by Susan Mokelke

I had been feeling stale recently, and dry, like a piece of burnt toast. The things I was doing no longer seemed satisfying. I was off center: a misaligned tire, still spinning and making good time, but bumping painfully along the road. I stood it as long as I could, but finally I had to step back. I made a quiet space in the tempest of my days and tried to breathe.

I thought I needed realignment, a fresh perspective. So I approached it as I have most things in my life, as a goal to be achieved. I made lists. I examined my past, my talents, and the activities that were deeply satisfying, for clues to a new direction. As always, I took in the bigger picture, what I perceived to be the needs of the time, which I might help to meet. I was persistent and relentless. And still, I felt off.

After a few weeks of this, the pressure grew to take action, to come down on something, anything, to relieve the agony of being unproductive. After all, I thought, how much navel-gazing can a person do? How much is permissible, when 10-20% of the Earth's 10 million species may be extinct by 2020 due to habitat destruction? Or when the number of teenagers murdered has increased by 150% in less than 10 years? Looked at through a "problem-solution" lens, I was no closer to an answer than when I began. My plan was not working.

Then, one morning I awoke with the sun shining on my face and the words "stop striving" on my lips. Stop striving. And the pieces fell into place. Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved from the same consciousness that created it. I was trying to reach a state of flow by wresting it from the cosmos with my thoughts and plans-and it was suddenly obvious that "you can't get there from here."

I stopped striving. There was no goal to be met; no problem to be solved; no world to be saved. I simply asked what it was that I really wanted. The answer was immediate and clear: "Feed the soul; give it a voice."

What is soul? How do you feed it? Soul is that spark of the infinite within each of us. It is the window through which God's light and purpose shines upon this earthly dimension. To feed the soul is to raise the blinds of the ego so that there is no impedance of this flow. To give the soul a voice is to become the hands of God, to make visible and concrete the divine will-and then all life advances.

To feed the soul requires that we ask it what it requires, then listen-and not just with the ears. A different kind of listening is necessary. Ask. Then listen with the heart and mind, with the eyes, nose, lungs, gut, and toes, with the entire body. The soul requires, too, in advance, the intention to act on the answers received. Meet these conditions, and your soul will speak to you.

It is not easy in this world of one-minute managers and supermoms, in this culture of achievement, growth, and "more," to create the space to stop striving and listen to your soul. It is, however, essential for life-for the life of the individual as well as that of the Earth. To be disconnected from soul is to have lost the significance of our existence, to be severed from intention and meaning. To be disconnected from soul is to be cut off from the source of the true power to affect the world's problems.

"Stop striving" does not mean to withdraw from life, to refrain from action. It is a shift in attitude, from an achievement mode to a participation mode; from doing to living; from the demand for a specific outcome, preconceived and usually wrong, to conscious seeking and the willingness to hear and act upon whatever might be revealed. One attitude says "I'm in control." A soul-centered person knows from the inside out that "I'm not in charge, but my participation is essential." In religious terms: "Thy will, not mine, be done."

Feeding the soul and giving it a voice is what life is about. It is not something that you do once and finish. It continues throughout your life, one step forward, one step sideways, one step up or down, one step back. The threads of soul twist and turn, frequently frustrating us with knots and tangles, yet occasionally weaving patterns of exquisite and stunning symmetry. Sometimes soul voice mumbles its secrets, forcing us to struggle mightily for the message; sometimes soul voice sings forth in lyrics so clear and beautiful that it is pure joy to sing along. In the realm of the infinite, of soul, human concepts of good and bad, easy and difficult, pain and delight, have equal relevance. And so, always, there is mystery. It keeps us humble. It keeps us moving, advancing toward that great Unity from which we sprang.

The conditions for participation are simple; meeting them is the workout of a lifetime. Feed the soul; give it a voice. There is a remarkable phenomenon emerging around the world.