All of life is a creative expression that is unfolding like a never-ending story. We are in this story and we are this story.
There isn’t a way we could exist in this Universe if life didn’t have an immense amount of creative force behind it. Spirituality often rejects this life force, or demonises it in some way. It is Eve biting the apple, or the karmic force that contains the suffering. But it is also what fuels us and makes us feel alive as humans.
This aspect of experience is our soulfulness. It is our creativity, our life force, our eros and the meaningfulness of experience. A lot of this comes from embracing our darkness – the deeper we are able to open to our pain, the more expressive and free we are able to be.
Creativity isn’t a mechanical action that we can somehow ‘get’; it’s a force of nature that can be reached through accessing flow states or allowing your muse to come to you. It is inherently mysterious.
Nebulosity comes from embracing this aspect of experience. We are noticing that things are actually a creative expression, where meanings can shift and change from one moment to the next. All and any fixed perceptions are just an illusion or a post-rationalisation of a fundamentally more nebulous way of experiencing what is unfolding.
Part of this is that nothing is static, being present with experience involves receiving the world as it is in this moment and allowing your natural response to flow out of you. And then doing the same in the next moment. And the next moment. Like the blood flow that is being pumped through the heart with every heartbeat.
Even when we reach a state of unity with the entire Universe, it is still an active state. Everything is moving and shifting and changing and it takes an active heart-mind-body-soul-being to remain open and inclusive of everything as it unfolds.
On a more day-to-day basis, we filter our experience in order to be able to function. We exist separately from the rest of the Universe, so that we can play our role in life.
But this separation is also just part of the great unfolding of life – the story that is being told and experienced. It’s important that we include and validate this separation as a sacred part of the spiritual path, too; how it feels and how it unfolds.
Embracing nebulosity is about accepting the role that we have been given in this lifetime – we are here as humans to tell a unique story through the lives that we live. We never arrive anywhere, it is all a process, and our role is to embrace our part in that process.
When we embrace nebulosity, it creates a huge amount of freedom in our experience. We see that what is happening in this moment doesn’t need to say anything fixed about us or the world – it is just an expression of Universal life force in this moment.
Soulfulness is about embodying that sense of sacredness and meaningfulness through everything we do.
In terms of practice, the archetypal, shamanic and imaginal spaces can really open up this sense of nebulosity.
They all create a space where it is safe to access the parts of us that we wouldn’t always be willing to go to in reality. We are being more inclusive, which stops us getting stuck in life.
Rather than spending a load of energy resisting a certain aspect of experience, like a dam in a river, we can allow things to flow in this space more freely. We can embody dark archetypes and allow challenging emotions to express themselves in order to get things flowing again.
We can also allow our fantasies to express themselves. This could be a deep and elaborate meditative practice, or it could be simply carving out 5 mins in the day to consciously day-dream and see what fantasies emerge.
In these spaces, the imaginal and the shamanic, the way we experience ourselves is inherently nebulous. One moment we can feel we are a fierce warrior, the next a tiny, helpless kitten. Equally our fantasies change and evolve all the time depending on our current desires and circumstances.
This is showing us a fundamental truth of how our subjective experience is constantly shifting and moving.
We can also be shown some really mysterious things, like visions of the future or strange aspects of reality that reveal themselves to us before shape-shifting into something else. It can be a wonderfully creative, mysterious and nourishing place to be.
It can be also be a confusing, frustrating and terrifying place to be. This wisdom needs to be respected and we can bring these feelings into the imaginal space, to explore what they are telling us also.
One of the joys of the imaginal and shamanic realm is that everything can be brought into the fold, nothing is off limits.
If you would like to explore further I have recorded an intro talk and guided meditation here. Or I have written more about this here.
Concentrating on Suffering
It is the suffering in our lives that we resist the most and it is resistance that causes us to be stagnant and create fixed ideas that are in opposition to nebulosity.
Concentrating on suffering is about finding the aspect of experience you are resisting, peeling back the layers and being with it until it has passed or transmuted.
There are different approaches to concentration on suffering. The best one will depend on which type of suffering it is.
Imaginal practice is incredibly good at releasing trauma – allowing us to access parts of ourselves or the world that are normally too dark for us to be with – and allowing them to express themselves.
Any interpersonal practices that allow room for sharing difficult emotions and vulnerabilities are also good for this. If we have space to share our struggles, we can notice how they can actually be a point for connection, rather than a source of shame and pain.
I also talk about this a lot in the other practice guides – ways of releasing our held trauma.
The first step is being honest with ourselves, allowing us to feel what we feel and embracing where we are with something. Even this step can be a profound release for dukkha.
This is essentially a type of taking and sending, but rather than thinking about taking in negative energy and thinking about sending out positive energy, we are opening ourselves to feeling the difficult things in side of us and meeting them with love, so that they transmute into something positive and more free.
Inclusion Heart Practice – Radical Open-Hearted Acceptance
The heart-state that allows us to access this way of being is equanimity, or as I prefer to translate it inclusion. Equanimity has some connotations that we are somehow detached from the world.
Inclusion is more about opening our hearts and validating whatever we find there – whether it be from our inner world, the light of experience, the darkness, some shared truth about the nature of reality or how other people are behaving.
‘Equanimity includes the chapter of me’
Spiritual practice needs to incorporate this understanding of inclusion because otherwise it becomes another vehicle for re-enforcing systemic and personal oppression. We are rejecting large swathes of information about how people feel and the part of ourselves that makes us so beautifully human.
At the heart of inclusion is a sincerity. We feel we belong in the world and we believe in our own fundamental goodness; our emotions and experiences feel valid and we can accept and celebrate our natural response to them. We don’t need to overthink things or be cynical or overly-analytical about ourselves and the world around us. We feel the same about other people.
To open this up we want to create a full and inclusive sense of our experience.
My guided meditation on radical open-hearted acceptance does this and can be found here.
Embracing the Tragedy & Comedy of Life
Stories are a fundamental part of the structure of the Universe, without them the world wouldn’t make sense. If we can learn to experience the world as one of the characters in the story of the Universe, it actually gives us more space around experiencing the moment.
It becomes easier to find joy in our flaws and to experience challenges as part of what makes the story interesting. This helps us move away from the concepts of right and wrong and more towards enjoying the ride and responding creatively.
It is easier to understand how we are contributing to a bigger picture when we can see that our story is just a small sub-plot within a greater whole. It is also easier to embody nebulosity if we can see that our current moment is just a small part of a longer story.
Nostalgia arises because when we have a bit more space between us and an event it is easier to appreciate it for what it is – a moment in time that doesn’t need to be perfect to be enjoyed. Soulfulness allows us to embrace this attitude with the moment we are in now, whatever that is. We are can embody the full range of emotions and expressions and express them through our being.
Here are some ways to help you explore how you can find some space within the story of your life through embracing a sense of nebulosity:
- Sound-track your day like a movie. For example, if it’s a sad day, really embrace it with some sad music and embody the sadness in a way someone would in their low point in a movie.
- Remember that sadness, heart-ache, pain and hardship are all part of the experience of being alive. The more deeply we can open to these things, the more alive we feel. What if you reframed sadness from something that needed to be avoided and asked yourself how sad can I feel today?
- Artists are some of the best inspiration for finding joy in life – taking their personal tragedies and hardships and turning them into compelling stories. How can you express the story that is inside you? Can you draw or write or sing about it, even if it is just for you?
- If your life was a comedy – what would be the style of comedy? How can you ham up how you perceive your character, to make it easier to laugh at yourself and the situations you find yourself in.
- We hear a lot of hero’s stories. It’s important to make space for tragic stories, too, so that we can learn to accept that sometimes things come to an end in a really sad way. This can help us increase our ability to let things go and move on to the next story. What are the tragedies you’ve experienced in your life?
- Think about some ‘losers’ from films, books or stories that you appreciate. Remember these for when you feel like a massive loser.
- What sort of bad guy are you? No matter how nice we try and be, sometimes we will be the bad guy in another person’s story. See if you can embody it with a bit more spaciousness and acceptance.
- What characters do you find particularly frustrating, painful or difficult to be around? Try and let go of the idea of individuals and understand on an archetypal level the dynamics that you find difficult. Fold this in to your perception of the story – that these characters are here as part of your challenge in life, to learn from or overcome.
- If you were a character in a film or play, what would your character ‘flaws’ be? Can you shift your perception so these become character quirks – a part of what makes you you and a way in which you contribute to the wider story. Can you find a way to embody them in a whole-hearted way?
- Equally what would your character strengths be? Can you embody these in a more whole-hearted and sincere way?
- How does your past contribute to where you have got to in your story? What are the lessons you have learned and the themes of your story? What’s your current phase in the story of your life?
- This is one of my favourite quotes. I feel that it could also be applied to how we live our lives, embracing all the pain and heartache and happiness and delight that comes across our paths and expressing our response freely and openly:
“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” Annie Dillard
Shared Experiences – Opening to Creativity & Nebulosity Together
The story of life and that way it manifests through nebulosity is a place with the potential for lots of beautiful connection.
Creativity bypasses the concepts of right and wrong, so through this process, we can make space for each other to be different and appreciate these differences. This can also be a way for us to learn about ourselves better as well.
We can make space for our subconscious material to arise, in a way that is safe and welcoming. This can bring a huge amount of depth and soulfulness to our relationships. Rather than interacting on a surface level, we are sharing the depths of our being.
To do this effectively, it needs someone to be able to hold the space and ensure that is a safe, playful and creative atmosphere where people aren’t being judged for what they are sharing or needing to get anything right. It is about opening to the mystery of life together.
It is worth checking out the shared practices area of my website if you are interested in this aspect of practice.
Soul Mates & Sexuality
We play an important role in each other’s stories and can have a huge range of spiritual friends who guide us along our path and encourage us to deepen our relationship with the world and ourselves.
Soul mates are people who we connect with on some deep, inexplicable level. They inspire something in us where we feel that our life force is in some way met, seen or being fuelled. It is someone we feel a strong sense of chemistry with, where a strong sense of creativity or eros is sparked in us.
This can be sexual and opening to our sexuality and deepest desires is another way of accessing this part of ourselves.
But it can also be platonic. The creativity can be about fuelling each other to become the best version of yourselves and to create things in the world together, for example.
It can also exist in our imaginations. Jung talks about the anima and animus in his work – the unconscious feminine side of a man and the unconscious masculine side of a woman. In order to reintegrate these parts of ourselves we will sometimes create an archetypal fantasy of the sort of person we would like to be with or project onto a real person who we know the ideal traits that we would like to embody.
When held lightly this can be a really fun and interesting part of experience to explore. Sexual, erotic and romantic fantasy is a hugely rich world of experience that can be incredibly beautiful to explore.
Fantasy can tell us so much about ourselves. The things we are attracted to, how that makes us feel and the situations we imagine ourselves in – these are all showing us aspects of ourselves that are often hidden in daily life.
They are the things that bring us to life and approaching them with a sense of nebulosity, seeing them as symbolic and being curious about what they are pointing towards, allows us to use them to deepen our experience and sense of soulfulness.
Most people don’t talk about their fantasies, particularly romantic or sexual ones, because it can be embarrassing. If you look on Reddit there are people there who share all their dumb, cute and sexual fantasies and it’s really nice to know that everyone experiences this.
It is also the aspect of experience where people can feel most tortured and lonely, when they aren’t met in this way.
Nebulosity can remind us that we aren’t always going to necessarily feel this way – that unrequited love or loneliness for example – is just a phase or a chapter we are in. So we can learn to be present with this desire in us. Rather than letting it carry us off into the past or future in some concrete way, we are allowing the desire to be with us in the present moment.
These things are very rarely talked about in spirituality and I feel it’s really helpful to recognise that the desire to be in love is innately compelling and really important to almost all humans. This recognition allows that aspect of us to be present in experience, rather than denying it exists or trying to shut it down.
Two (or more) people who love each other whole-heartedly is one of the most beautiful expressions of life and humanity in action. Especially when they have learned to support each other to become the best versions of themselves and help each other grow.
Sharing fantasies, the erotic and the imaginal is a beautiful way for two people to connect and bring each other to life.
Being honest about your desires around this and turning your dating or love life into a part of what you feel is sacred in life can be really beautiful and an amazing way to deepen your intimacy with yourself, others and experience.
Fantasy, Beauty & Creativity
Our soulfulness is where all of these things arise from.
“Love, longing and the restlessness of the human heart are the catalyst for every creative revolution” Maria Popova
Carving out some time to be in our fantasy worlds and allowing them to show themselves to us can be deeply nourishing for us and is a chance for us to know ourselves better.
What we find beautiful in life is indicative of what is meaningful to us – these are the things we are drawn to and find compelling.
These are also the things that are going to spark creativity in us. It is through being in contact with aspects of experience that are in some way beautiful or compelling that we feel inspired to create things.
Can you be brave and allow yourself to create the thing that feels most vulnerable to create? Creatives that put themselves into their work are the ones who create really compelling art, poetry, music, writing and work.
All of these things – fantasy, beauty and creativity – are fleeting. They pass through us as things to be enjoyed in this moment. In this way they open us to the nebulosity of life.
If we have opened up to new aspects of ourselves in the process, what we are left with is a deeper capacity to be present with more soulfulness in life.
Finding the Lessons in Life
Part of the nature of creativity, story and nebulosity is that we need space to grow into, which means we can’t already be fully-formed or perfect.
We want to able to learn to see this space as that, opportunity for growth rather than a personal criticism or failure. Once a lesson can be seen as a stage in a process, rather than an end result, this will give you the freedom to respond in a more creative and joyful way.
Here are some tools for helping us to do that:
- It is important to not judge ourselves or others in retrospect. We do our best with the tools and information we have at the time, until we know better, then we do better. A deep sense of forgiveness to the world and others can be deeply liberating in opening up nebulosity.
- Accept that some situations are just really shitty and we have limited capacity to change that. Lack of control can be a scary thing to admit, but it is ultimately a lot more freeing to accept that we are in an awful situation than to deny it. If you are in a bad situation, create a scale of 1 – 10 of how awful it is. Note where you are on the scale and take some deep breaths to accept and arrive where you are. Think about if there’s any small steps you can take or things you can work towards, which could improve where you are on the scale.
- Lessons can come across as more personal and critical when they are coming from another human (rather than an experience). Focus on ideas rather than characters. What is the idea that this person is trying to communicate? How does that interact with my ideas?
- When expressing your ideas to other people, write them down or draw a picture of them if you can. Creating something physical moves the conversation away from attack/ defence of each other as people and more towards creativity: ‘I am creating a concept that I would like to share with you’.
- If someone is being critical, try and understand the intention and emotion that is underneath what they are saying. If it is an emotionally loaded topic for them, appreciate that they may not be communicating it in the best way. Again, nebulosity is key. Things move and shift all the time, so if you can allow them space to vent and ask them questions to help them express themselves more clearly and closer to their truth, rather than reacting to what they are saying, this is more like to help things flow.
- If you are giving someone feedback, it will only be productive if you are doing it because you believe that they can do better (as opposed to trying to prove someone wrong). Be really clear about your intentions.
- As a person who is giving someone feedback, focus on the message you are delivering rather than the response you are getting. Don’t expect other people to respond to feedback the way you want them to or the way that you think is right. Give people space to respond in their own way. Learn to receive the unexpected twists and turns that life and another person’s creativity can add, even when they don’t go the way you wanted.
Allowing for Magic & Mystery
Accessing a sense of nebulosity comes from opening up to the magic and mystery of life; the part of life that we can’t control or understand in an analytical way. It is an ability to go with the flow and access the world through our more intuitive understanding of it.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t explore it and connect with it in a different way. Here are some tools that help you immerse yourself in the mystery:
- Leave time in your schedule for free exploration. Once you are well-rested, leave additional free time on top of this where you have no plans. Wake up in the morning and just follow your intuition about where you go that day, what you do, who you speak to.
- Pay attention to things that ‘feel important’ for no logical reason. What does it want you to do? Follow an action or just notice it?
- Understand that things don’t always play out the way we hoped that they would, but that this can be for the best. Mistakes and misunderstandings are sometimes happening for a reason.
- Mystery is best expressed through the creative arts. Really listen to the stories, films, music and images that you are drawn to or that come across your path. What drew you to that piece of art or brought you to it? What is the message that this story or artwork is communicating to you?
- Practice the art of deep listening. Not just listening to what someone is saying on the surface, but what their emotions and body language are communicating to you. We often send each other sub-conscious messages that are part of the deeper mystery of life.
- Connect with things that feel magical to you – nature, herbs, shrines, tarot, symbolism, rituals, beautiful objects. Whatever it is, it is most soulful if you can give it a sense of sacredness while also holding it lightly. It can’t hold any final truth, but the magic of life can be truly amazing and it is possible to discover amazing depths of experience, synchronicity and beauty through this way of engaging with the world.
- Remember that none of this is analytical. It is not going to give you definite answers to life or a stronger sense of what is the ‘right’ thing to do. It will help you develop a soft focus that can create more meaningfulness and a sense of joy and flow with how you move through life.
Reflecting on Embracing Nebulosity
When reflecting on any of these practices, try and avoid the concept of whether they make you feel better or worse and focus on whether you have noticed if you behave or feel differently.
This aspect of experience is our connection to the shared soul of the Universe, which expresses itself through our shared story. It is one of the places in which we are all deeply inter-connected.
We play an important role in other people’s story and sometimes the way that happens is out of our control. Seeing that our story is not just about us and what we get from it, but that it serves a greater whole, will hopefully allow us to find more joy wherever we find ourselves.
Some questions to help you reflect on this aspect of experience:
- Are you able to access some creative or imaginal way of making sense of your experience during meditation?
- Are you able to embrace and embody a wider range of emotions?
- Are you more accepting of the role you are playing, or the archetypal energy you are embodying, in a wider range of circumstances?
- Are you allowing yourself to fantasise more freely, without feeling that you need it to come true?
- Do you feel more fully alive?
- Are you able to go with the flow of life better?
- Are you more in touch with what you find beautiful and meaningful in life?
- Do you feel more in touch with the magic of experience, life or the Universe?
- Do you feel differently about the story or timeline of your life?