Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation by Jeff Brown
North Atlantic Books, 2009, $15.95, 184 pp., ISBN 978-1-55643-810-3
“When it comes down to it – and make no mistake, it does come down to it – all you are is your soul’s journey. What else is there? What else is worthy of the time that you have been given?”
This passage is the driving premise of Jeff Brown’s book, Soulshaping: A Journey of Self Creation. In this memoir, Brown passionately explores his personal journey from a survivalist, ego-defended way of being to an authentic, soul-driven way of being. Or, as I would frame it, he explores how he came to understand that we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
While at times Brown’s writing could be perceived as too self disclosing, I was drawn to his story. I felt compassion for his experiences, both painful and pleasurable. I admired his brutal honesty, and felt a resonance with my own journey. Indeed, I think that is the draw of this book – each of us can find a part of ourselves within the pages. Our longings, our wounds, our healings, our sensing that there is something more to our existence – and in finding that something more, we also discover the difficulty in maintaining daily contact with that something more.
“At the heart of soulshaping there is a profound faith in the human experience, in the karmic significance of our personal identity . . . Soulshaping is not a detachment model. It is an immersion model.”
This passage sums up another of Brown’s core ideas – his profound faith that if we work through what I call our ‘existential themes’ and Brown calls our ‘soul scriptures’, we will find a purpose to our existence that transcends our previous knowing. We will begin living a more authentic and actualized life. He explores thoroughly, through his own experience, a basic existential humanistic tenet – the way out of our sense of pain, loss, and confusion, is to move inward and explore our subjective reality. We must immerse ourselves in our subjectivity, not just analyze it, or we risk, as Brown states, spiritual by-passing – going for the good feelings and thoughts without doing our therapeutic work first. I valued Brown repeatedly exploring this concept and reinforcing the idea that soulshaping, by its very nature, embraces our humanness.
“Be authentic and true to your felt experience. Feel all your feelings. Unless your knowing arises from your felt experience, it is meaningless.”
This passage could be a proclamation for humanistic psychology in the emphasis on the valuing and working through of our emotional experiences, put within a soulshaping spiritual framework. Your soul expands when you see each adventure or life experience all the way through. To do so, you must descend into feelings, no matter what. If you do so, the experience will reveal its essence, the truth you are subjectively seeking, and you will be expanded.
Brown is very compelling in his presentation of how to specifically go about the soulshaping process, so I would encourage the reader not to forget Brown’s deeper intent – trust yourself and your own soul’s journey, for it is unique to you. You are the creator of your own soul’s journey and while it is helpful to have suggestions from others or feedback from people you trust, ultimately you must trust yourself and your own inner knowing.
To summarize, through Brown’s passionate storytelling and insights, gleaned from his life journey, three powerful points emerge for me. The essence of life is that it is all a soul’s journey. The heart of the soul’s journey is to have a profound faith in the human experience. The process of realizing our soul’s calling is to feel our feelings fully until we discover what we need to learn.
This is a very inspiring book and I recommend it for both people searching for hope and guidance in order to find meaning in their lives, and those who have found meaning and would appreciate revisiting their journey.