What is a soul? How do we begin to define what a soul is? Perhaps a good place to start is to define what it is not. The soul is not the skin and the flesh and the bones. The soul is not the physical body. The soul is not the mind or the intellect. The soul is not even the personality or identity that we get so attached to. And yet we often deduce ourselves into tiny fragments, to this body or mind or personality, forgetting our true nature as a soul. We sometimes feel we are not good enough. We are attached to certain aspects of ourselves- our looks or accomplishments or even possessions. We become competitive. We become that which we are not because we have forgotten that we are souls.
And then we deduce others too. We discriminate. And here in the Philippines, the discrimination is very prevalent in the form of classism. Based on someone's job or title or financial status, people are treated better or worse. I have heard that certain places do not allow housekeepers to take the same elevators as everyone else. This is the sad reality of deducing others to "less than".
And then we continue to deduce others whom we perceive as even more different from us. We deduce animals to objects. We refer to them as "it". Even with our companion animals whom we love so much, we say we are their "owners", as though they were objects to be possessed. We go on this path of deduction and separation, saying "beef" to disconnect us from the fact that who we are referring to are cows, "bacon" for pigs, and so on, deducing souls into mere objects, a reflection of our own tendency to project our own insecurities.
Maybe there is a better way to live. Maybe we need to awaken. Maybe we need to remember what we are here for. You and I, we are souls. They who breathe, who are alive, who are sentient, they are souls. We are souls sharing the same space, sharing this same home. Maybe it's time we remember that.
When we practice asana, we may catch ourselves struggling sometimes. And though struggling is a very human experience, being attached to it, thinking we are nothing but this struggle is how we sell ourselves short. We are so much more than our struggles that are temporary. We are so much more than our perceived flaws that are superficial. We are so much more than our insecurities that are a mere result of disconnection that can be resolved.
To bring ourselves to a place of connection, we start by practicing seeing ourselves as precious beings. Say this to yourself: "I am a precious being. I have a right to be here. I am enough. I have enough. I am whole." The power of our thoughts can change the way we see ourselves. And when we see ourselves as whole, we project this into the world around us. We see every being, no matter how similar or different from us, in the same way- that they are precious, that they have a right to be here, that they are whole.
We move from thoughts to words. We choose words carefully so that it reflects connection rather than discrimination, respect rather than degradation. We see that the word "meat" to refer to dead animals is derogatory. It strips away who the being once was, and deduces him or her to a mere nothing. "Meat" is not just "meat". It is the decaying flesh of someone whose life was taken away. "Dairy" is not a product, it is the secreted milk of a mother who at her own will would have chosen to feed this milk to her own child.
We move from words to action. We consider the impact of our choices. When we consume animals and their by-products, we are removing ourselves from our connection to them. We are putting on blinders in order to continue to separate and humiliate and objectify. When we choose a different path- when we choose to be vegan- we start to heal the disconnection that we have within ourselves. We acknowledge that our true nature as souls means that there is no need for us to hurt others or take advantage of others or treat others as "less than". We heal the disconnection between ourselves and others- in that we see the more important similarities than the surface-level differences.
What is a soul? How do we treat ourselves as souls? There is nothing else we need to do other than to realize that you, me, them- all of us- are souls. We are all precious. We all have a right to be here. We are whole.