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Remembering the Connection
We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.
REMEMBER, FORGET. REMEMBER, FORGET. Remember, forget. I used to be so frustrated with myself. I would have an insight or aha moment and come back to myself and my experience and heart, then soon enough forget who I was and be once again pulled back into who I thought people wanted me to be or who I had been in the past. Aaargh!
This cycle of losing myself and finding myself felt like a kind of slow torture. Plus, it was exhausting. One moment, I would feel centered and happily aligned with my life, and the next moment, something would happen—an old memory, a run-in with a boss or friend, a bounced check or late report—and my self-esteem and happiness would be splattered on the ground like broken eggs dropped from a roof.
I could see that my core beliefs of wanting others to like me, my desire to control people and things, and my seeking of attention and approval from the outside kept derailing my life. But I felt helpless to change it. I didn’t understand the mechanics of how I could have glimpses of joyful wholeness and then so thoroughly forget and plunge into struggle, shame, or fear.
Oftentimes, we lose our way and no longer recognize the ever-present bond that lovingly connects the parts of who we are. As I discovered through years of remembering and forgetting and then finally embodying a new way, there is a powerful Warrior Heart inside all of us where our spirit (or Big Soul) and our mental, emotional, and physical being are connected and on our team, rather than feeling like bickering enemies.
In this chapter, we’ll look at what has happened that made us forget this inner connection and why it is so important to reconnect our ego-personality to our Big Soul. Afterward, we’ll take a look at a new way of viewing your whole self—one that will create space for change to happen more rapidly.
Let’s take a look at the difference between living from the radiance of your true nature and living from the exhaustion of drama, self-judgment, and fear. Once you have the big-picture overview of where you are right now, as well as where you are headed, the four chambers of the Warrior Heart practice will be your guide to staying on the path.
Big Soul and Little Soul
As a human, you are the perfect blend of ethereal and physical: half spirit and half animal. Your spiritual Big Soul always remembers its vastness and creative nature, while your animal self focuses on survival, safety, and (hopefully) the pleasures of the physical body. Your physical form is a brilliant anchor that allows your spirit to explore, experience, and enjoy this earthly plane. This creative union of you as spirit and matter is precious and unique—and can be seriously fun!
Or it can be a nightmare of painful experiences and broken dreams.
When you were very young, you naturally lived from your Big Soul merged with your physical form and experienced everything in life as a force of which you were an integral part. You engaged fully in the delight of all your senses. Your spiritual Big Soul and your physical being were like two best friends, hand in hand, playfully exploring a vast and exciting new world.
The Toltec view describes the split that often happens between these two allies as we grow. For some of us, this split happens very early on, even when we are babies or before we have language. For others, the split happens later, often when we learn language and begin creating separation from the world around us. This cosmological model—which I have spent many years studying, exploring, and teaching—is like a global satellite map of the human experience. Below is a simplified version of this model, which is designed to help guide you back into your Warrior Heart by illustrating the importance of reuniting your Big Soul and your ego-personality (Little Soul) as long-lost friends rather than as the strangers (or even enemies) they have become.
Your relationship to your Little Soul, and whether it is connected or disconnected from your Big Soul, is the crucial factor for whether your life is filled with struggle and separation or with joyful ease and a sense of wholeness. When your Little Soul and your Big Soul are allied, you flourish in the delight of your own integrity, your own wholeness.
Do you remember what it was like to live joyfully, filled with child-awe and dedicated to playful exploration—or have you watched young kids do so? You can have that same love of life, resiliency, and enthusiasm as an adult too. It’s just a matter of learning how to reconnect. Let’s take a look at how the split occurs between Big Soul and your Little Soul so that the path back to your natural state is clear.
The diagrams in the following pages are simplified snapshots of the Toltec cosmology. As you look at them, feel within you what they represent and how they relate to your own experience of remembering and forgetting.
At the center is your Big Soul, bright like the sun and radiating out rays of “Yes! We are one boundless being of energy and spirit! How shall we explore in this wonderful physical/mental/emotional package?!” The physical/mental/emotional being is represented in this drawing by a circle that surrounds the central point of your Big Soul.
Your Little Soul is represented by a dot on the edge of the circle of your physical/mental/emotional being. When you are a child, the rays of your Big Soul fill this circle, infusing your physical, mental, and emotional being and your ego-personality—or sense of I—with joyful curiosity. Again, your Little Soul is important: This is your separate sense of self and your quirky, unique personality.
But when our Little Soul loses its way and grasps onto fearful thoughts (such as I’m not good enough, I need to be perfect, or Bad things are going to happen to me or to the ones I love), it becomes more and more difficult to hear the loving voice of our Big Soul. For most adults, the circle of our physical/mental/emotional self has become filled with fears and judgments that obscure the light of our inner sun.
The once-seamless connection between our spiritual nature and our physical form is torn. Instead of making choices from the wisdom of our bountiful Big Soul allied with our ego-personality, we begin to identify more and more with the Little Soul thoughts of who we “should” be rather than the Big Soul–Little Soul union of who we truly are.
In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle describes our ego as an “illusory sense of self” based on unconscious identification with our memories and thoughts. This identification creates what Tolle calls our pain-body, an accumulation of old emotional pain. In The Four Agreements, don Miguel calls the Little Soul a parasite, because for most adults, our ego-personality has split from our Big Soul and now feeds on the energy of fear. Tolle and don Miguel are using different words, but they are describing the same concept: the separation of our Little Soul from our Big Soul.
I see the Little Soul as a small child. When a child is intimately connected to a loving, wise, nurturing caretaker (Big Soul), it is fun to go out and explore the world and then come back and share what it has learned. If a child discovers something scary or confusing during her explorations and then comes back to check in with her older and wiser best friend, Big Soul reminds her of the big picture by showing her that she is part of something vast and wonderful. Once reassured, the child smiles and goes off to play again, realizing that she is engaging in a fabulous dream that she is cocreating. The child thus gains experiences and matures from a base of unconditional love and security. This is, of course, the ideal situation, but many of us do not even know that this is possible.
Now imagine what would happen if that child went out to play and lost her way back to Big Soul, her best friend and wise guide. Can you imagine yourself as a little kid lost in a busy outdoor marketplace? How would you feel? What would you do? Take a moment to imagine that sense of being lost and of believing that you have to figure out how to stay safe in a seemingly unfriendly, unfamiliar world.
It is in this moment of losing our connection to our Big Soul that the fear-based I of our Little Soul is born. I am separate, I am alone, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know how to be. Later in this chapter, we’ll explore why and how our Little Soul loses its connection to Big Soul. For now, let’s just explore the result of that break.
As your lost and disconnected Little Soul starts looking for its true source of comfort, Big Soul, it comes across other sources that inadequately mimic how it feels to be in Big Soul’s presence. What it finds instead is a bewildering number of rules about how it is supposed to behave and who it is supposed to be to receive that comfort.
Without your Big Soul’s big-picture guidance, your Little Soul starts soaking up new concepts and beliefs that are not highest truth but only appear to be truth. Little Soul is then introduced to the concept of punishment and reward and begins to fear the pain of love being withheld. As a result, Little Soul concludes that it is not enough and believes that the only safety is in fitting in, or that the only safety is to rebel and not fit in. In either case, your Little Soul grasps for an identity to give it a sense of stability in a very confusing world.
Your Little Soul spends years carefully constructing who it believes it is supposed to be to be loved and accepted. Each time it believes a thought about how it is supposed to be, such as I should be happy all the time, or If I’m happy, people will be jealous of me, or If I were good enough, I’d make lots of money, or My friends won’t approve of me if I let them know I love baseball, your Little Soul erects tiny walls that further separate it from its connection to its own Big Soul truth.
Remember, Big Soul hasn’t gone anywhere. Rather, your Little Soul believes it is lost and alone and can’t find its way back to its source. There are always glimmers of Big Soul peeking through, showing the way home. But your Little Soul is so distracted by thinking about how to be that these glimpses of simply being are quickly covered over by stories.
The Little Soul’s Fear
Here is a specific look at how our Little Soul loses its way, taken from my book A Little Book on Big Freedom:
I am three years old, playing with my rambunctious eight-year-old sister. We’re laughing and gleefully running around the house, arms waving, feet barely touching the ground.
Suddenly, I hear a loud noise behind me, and I turn to see that my sister has accidentally knocked over a vase, which has shattered all over the floor. We freeze and look at each other, wondering what to do next. My sister shakes her head and says, “We’d better clean this up before Mom comes back inside.” But when we go into the kitchen to get the broom, we decide to have a snack first. Before long, the two of us are laughing and playing again, forgetting all about the vase.
Meanwhile, our mom has been outside working in the garden. She is hot, tired, and still upset over an argument she had with Dad earlier in the day. She’s thinking about everything she needs to get done, and trying to fortify herself to push through her current state of physical and emotional overwhelm.
Mom’s not-good day is about to get worse.
As she walks into the house, she hears my sister and me laughing and running around. Then she sees her grandmother’s vase—the only thing her grandmother had ever given her—shattered on the floor.
Even though she has rarely yelled or gotten upset with us, today she just loses it. She starts yelling, “Who broke my vase?! Who broke my vase?!”
My sister and I come running into the front room, both scared as she shouts at us about the vase, demanding to know who broke it.
In a panic, my sister points at me and says, “She did it!”
I look at her, and then at my mother, stuttering, “I … I … I didn’t—”
“You! Go to your room now!” Mom yells.
Now close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you are a child and that you have just been punished for something you didn’t do. How does this feel in your body? What thoughts are beginning to cycle through your mind?
You may have a strong emotional reaction, a tingling that fills you from head to toe. Physically, you may feel a churning in your stomach, a tightness in your throat, or a tearing feeling in your chest. You may be angry and feel betrayed. You may feel scared or confused.
The emotion itself is not the problem, but what we do next creates the fodder for most of our ongoing suffering as adults.
We tell ourselves a story.
As a little kid, consider some of the things you may tell yourself to help make sense of what just happened:
Mom loves my sister more than she loves me.
People will lie or betray me to serve their own interest.
If I lie, I won’t get punished.
It’s not safe to play or feel joy; I’ll get in trouble.
I can’t trust Mom.
I have to be extra careful and earn the feeling of love and safety.
I’m bad, clumsy, and stupid.
Material objects are more important than people.
Life’s not fair.
Any one of these thoughts could be nothing—like a dandelion puff blowing in the wind and not taking root. Or the puff could land on fertile soil and start growing roots and shooting out leaves. Before you know it, a whole field of weeds has sprouted. These tiny thoughts have immense power—not their own power but the power we give to them. We are incredible creators, but what we often create is based on the seeds of false thoughts that, when planted, take root and blossom into agreements that we make with ourselves and with others.
While the situation with the vase is a relatively minor trauma, the point is to see how a brief incident can plant seeds of doubt, confusion, and misunderstanding, which can then grow into larger agreements that affect our entire lives until we investigate and uproot them. The child in this scenario may not even remember the incident when she grows up, but you can see the impact it could have on her thinking—especially if things like this occur on a regular basis. On an unconscious level, she will literally create a reality that will grow from this handful of childhood agreements. These beliefs will become a shaky floor for all her future actions.
Take a moment to reflect on your own experiences:
Where have you erected jail-like walls based on past stories?
What are the stories you tell yourself that make you feel helpless or victimized instead of powerful and confident?
In what ways do they limit how you perceive your life story, your talents, and your possibilities for the future?
For many of us, there are more than a few of these in a variety of areas. Sometimes we have told ourselves these stories for so long that we no longer recognize them as stories. We mistake them for “the way things are.” Unearthing these beliefs can take time and energy, but we must reveal and expunge them if we are going to be free.
The good news is that you do not need to know the origin of these beliefs to correct and replace them; all you need to do is (1) be honest with yourself about the current state of your internal house; and (2) be willing to do the work to remodel it from the ground up.
We are incredible creators, but what we often create is based on a foundation of false thoughts from which we then build an entire, limiting structure of agreements. As don Miguel writes in The Four Agreements Companion Book, “Imagine every agreement is like a brick. Humans create an entire structure out of bricks, and we glue it together with our faith. We believe without doubt in all the knowledge within the structure. Our faith gets trapped inside that structure because we put our faith in each agreement. It’s not important if it is or isn’t true; we believe it, and for us it is true.”
Let’s continue to explore how a thought forms the basis of a story that hardens into a structure that walls us off from the wisdom of our Big Soul. Imagine yourself as the little kid who got punished for breaking the vase. Let’s pretend that you have the thought, I got punished because Mom loves my sister more than she loves me. While it might feel awful to think this thought, do you notice that there is also a sense of relief at having a reason for being punished, even if it is not true?
Now imagine that your mom comes into your room and apologizes for yelling at you. She says all the “right” things: “I’m so sorry, honey. I had a rotten day and I loved that vase, so I got upset. Your sister just told me she knocked the vase over by accident and that it wasn’t your fault. I love you, and I’m sorry I yelled at you and sent you to your room. Come, let’s go have dinner.”
But what little doubt has already been planted in your mind? As you sit down to dinner, imagine Mom passes the mashed potatoes to your sibling first. If you are still holding the thought Mom loves my sister more, what would you say to yourself?
Your oh-so-helpful brain would do what we call selective-evidence gathering. You might think, Aha! I knew it! Mom passed the mashed potatoes to her first. She does love her more. And later, if Mom passes you the ice cream first, what might you do with that evidence? Often when you have a seed thought, you will begin to gather evidence to make sense of the thought. If there is an experience that does not support the story, you actually ignore it, or you weave it into your new story. In this way, you are ingenious! So you might think, Yeah, Mom passed me the ice cream first, but it is just because she is feeling guilty that she loves my sister more than she loves me.
Do you see how you can take one thought and build a whole elaborate structure, a fortress created by ideas and conditions and agreements about what is true and what is not?
Mom likes my sister better, but I don’t care anyway. I don’t need anyone. Mom likes my sister better because I am bad. Mom likes my sister better because younger sisters are more important. Maybe if I am perfect, if I try really hard, then I’ll be loved like my sister is. Or maybe if I am invisible, if no one sees me and I am really quiet and nice, I won’t get in trouble. The foundational bricks of this new internal structure—I am bad, I don’t need anyone, and Younger sisters are more important—will produce more and more agreements that become bricks as long as she is not conscious of them. She will create a walled-in reality that will conform to this handful of unconscious childhood agreements, all so that she can feel safe.
How have you created your current reality based on old stories or agreements you made with yourself, about what you were told as a child? And why are these false stories so alluring that you could forget the warmth of your Big Soul? Let’s take a look.
As children, each of us took on beliefs or agreements that moved us further away from our Big Soul. Many of these agreements, which are designed to give us a sense of safety when we feel lost and confused, were passed on energetically from our parents and other caretakers. Some we mimicked from what we saw around us, and others we made up all on our own, like believing Mom loves my sister more in the scenario illustrated above. However, the stories we created as a child were highly influenced not only by the agreements of the people around us but also by what the Toltecs call the dream of the planet—humanity’s collective perspective. As don Miguel and his son don Jose describe in The Fifth Agreement: “The shared dream of humanity, the dream of the planet, was there before you were born, and this is how you learned to create your own art, the story of you.”
You can easily see the invisible but pervasive influence of the dream of the planet by turning on the nightly news, reading the headlines of major newspapers, watching soap operas, or looking at advertisements. When was the last time you saw a major evening news story that highlighted all the good things happening in the world? Or how about a soap opera where the characters didn’t end up knee deep in painful emotional drama? Or saw an advertisement about how perfect you are and would you care to buy this new shampoo? Most media report fear and scarcity; advertising is geared to how perfect you would be if you used their product, not how perfect you are now.…
The information on how to think and how to act and how to be is not created by the media—it is merely a reflection of the agreements we’ve made. The content of our media shows us that most of us are experiencing reality through the eyes of conflict, fear, scarcity, and a sense of not being good enough. These limiting qualities are what hook our attention because they feel familiar to us, and in that familiarity, we find a (false) sense of safety.
Since almost everyone—from our parents to our teachers to our friends—is immersed in this way of perceiving the world, it seems natural for us to believe that we are not lovable or that we have to be a certain way to be accepted. But this is not our natural state, and that’s why it feels so uncomfortable to us! That’s why we are always looking for comfort and for something to complete us. That’s why we are seeking the path home.
Finding Our Way Back Home
Your Big Soul is like the sun, constantly radiating its loving glow. No matter how lost you feel, how much you are suffering, or how deeply ingrained your stories or agreements are, at any moment, your Little Soul can choose to pierce through the illusion of separateness to return home to the ancient and wise guidance of your Big Soul. This takes a willingness (and a constantly honed skill) to release the stories of the past and turn toward the truth of this present moment. It is in the present that we can cut through the illusion of our old, fear-based agreements and reconnect our Little Soul with the calm, peaceful, and steady love of our Big Soul.
The love and comfort your Little Soul seeks will not be filled by the temporary pleasures of life. No matter how good the wine, how abundant the chocolate, or how many likes and comments you have on Facebook, when your Little Soul is disconnected from your Big Soul, all relief is transitory. But even in your darkest times, your Big Soul holds up a lantern, waiting patiently for your wandering Little Soul to come home. The path back to Big Soul is there but is simply obscured by the walls you have built.
Keep stepping out of your Little Soul’s perspective and hold the big-picture view. You are not your Little Soul. You are not the fear-based structures that lie between your Little Soul and Big Soul. And you are not just your Big Soul. You are Little Soul and Big Soul, both yearning to be reunited.
When you learn to witness the totality of your physical/mental/emotional being through the eyes of Big Soul rather than through the eyes of Little Soul, everything changes. With this one perceptual shift, you can go from feeling stuck to being full of ease, from a place of judgment to one of compassion, from a state of annoyance to one of acceptance. But learning to stabilize Big Soul perspective can take a lifetime. This is why we need tools like the Warrior Heart practice to help us break down the walls, at first brick by brick, and then wall by wall, ultimately allowing our Little Soul to be freed from its self-imposed jail so that it can see new possibilities and perspectives.
Your Big Soul doesn’t impatiently demand that your Little Soul be different. Your Big Soul isn’t addicted to caretaking or fixing the Little Soul. It knows that the Little Soul will eventually figure its way through the fog and break down the false walls. Remember, Big Soul is like an ancient grandma who patiently and sweetly invites you to remember that you are so much more than your beliefs and fears.
Your Big Soul eternally whispers to your Little Soul, “You are enough exactly the way you are. You are all of creation. You are loved. You are perfect the way you are.” Your Big Soul is always holding out a hand and saying, “Let’s explore and create in this wonderful world of taste, touch, sight, sound, and feeling!”
While your Big Soul constantly sends your Little Soul, your little lost ego-personality, love notes and trails of bread crumbs leading the way home, it can be hard to see the path. The quiet, steady voice of your Big Soul can easily be drowned out by the noise of your stories. The moments of grace, the peaceful pauses, and the exhilarating insights are often quickly swamped with unsupportive thoughts and emotional reactions.
This is why you can have awareness of a pattern or habit you want to transform, but find it nearly impossible to change your behavior. If you have ever wanted to stop thinking about an ex, or refrain from being upset by your boss’s curtness, or have faith but instead find yourself anxious and worried about your future, you know how fixated and freaked out your Little Soul can be.
Having a desire of what you want in your life is only a start. It is not enough to simply understand that you should not judge yourself or to understand intellectually that you are safe even when someone is angry at you. The question is, how do you fully embody your choice and presence in each moment rather than just thinking about it or wishing for it?
This is the path of the Warrior Heart, which will help connect the stormy waters of your fear-based thoughts and emotions to reconnect your Big Soul and your Little Soul. Instead of fighting your Little Soul or trying to force the waters of your mind and emotions to be calm, let’s build a bridge. Just as it took time to build the old structures of fear and separation, it will take action and focus to lay a new pathway between your Big Soul and ego-personality.
Your Warrior Heart awakens the moment you start loving the journey of reconnecting your Little Soul to your Big Soul’s loving guidance and grace. It is about accepting all of you, big and little, whether your experience is blissful expansion or painful contraction. Being a Warrior of the Heart brings you back into alignment with the beauty of all of you, including your Little Soul ego-personality. It is this acceptance that clears the smoke and bridges the gap between your Big Soul and your Little Soul. And once this happens, everything changes as you realign with your true, wise inner self.
There are two main actions that reconnect your Big Soul and your Little Soul. The first is to do more of what you love. (Isn’t that a great assignment?) Doing more of what you love can actually be more difficult to do than it seems. Here’s why.
When you do something you love (like hiking or dancing or daydreaming or running or knitting or whatever floats your boat!), you get completely and happily lost in the activity. Your mind quiets, and in that space, your Little Soul and Big Soul are united again, able to work together creatively toward solutions or simply enjoy being. You don’t have any need to explain, defend, judge, or worry. All is right in the world, because your Little Soul is in the present moment, holding hands with your Big Soul.
Losing yourself through doing things you love is very different from using an activity to numb or distract yourself (like compulsive drinking or shopping). The same action can reconnect your Little Soul with your Big Soul or create even more separation, depending on the intention you are bringing to it. While substances that alter your consciousness can be useful for getting past the mind and merging with your Big Soul, they are best used as a flashlight that points you in the direction you want to go so that you can then find your way there on your own, rather than use it as a crutch that will ultimately cause more harm.
So your first task is to do more of what you love so you touch the happy-wise place within you.
Your second task is cleaning out everything that is between Little Soul and your Big Soul. This means facing and dissolving all the agreements, fears, false beliefs, past trauma, hurts, and stuck places.
Now, cleaning is not usually considered a very glamorous or enticing spiritual or healing endeavor. We would much rather have things disappear or change on their own or have someone to come in and clean things up for us. Or sometimes we hope that if we just go to enough workshops or see the right healer or meditate just the right way, we can somehow skip straight to blissful enlightenment (or at least be free of our mind’s insanity).
In the Toltec teachings, there are three main levels of mastery: awareness, transformation, and intent. In the first level, you learn to become aware of your thoughts, emotions, and body, without judgment or victimization. As your awareness grows, you see and take action on what agreements and habits you want to transform. Instead of being stuck repeating the same patterns and responding with the same emotional reactions, you begin to consciously transform how you behave and think. As you change your thinking and behaviors, you align more and more with your Big Soul’s wisdom instead of your Little Soul’s fear. And eventually, you step into living from intent, which means living in inspiration, faith, and connection to your Big Soul.
My philosophy is this: May we become immersed in doing things we love, or use everything in our lives to help us clean up what blocks us from loving the moment we are in. There are plenty of challenges in our lives, and avoiding or ignoring the challenges is not the pathway to freedom. Your freedom comes from learning to courageously face your challenges as opportunities to clean out false beliefs and old, heavy emotions.
And for this, you need a Warrior Heart.
Before we move to exploring the four chambers of the Warrior Heart practice, take a few moments to write in a journal to help you uncover the Little Soul stories you tell yourself. Use these questions to guide you. Write without thinking, and see what you learn about both your foundational agreements and the walls that your Little Soul has created to feel safe.
What sort of experiences do you find happening in your life over and over again?
What beliefs or agreements did you learn from your parents?
How do you feel about yourself?
How do you feel about the world?
What things do you judge about yourself the most?
How do you judge others?
What beliefs or agreements are limiting you?
Copyright © 2020 by HeatherAsh Amara