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Blog by Alan Seale, February 22, 2021, Intentional Living

Last week, twenty people from five countries gathered on Zoom for the “Soul Mission” workshop. It was a profound two days for all of us in different ways. Several participants described it as “coming home” – returning to who we are and what matters to us most – reconnecting to soul as essence, as truth, and as “breath of life.” As I get older, more and more I am looking at life as a pilgrimage to soul. 

Up until this pandemic year, when I reflected on my life, I often focused on turning points – moments of awakening. Some of them felt like “before and after” events. In other words, describing my life as “before” that event or “after.” 

Perhaps the first turning point was singing for two summers at the Spoleto Festival in Italy when I was in graduate school. It was my first time to travel to Europe, and my first time to live for an extended period of time in another culture. That trip opened my eyes to a whole new world on many levels. After those two summers, I could never go back to my previous worldview. 

In the early 1990s, there was a magical week in the Austrian Alps, culminating in an incredible sunrise meditation experience high on a mountain. To this day, that experience remains largely beyond words in its impact on my understanding of how life works as energy in motion. It redefined my sense of who I am and how I would live from that moment forward.  

Upon returning home from my first trip to Egypt in 2008, I began thinking of my life as “before Egypt” and “after Egypt.” The trip was filled with mystical experiences and insights that have shaped my life ever since. 

A week spent in the jungle of Thailand in 2015 was another such turning point, including the 42-hour transit each way. On the flight home, I wrote a new vision for the next 20 years of my work in the world. I’m not sure I would have found that vision without that trip. 

Two weeks in the South African bush in 2019 opened my eyes and my heart to a deeper understanding of presence than I ever imagined. Certainly there was a lot to learn from the wildlife, yet also a profound sense of presence from the land itself.

And now I am in the middle of another turning point. Yet this turning point has, so far, lasted for almost a year – a year of challenge, loss, discovery, and liberation. 

The turning points were not singular moments in time

Since March of last year, I have rarely left my home and my tiny rural community because of the pandemic. During this more solitary time, I started to realize that none of my “turning point” experiences were singular moments in time. They were not, as I had assumed, the moments that everything changed. 

Instead, they were catalyzing moments that awakened a next stage of conscious awareness. Each experience further opened my senses and my heart, revealing the next path to explore. Each new path deepened my awareness and understanding about how the world works and how I fit in. My inner transformation continued to unfold long after the turning point moment.

From Journey to Pilgrimage

Home has always been a sanctuary for me. Yet during this past year, my home became a sacred hermitage. I discovered on new levels that, if I pay attention, every day brings new awakening. Every day brings the chance for new awareness, new perspectives. 

It’s often said that life is a journey. Yet a journey is defined as simply a passage from one place or stage of life to another. Yes, it will inevitably bring experiences and learning, but I’m looking for more.  

pilgrimage, on the other hand is a particular kind of long journey to a holy place – a place that has deep meaning for you – with sacred intent. As I look back over my life, I feel like I’ve been on a pilgrimage to awakening. A pilgrimage to the heart of being. A pilgrimage to soul. Not just my soul, but to soul as the holy breath of life for all of creation. 

Since the New Year, I’ve been even more intentional with my schedule. I’ve opened more time for reflection and simply being. I’ve savored sitting in front of the fire in the pre-dawn winter silence, cup of coffee in hand and dogs snuggled in close. I’ve practiced listening to Life and its wisdom in a more conscious way. And I’ve uncovered a yearning within me to engage with life from an even deeper intention and awareness. That yearning helped me realize that the time had come to step back from leading the signature programs. Now is the time for more stillness and quiet. Now is the time to dive even deeper with coaching clients and mentees. 

It comes back to soul mission

All of which brings me back to soul mission. My soul mission is I liberate and empower. For me, that means helping others set themselves free and helping them empower themselves to bring their greatest gifts and service to the world. 

The thing about soul mission, however, is that it not only helps you clarify the essence of the gift you bring to the world; it also helps you recognize that your gift is also your greatest lesson. You have to live your soul mission for yourself before you can live it for anyone else. 

That has certainly been my experience with liberating and empowering. I’ve had to set myself free and empower myself to take next steps every single day. This year-long turning point has led me to a liberation point. And for the first time in my life, I’m understanding that liberation itself brings empowerment. While that may be obvious to others, that is only now becoming crystal clear for me.

Twenty years ago, I created and led the first “Soul Mission” four-day retreat. The place, a slightly worn yet very cozy bed and breakfast inn in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York, was perfect. The group of 24 participants was ready. Some of them are still in touch with us today. Every Soul Mission group since then has gifted me with new learning and growth as a teacher, as a coach, and as a person. Each one was its own small marker on my long pilgrimage to soul. 

Last week’s “Soul Mission” workshop was my last one – a bittersweet moment that is both liberating and empowering. Between now and October, I will lead the other three Transformational Presence signature programs for the last time. I feel held and supported on my path perhaps more than ever before. And day by day, I quietly celebrate my life as a pilgrimage to soul.