how to grow a soul ( so you can find the work of your soul)



The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It’s not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift – your true self – is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs. — Bill Plotkin

The pull toward soul feels like an earthquake in the midst of your life. — Bill Plotkin


I posted a blog post titled You are not here to play it safe, which was a riff on all the crazy things your soul is here to do.

(“You are here to kamikaze at the sun!” Put that on your to-do list, boys and girls).

When I tossed it up on my Facebook page, someone said in the comments: Great. Now tell that to my bank and my landlord, thanks.


I use the word soul to refer to some essential evolving essence of you, the deep and coded line of poetry that pushes for expression in your life. (I also think of this as your creative intelligence.)

Whereas spirit refers to some great transcendent impersonal Om reality in the sky – the One we all merge into – soul takes you in the other direction.

It takes you down into the underground, into the deeply personal and highly individual depths of who you are: your gifts, your wounds, your unlived life, your mystery, your shadow.

(Soul is to spirit what gothic eyeliner is to angel glitter. People tend to go one way or the other.)

Soul is you in your body. It is lived through your body. It is your core, your mojo juice, your specific life purpose, and yours alone.

It is your unconscious drive for wholeness.

Your soul drives you – is trying to drive you – toward an unfolding vision of your best and deepest life. But it has to do this in a world that doesn’t give a damn about any of that, caring instead about bills and babysitters and home repairs and Twitter followers and parking spaces and those last five pounds and credit card debt and standing in line at Target.


I came across the concept of “the survival dance” vs “the sacred dance” – and how they’re not opposite forces at all, but one grows out of the other – in a book called SOULCRAFT by Bill Plotkin.

When we leave our childhoods and move out into the world, our first task is to create a survival dance: to find a way to support ourselves. Usually this means a paid job, but it could also mean creating a home and raising kids, or joining a spiritual commune, or finding a patron for your art, or living off the land.

Then, once you have that part established, you start the search for your sacred dance (in our soul-disconnected culture, this often manifests as an identity crisis of one kind or another). This is the work you were meant to do: the work of your soul. It’s your kamikaze at the sun.

Writes Plotkin, “Your sacred dance sparks your greatest fulfillment and extends your truest service to others.”

You know you’ve found the beginnings of it when you’re willing to do it without pay (and probably do).

This is the thing about soul: it exists in relationship to something bigger than itself. We are wired into each other; we search for meaning; we want to contribute and feel part of a bigger picture. To find your dharma, your personal Way, means to discover and develop your gifts but also to plug them in to the world in a way that serves the world. To rise in the mastery of your talent and respond to the call of your times.

Which is why Plotkin can write, perhaps wildly optimistically:

What your soul wants is what the world also wants (and needs). Your human community will say yes to your soul work…. Gradually your sacred dance becomes what you do and your former survival dance is no longer needed. Now you have only one dance as the world supports you to do what is most fulfilling for you.

Your sacred dance is the art you spend twenty years developing in the nooks and crannies of your everyday life. It’s the volunteer work that morphs into a career. It’s the little business you start on the side that grows into a personal empire.

But the way to get there, Plotkin points out, is to build the foundation for self-reliance,

a survival dance of integrity that allows you to be in the world in a good way….Cultivating right livelihood, as Buddhists call it, is essential training and foundation for your soul work; it’s not a step that can be skipped.


What I take from this:

It takes time, and a lot of conscious, ongoing effort:

To explore and learn yourself.

To uncover your gifts.

To develop and master those gifts.

To explore and learn the world.

To find that place in the world where you fit.

To find where the needs of the world and the gifts of your soul embrace like crazed lovers.

To help the world itself become aware of this.


The soul does not announce itself on your doorstep with a neon sign in its hands announcing your PURPOSE and your LIFE PASSION and HOW TO MONETIZE (at least not for most of us). You grow your soul through hardwon experience in the world, in the marketplace, in relationships, in solitude, in your own head. It’s a process. It takes many years: often the entire length of a first adulthood.

Which tends to fly in the face of a culture that promises Five Steps to This and Six Weeks to That and 10 Ways to Transform Your Life (the whole life-ends-at-30 attitude doesn’t help). And while psychologists and neuroscientists will tell you that transformation is very, very possible, it’s generally not painless and tends not to be quick. Just like that overnight success took twenty years to achieve, that moment of personal epiphany that changed everything took years of effort in the world — as well as in that personal, mythical space of the underground — to flash itself into being.

Finding a way to support yourself, and then the form of your creative work, and then a way to support yourself doing that creative work, is a quest. It’s a journey. And as any storyteller will tell you, it’s the journey that makes you into the person that you need to be in order to have what you need to have —

— which might be different from what you thought you wanted —

— but you should maybe just roll with it. You’ve got soulful forces deep at work.

Aug 16, 2013

6 comments · Add Yours

Amen, this is good stuff, Justine. Thank you.


This is one to meditate on and come back to when all my shit floats up during self-exploration and I feel like ripping out the walls instead of ripping out my truth on the journal page.

Also checking out Soulcraft once I post this; I hear it calling to me. Thank you for opening my world again and giving me the courage + the fire to go on (’cause you always do even though I hardly say it).


Beautifully put together, and exactly as I’ve experienced it myself – while on the journey to find what is really “our Thing”, we often don’t realise that our ongoing life, our wounds, our relationships and simply everything we go through becomes a part of what we are meant to contribute to the world. As a believer, I am convinced that God is placing us where we can use the gifts he gave us to help, inspire, teach and heal others (depending on what we do) and make the world a better place. Thanks for this inspiring post!


Thank you for reinforcing the reality that living in magic, divine play and soul is not mutually exclusive from paying the bills and being grounded in daily life. We can have a foot in both worlds and must in order to grow a Self.


Thanks for this Justine..this is great great writing…very inspiring stuff


Awesome post Justine. Thank you.


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