February 21st, 2010 by gary.vollbracht
Fifteen years ago or so, and years before I was called to Pathwork as my spiritual path, I was drawn to a quote. It was in an issue of the Weavings magazine. I copied the quote, made a framed plaque of it, and it hung in my home office. It followed me to my business office at Tourmaline Life Center in 2004. A few weeks ago when I was looking for it I was surprised that when I moved from my business two years ago the quote got packed up. But its called remained, so last week I dug it out of our storage shed and returned it to its proper place in my home office where it belongs.
“To ‘listen’ another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another,” a quote from Quaker Douglas Steer. All I can say to this is YES, YES, YES! Steer’s words capture what is most alive in my heart! Consciously and unconsciously this quote has guided me my entire life. It is my Calling.
I am aware that I answer this Call in at least three ways. First is a way that was for a long time unconscious to me. I was simply not aware that I was doing it, and further was not doing it systematically or with any firm commitment or rigor. In fact I would have said it was wrong and against my values. But eventually I came to see and accept this first way of answering this Calling as central to my life. I was listening my own soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery!
How could I think this inward listening was wrong for so long? Easy. I was taught and had come to believe that my soul was that poor miserable sinner that I had confessed each week in church for most of the decades of my life. I would say that I came into this life with this inclination, this predisposition, and it was solidified and reinforced by church dogma. “Gary, your soul is sinful, fallen from grace, untrustworthy as a compass for your life!” This I did not question, and therefore came to look outside myself for my compass. Most noticeable I turned to the bible, or rather to my church’s interpretation of the bible. This is what I “trusted.”
But inwardly I did not buy what I confessed outwardly. I did not trust it, at least not fully and blindly. Something in me said, “Now Gary, what are you doing here? You are giving a lot of authority to your church, your parents, and others in authority in spiritual matters. Please listen deeply to your inner sense of Truth.” In short, I was resisting individuation. Resisting finding my own way, resisting going on my own Grail journey.
When I got to Pathwork, my true inner truth was awakened. Pathwork lecture after Pathwork lecture flamed into fire this inner Knowing of following my own compass, my own sense of truth. This did not mean my truth was “right,” but it was my truth in that now. And as I was informed by others, by life experience, by my inner intuition, I sometimes noticed my inner resonance with this source, my new “Yes,” my new awakening or birth. And as a result, my inner truth changed and continues to change, is refined, matured.
I am not clinging to my truth, defending it, fearful that it may be “off.” For it is “off.” How could it be otherwise — I am, after all, human, not God. But being “off” is not a problem as long as I accept that I am “off,” and am willing to change. Yes, this truth of mine is not fixated, unchangeable, and rigid, but dynamic, fluid, changing, maturing. It is an awakening unfolding truth I would say.
My sense is that my truth is joining, or rather is one-with, the great underground river of The Truth. I can trust the Cosmos, my inner universe, and God to guide me into this River of Life that flows deep within my soul. And that flows within all souls, for here it seems to me that we are all connected, all part of the One. Yes, I have come to listen my soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery. This may be almost the greatest service that this human being Gary ever performs for this human being Gary. And when appropriate, these soul disclosures and discoveries are shared, as in this blog.
The second venue in which this soul listening happens is with friends and family members. And it is a two-way street. I listen another’s soul into a condition of disclosure and discovery as he or she listens my soul into this same condition of disclosure and discovery. A mutuality of brotherhood comes into existence in this deep listening process.
Too often I have not been conscious of this dynamic in my many conversations with others, either in one-to-one dyads or in small groups. Or I have become fearful of disclosing anything too deep of my soul, anything “too me,” fearful of my soul’s being rejected or mocked or proven wrong. Fearful of my little inner truth having to change, grow up, and mature.
But over time I have become more conscious of this dynamic, more courageous to share what is alive in me now, less fearful of being proven wrong or the fool, and most importantly, open to changing and growing. When I do not have to be “right” I can give up fearing being “wrong.” Just listen deeply to the truth arising between or among us. Ever changing, ever deepening, ever unfolding, ever enlivening.
A third place where this soul listening happens is when I am in a life coaching, accompanying stance with another who comes to me specifically to have his or her soul listened into a condition of disclosure and discovery, though he or she would not likely express why they come to me quite this way, or yet be aware of this process.
This listening another’s soul, I now see, is my Work. This is a role, a Calling, I find alive in me. It is a humbling role, because to fulfill it “I” have to get out of the way. “I” with its preconceived “insights” and “wisdom,” its need to appear “brilliant,” has to be asked to leave so that the true I can simply be a listener to what wants to happen in this soul whose journey I am accompanying.
In Pathwork this role has a title, it is called being a “helper.” I do not like this language. It suggests that “I” am somehow the energy, the “brilliance,” that is “helping” the other. I am more comfortable using the word “companioning,” for this is what I do in this “helper” role. So in this role I am a spiritual or life companion. And my Work in this capacity is soul listening.
Of course there is a problem in this softer language in that it does not fit the cultural norms. To get paid for my Work, I have to do something more active, like “help,” or “counsel,” or “coach,” or “direct.” But here I must stick by my truth. I am not a “helper,” a “counselor,” a “spiritual director,” or “life coach.” Rather, I claim my Work as that of being a fellow human Called to be a Spiritual Companion, a soul listener. This is my Call, this is my Work.
I am at peace in this companioning role. And I am at peace with those who are helpers, counselors, spiritual directors, or life coaches. For it is only semantics. In these roles by any other name, when we do them well, above all we listen another’s soul into this condition of disclosure and discovery. This, it seems, is what the world is hungry for, and what we can do for each other –for ourselves, our friends and family members; and if so Called, for those who seek us out as soul listeners.