to understand the function of the soul first, because it is the most effected and influenced by the other two. That is, indeed, it’s primary function.
The function of the soul - the heart and mind, or our conscious self - is like that of a microphone and speaker. The soul is like the sound-system of our being. Through it come many messages from the body and spirit, and a lot of data frowhichm our three Knowing Centers. It is the place where things register and get stored, but not the source. When we live too much from our souls, we can begin to assume that everything we feel and think is true, right, good, and healthy. But it’s not hard to see that this is far from the truth.
There are many things you feel or think which simply do not bear out to be true. Sometimes, acting impulsively on our thoughts and feelings can have dire consequences. We've all experienced the consequence of bad decisions, based on rash thoughts and emotions, and seen in retrospect the benefit of being able to wait and process those things before we act on them.
You are not your feelings.
You are not your thoughts.
If that is true, then we must also acknowledge that who we are is something more than our thoughts and feelings, even something beyond them. Your thoughts and feelings do not come from your thoughts and feelings. What you feel is a response. What you think is stimulated from elsewhere. The source of feelings and thought comes from another place, from the body or spirit.
If the soul is the sound-system of our being, then the body and spirit are the things speaking through it. But not just our body or spirit. The energy of other people’s bodies and spirits can also register through our soul-sound-system. Why is this important?
It was a major shift in my understanding and daily life, when I began to put this truth into practice. What it has allowed me to do, practically, is begin to question all my thoughts and emotions, instead of just accepting and acting upon them. It gave me space to pause and consider the source of what I thought and felt, which gave me the space to do a lot of things differently. It allowed me to become a lot less reactionary towards circumstances and people, and lot more thoughtful in how I approached everything. Becoming more thoughtful has a lot to do with contemplation.
When I was 42, I had a breakdown. It wasn’t that time, when my thoughts and emotions became toxic and problematic, that I began to look at them differently. I was forced to begin to see things differently, because I had to. In the year of recovery following my breakdown my thoughts and emotions were often painfully and pointedly disturbed. There were many times my thoughts and emotions were spinning out of control. As a result, I had to confront the wrong idea that these things constituted something through which I had control of my life.
It is by this conscious construct of self that we think we are engaging in, and moving through the world. We think and feel our way through life. This is often what we say. “I can do whatever I feel like,” or “don’t tell me what to think.” We think we can think for ourselves, because we think our thoughts are something we control, and something we use to control our situations, circumstances, and direction in life. We do not realize that our thoughts and emotions work backwards from how we try to use them. We think we use them to determine direction and outcomes. We think they are the cause instead of the effect. But that's not true. Our thoughts and feelings can tell us a lot about ourselves and the world around us, when we stop over-identifying them with our true self. When we get more distance from them, we can begin to assess them properly, with more clarity. Here's how I've learned to do that better.
When I think or feel something now, I ask this series of questions:
1. Where is it coming from?
2. What does it mean?
3. What should I do about it?
Each question naturally flows into the next. When I understand where a thought or feeling is coming from, then I know better what it means, which helps me realize what to do about it. In the process of this practice, I’ve come to realize two important things about what goes on in my conscious self, my soul. The first is that not everything I think or feel is the truth, and the second is that not everything I think or feel comes from me.
We know our thoughts and emotions can be influenced by others. But we often view our personhood as being a closed system. We think there is an air gap between us and everyone else. This is only true physically. In terms of soul, we are very permeable in our personhood. We do have our own thoughts and emotions. But they are so often mixed in with so many other thoughts and emotions coming from other places. In terms of the soul, everything which comes into it is from elsewhere. Our thinking and feeling is a responsive, more like a thermometer than a thermostat. The soul is like a computer monitor which registers things, but does not originate them.
Did you know you have three centers of intelligence? These are the three Centers of Knowing. Our three Centers of Knowing are Head, Heart, and Body. Each of these has their own "mind". Our mind and heart are something other than our thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and feelings constitute our Soul center, our mind and heart are actually two of the three Centers of Knowing.
What’s going on when I feel afraid? The first question is, “where is this coming from?” Is it coming from my body knowing, my heart knowing, or my mind knowing?
I was working in a house a few years back, doing a three-week bathroom remodel. The customer had this nervous dog that barked at me constantly whenever we crossed paths. I noticed that this made me feel afraid. But I also noticed that this fear was only in my body. I had no fearful thoughts or emotions. My body was speaking through a physical, visceral fear sensation. Here, my body EQ and IQ were working together. They were both sending my soul center a message. That message was, “Watch out, this could be dangerous.” When I realized the source of the message, I was able to do two things that helped change the situation. First, I was able to keep that fear in my body. Being physically afraid, I did not magnify it by also becoming mentally and emotionally afraid. I stopped it in my body. Second, I was able to use spiritual discernment to understand where the fear was coming from. It was coming from the dog. The source of the fear, coming through my body, was the dogs fear of me, not my fear of the dog. My body was registering it, and then translating it to my conscious self so I could understand and do something about it. Then, in answer to the last question “what should I do about it,” I responded to the dog’s fear with empathy. I began to communicate to the dog through a calm and kind demeanor the message; “you don't have to be afraid, I'm not a threat, I care about you." After a few days of maintaining a calm, kind demeanor towards the dog, his behavior towards me changed. From then on, when he saw me, instead of defensive barking he sought my affection. This happened because I was able to discern 1. Where things were coming from, 2. What they meant, and 3. What to do about it. I knew the right thing to do, in that situation, because I understood how my three Centers of Knowing worked with my three Centers of Being.
In all these, the soul is the part of ourselves where things register. Understanding the soul as our sound system can help us step back from what goes on there, in order to better assess all the data coming in before deciding how to act upon it.