Morning Soul-Sickness by Kambiz Naficy
The first time I experienced severe soul-sickness I was thirty-one and an international banker on Wall Street.
In my life, once every two to three years, I experience a morning of “soul-sickness” when I just can’t get out of bed. That’s the sign that I’ve been ignoring my soul’s call. Call for what? For more personal change, for yet another step into the unknown, toward becoming more of who I really am. Why every two to three years? While your transformation-cycle may be different than mine, I find that two to three years is about the time I need to experiment with a personal truth and grasp the important lesson it holds.
There are many days when the path of self-realization feels lonely and boring. The jabbing voice inside says, Look at all those people shopping, having fun. Don’t be a stick in the mud! Who cares about who you “really are?” Life is short.
Then I remember my twenties and thirties, years spent numbing out or rebelling against my true nature—a poet/philosopher. In those days, I was like a missile without a guidance system—changing careers, moving from one city to another, in and out of relationships, dabbling in addictions, all to run away from the most frightening of all encounters—facing my Self.
Near my forty-seventh year now, I’m liking my own nature. I’ve come to enjoy the quietude and inner-peace that comes with soul-communion. One’s inner-Self is so profound that I, like most, have only experienced layers. But I’ve found that keeping the company of my authentic Self infuses clarity and helps me shuffle through the daily compost of distractions so I can choose what is important. On a “good” day, with honest intention and conscious effort, my thoughts, words, and actions all integrate to serve my soul. After seven years of meditation and a conscious decision to stay awake, I have clear acceptance of my essence and what I am here to do. When I forget my true nature and don’t heed the soul’s advice, I experience soul-sickness.
The first time I experienced severe soul-sickness I was thirty-one and an international banker on Wall Street. Despite instinctual resistance, I chose banking because my false self believed that I was my parents’ expectations. Having been born into an old, aristocratic Persian family, I was groomed to be one of the country’s leaders. The only acceptable professions in my sub-society were medicine, engineering, banking, and high-level government service. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution wiped out those illusions, but in my head, I still carried a jury that voted to lynch the poet/philosopher that I was.
For three years, I ignored the vital signs of soul-sickness—sweaty palms, racing heart, high-anxiety, fear, and depression. Then, one morning my soul just shut down. I couldn’t get out of bed, and I broke into a cold sweat. My ego backed against a wall, I yielded to what seemed like total chaos—I had to radically change my life. Numb and robot-like, I witnessed myself dressing, getting on the subway, walking into the bank vice president’s office and resigning without another job to support me.
I didn’t know it then, but on that spiritual day, I stopped being my parents’ expectations and began shedding layers of false selves. It was a shift from following the outer-world to becoming inner-directed. In the beginning, my ego’s biggest nightmare was lack of experience or faith in a higher order of things—that somehow nature would take care of things if I stayed aligned with my heart. Another big fear was not knowing Who would replace the false selves that were crumbling before me.
Since that first leap toward my Soul, I have put the miserable banking days behind, sustained a lucrative computer business (Spirit knew that wasn’t my final truth either!), then sold everything and migrated to an ashram for more soul searching. Back in society now as a poet and meditation instructor, I feel happier, more at peace, and connected with the world around me.
I have met many fellow-travelers along the self-realization path. From knowing them and observing my own life, I know that each one of us will experience moments of truth when we are forced to reconcile with the truth of who we are and what we are ordained to do in this lifetime. At some point, soul-sickness will force us to become radically honest. This is a moment of death when the fearful, small self dies because we no longer trust the external order of things that had previously motivated us.
It’s unbelievable the number of disenchanted nine-to-fivers I’ve met who are tired of corporate job-hopping. They’ve come to a point where they can’t get out bed because the whole thing feels like B.S. Like myself, they are very frightened before the leap, not so much of the material risk, but the emotional risk of living who they really are. Soul-sickness is the beginning of an inward journey. In different lives, it may begin with divorce, death of a loved one, a career change, becoming a loving parent, starting your own business, quitting drugs or other forms of addiction, or immigration to a country that is your true home.
For me, the work of staying aligned with the Self involves keeping awake, not numbing out and yielding to old, subconscious habits. If my sincere intention is to stay awake to the presence of others and serve the soul, then I can be the beneficiary of the inner-guidance. The minute I try outsmarting my own soul, the guidance vanishes, and with it goes my inner-peace.
I find, and I think this is true for most people, that the Soul’s guidance is there all the time—it’s just a matter of knowing how to hear it and trusting its advice. I find that the soul’s voice and language has a different quality from my personality-based psychobabble. The inner-guidance sounds softer, and is never insistent or judgmental. After all, the Soul has nothing at stake in this material life; its only wish is to be with God.
My experience has taught me that the Soul’s guidance regarding the next change comes many months, even years before nature’s deadline. Having offered its guidance, the soul then sits back and witnesses what I do. For me, this initial guidance is an early warning system, the setting off of a spiritual stopwatch. If I don’t listen and respond in time, Spirit and nature begin to take things into their own hands and bring about the personal transformation regardless. The problem is, forced change is always more frightening and painful to the ego.
I look back to 1982 when I resigned from that bank—how my ego experienced that change as chaos. Even later, after I consciously started aligning with my truer nature, my ego dreaded and feared the very changes that nourished my soul. In the past, I have always felt there are two of me, the ego that fears change and the soul that breathes and delights in change. I find it encouraging that transformational experiences that used to scare me out of my skin are not scary anymore. It is as if there is a Witness just watching one of me go through change. I think at some level, my intellect is relinquishing control to greater forces at play.
Sometimes my ego bargains with God—“If I take one more step towards being who I am, will you protect me from future chaos?” Of course, what echoes back is a ghost-like chuckle. One day, a few months ago, I saw the humor in the ego’s bargaining tirade, and wrote this poem about change.
Though everyone’s path is different, I believe none of us moves closer to our true essence without the intention to follow the highest truth. Intention is critical because it is the tiny seed from which sprout all our thoughts and actions. Before making a decision or taking action, I contemplate the underlying intention. Does it ring true in my heart? Is it congruous with who I really am?
If the intention, thought, and action feel right, I carry on. It still takes lots of discipline and trust to take action, then let go and observe. Kind of like tossing a pebble into a lake, then watching the ripples. We all know about the law—every action triggers a reaction. In my life, I have found incredible support for those actions that ring true in my heart, while other initiatives that violate my Being always meet with massive resistance from nature.
May we all have many moments of truth, and the courage and insight to follow heart and soul.
Kambiz Naficy is a Persian poet, meditation teacher, and counselor. He regularly conducts breathing and meditation workshops in Portland. He lives in the U.S and spends part of each year in India where he practices various Yogic techniques with spiritual masters. He has devoted the last seven years of his life to the Eastern spiritual techniques involving breathing, meditation, and Yoga. Kambiz can be reached by e-mail or by phone at (503) 241-7247. Access other holistic articles written by Kambiz on his web site: www.awarebeings.com