I have always believed in soulmates. While my belief might have sprung from an adolescent fantasy many decades ago, it has ripened into a surety—something solid enough to hold in my hands or place in my coat pocket.
If you believe in reincarnation (which I do), then it’s not a stretch to imagine that some souls travel in clusters across lifetimes, to help each other through difficult stretches in which support, or solace, are hard to come by. Or simply to love each other; because pure, unconditional love is so elusive these days. But alas, I’m nearing my fourth decade as a single person. And sometimes I wonder if it's time to give up, once and for all?
To make matters worse, I’m feeling more and more alone in my belief in soulmates. When I raise the topic amongst friends, my inquiry is met with derision, disbelief, or even a patronizing pat on the shoulder. Why have we collectively tossed the idea of soul-mates in the bin? Are we post-modern folk too smart? Too cynical? Or has our belief in science—in what can be seen and proven—dealt a crushing blow to the notion of soul-mates?
My hairdresser tried to shed some light on why he doesn’t believe in soulmates. While snipping my hair he said, “To find a soul-mate, you’ve got to be in tune with your soul. But nowadays we’re too distracted, too busy, to listen. No wonder we don’t believe in soulmates anymore. Who in today’s world is really connected to their own soul?”
After the blow dry, I sat quietly for a long time thinking about his words. Back in my early thirties, when I was keen to marry, I prayed with all of my heart to meet my soulmate. But then, when it didn’t happen on my timetable, I went out and tried to make it happen all by myself. I blind-dated and Internet-dated, and when I finally met my ex-partner, I was so focused on figuring out whether our friends and families would get along at the wedding that I scarcely took the time to consult my soul about the depth and quality of our connection.
You see, I liked the idea of a soulmate but I preferred to make impulsive decisions using my head and heart, rather than wait for my soul to speak to me. When I look at a cross-section of my friends and their mates, it’s clear that I'm not alone. I don’t begrudge those who marry to share the burden of child-rearing and home ownership, or even those who want to avoid loneliness or the stigma of being single and undesirable. These are difficult times. Why shouldn’t we marry for practical reasons? It's hard work to get and stay connected to our soul, and harder still to nurture a soul connection with a partner.
But I'm also certain that when we engage the soul, the quality of our relationships rises far beyond what is possible when we use only our heads and hearts. I have a handful of soul friends—women and men whom I loved almost from the first instant—whose love has sustained me when I felt most lost or alone. With a soul friend you feel completely “seen,” deeply at ease, and secure in a way that defies reason. My soul-friends are people I could ring up after 20 years and be certain that they would be there for me. In contrast, friendships inspired by lifestyle compatibility or work or proximity rarely survive the trials of time.
But nurturing a soul connection takes faith and fortitude. Even as recently as last year, I let my rational desire for a partner override my soul’s voice. It was shouting, “This relationship is not right for you!!” while my head was busy coming up with reasons to pursue it. It took breaking out in hives in this man's presence to finally let go. The experience taught me that I'd rather be alone than in a relationship in which my soul's voice must be smothered, or engaged with someone whose soul is a complete mystery to me.
But today is a new day. I (finally) have a regular meditation practice. I’m part of a Buddhist community in which I can study and explore matters of the soul on a regular basis. And most important of all, I have faith that if I nurture my soul—and really heed it's call, no matter where it leads me—then I will be capable of recognizing my soul mate when he finally rides up to my house on a white horse and carries me off into the sunset. [Smile.]
[This piece is dedicated to my soul friends, Robin Ely and Harry Spence, who also happen to be soul mates.]