Haven’t met your soulmate yet? Your search is over! Because all the people in the world are kindred spirits, as long as you make enough room in your soul.
You hear people say it sometimes, about a friend or a partner: ‘He truly is my soulmate.’ Maybe you feel a stab of jealousy and you think to yourself: Why haven’t I got one? Where do I find my soulmate? Or has he or she been in my life for ages but I haven’t noticed? A soulmate is a person we can trust one hundred percent, someone who wordlessly feels what we feel. It can be someone so much like you that you become two peas in a pod, a mirror image, each other’s double. It may be someone who supports you unconditionally and is always there for you.
It’s a thoroughly romantic ideal, this soulmate thing, whether it’s a friend or a partner. And yet it’s also a questionable ideal. Someone who gets you perfectly from the word go, with whom you feel completely at ease – does that mean there’s never a single grating, chafing moment? Is this a pal with no sharp edges or irritations or unbridgeable differences? That can only work if they have no personality of their own, if they hide their own light under a bushel and wrap themselves around you like an empty vessel, as it were. Clearly it will turn into a hotbed of repressed emotions that will cause some very nasty incidents sooner or later. Is it perhaps a little childlike to long for such an effortless connection? It’s what you need as a baby, but surely not as a mature, autonomous individual…?
Finally, is it even good for our spiritual development to look for effortless contacts? Maybe we’re supposed to learn to appreciate what’s different in others, to open our hearts so wide that there’s room for even the most obstinate, grating, incomprehensible things about others. If we stop seeing other people as ‘different’ and start seeing them as ‘one of us’, there will be peace at last. You need a big soul for that, a plus-size soul. You need to be magnanimous, literally: it’s Latin for ‘big soul’. And as it turns out, hallelujah: the bigger your soul, the more soulmates you have.
Long ago, at the dawn of humanity, we all lived in tribes. Tribe members spoke the same language, had the same rules of life and performed the same rituals. You were safe as long as you stuck to your tribe’s rules. But if you came across some other tribe you had to be careful. ‘Others’, strangers, were not real people, let alone potential life partners. They were funny creatures that you were allowed to kill and eat, or enslave and sell. Bit by bit, over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve come to understand that all humans are real people, even if they look different, have different customs and are impossible to understand. Development is about the growing realisation that all these different looks and habits are part of human nature. After all, what does that consist of? Layers.
The most superficial layer is the ‘mask’, the personality we develop in the course of our lives and with which we approach the outside world. The word ‘person’ comes from persona, again Latin, meaning mask. Roman actors wore wooden masks that showed which role they played. Some were wild and aggressive, others serene and wise. They could be seen from a great distance in the amphitheatres of antiquity. In much the same way, we all wear a kind of mask showing our personality on the outside. It’s built up from materials like talent, education, traumas and other important experiences, sprinkled with our expectations, convictions and values. There are various types to be distinguished: exuberant and shy personalities, warm and cool personalities, aggressive and kind personalities, messy and precise personalities, and so on and so forth. Added to that there are a lot of nuances: every person has a unique combination of habits and tendencies, personal traits, tricks and tics. You can be a good match in the top layer, or a bad one. If you’re both fond of travelling, for example, or of nature or movies, it may feel like a comfortable match. But if one of you is careless while the other is precise, it can cause friction.
That top layer is the layer you fall in love with, because it’s the first thing you see of another person. It’s also the layer that can cause instant revulsion if they’re not a good match, if they’re not in your bubble. Yuck, he’s into hip-hop, he wears a blazer, he blushes a lot… Not a chance. But hey, he does yoga, he drives an electric car, or he has really good hair flopping across his forehead: Mmm, this one may be my soulmate. Beneath that superficial top layer there are lots of layers of emotions and feelings, conscious ones and subconscious ones. Behind the mask, practically everyone has insecurities, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams. They’re usually a lot like most other people’s insecurities, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams. The order of the layers may be different, the emotions can have different colours. Some people have anger on top; they get furious at the drop of a hat. In other people the anger is buried deep beneath heavy layers of sorrow and fear. But we all have souls as multi-layered as a lasagne.
The deeper you penetrate those layers of the soul, the more universal and recognisable they become. You may wonder, for example, why on earth anyone would get angry about a newspaper article. Other people may wonder why your temper flares up at a silly joke. But one thing is certain: everybody gets angry sometimes, has a head full of furious thoughts and a body full of restless energy, has shoulders and a neck that tense up and a stomach with a knot in it. It’s the same for everyone. Some may be a little less inhibited in expressing themselves, or a little more skilled in suppressing or denying their emotions. But the feelings, the needs, and the pain when those needs are not met, are the same for each and every one of us. Life is difficult and often painful for every person on the planet. ‘To live is to suffer,’ said Buddha.
In short, the deeper you penetrate those layers, the more you discover what makes us human. We all cherish the same basic dreams of security, acknowledgement, loving contacts, and self-development. We all hope for relaxation, inner peace and happiness.
In the very depths of the soul, where it touches on the divine, there is a quiet place that is also known as unconditional love. You can still see it in a new-born baby’s eyes: that unrestrained openness to everything there is, that boundless enthusiasm without distinction, the pure joy of being alive, the unspoiled existence. That is our universal core. In most of us, that core has become so overgrown with pain, complete with all the ways we found to express, alleviate or smooth over that pain, that we can only find our way back to it in rare, sacred moments. Quiet moments of elation or gratitude, when suddenly you feel as one with everything there is, absorbed in your surroundings, part of the meaningful whole. At moments like that you also know: everyone is my soulmate. Everyone is part of the great family of humanity, everyone belongs with me and I belong with everyone. There are no exceptions, no matter how strange or different some people seem on the surface. There is room for everyone, and in the depths of our core we are all in touch with each other. We are as one in the love that moves the sun and the other stars, in God’s arms, in the Source, or whichever name you want to give it.
Maybe your real soulmate is a person with whom you can reach through the layers of fears and desires to that universal source of love, more easily than with anyone else. Someone who makes their layers of fear and desire transparent just for you. If that’s the case, can we help fate along a little? Can we encourage other people to make their layers more transparent?
The key word here is vulnerability. The more you open yourself up and dare to be vulnerable, the easier it is for another person to recognise themselves in you. If you reveal your vulnerable, human face behind the mask, you make way for others to take off their masks too. I experienced that last summer during a week-long writing workshop that turned into a huge, warm bath of soulmates, even though the participants were complete strangers to each other and all totally different. Every day we were given an assignment to write a page or two that would be read out loud for the group at the end. The assignments all invited vulnerability, for example: Write about an obstacle you found on your path. Write about your biggest blunder. Write about your favourite problem.
During the readings, the group went from howling laughter to unrestrained tears. There was no criticism, we just listened with open hearts. And that was precisely what made everybody feel safe.
Vulnerability, then, leads to magnanimity. Knowing your own pain and finding the courage to express it means being able to see other people’s pain too. And then you open your heart to others, no matter how different they are. At the end of the week, one of the participants wrote: ‘It feels like I am now a member of a secret club. A club that we were all members of already. A club that I always hoped existed somewhere on earth. The kind of club that all humans want to belong to, and they can, because there’s room and light and love enough for everyone.’
A soulmate does not necessarily have to fit inside your bubble, or match with you in terms of lifestyle. But you recognise each other’s fears and insecurities, each other’s dreams, each other’s quiet core where everything is allowed to be just what it is. You recognise all the basic humanity behind the mask and it makes you loving and kind. The closer you have gotten to your own core, the better you will recognise it in others. Your big soul makes room for them all.
‘Soulmates Club’ is an article from issue 19 ‘Surrendering to love’
text: Lisette Thooft, illustrations: Bodil Jane
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