Soul Elements: The Heart of the Path

Dana Klisanin

The great Traditions teach us that we are animated, encircled, and cradled in Spirit all the days of our lives. We are taught that Spirit permeates us as surely as the sun nourishes our cells and the moon oversees the ebb and flow of our bodily fluids. If this is true, why do we feel that Spirit is something we must strive to find rather than the already everywhere present animating force of our lives? If Spirit carries us when it appears that no one is near, how do we turn our gaze to look into our Lover’s eyes? What need we do? What prayers say? What prostrations make? What icons paint? What rhythms pat upon our drums? What chants repeat? If Spirit is an invisible ink permeating all that is, with what developer can we wet our daily experience to see Spirit already present within ourselves—as ourselves? How can we make the Invisible, visible?

Soul Flower

This developer, this substance with which we can wet our daily experience and gaze deeply into the eyes of Spirit, is a heady mélange of character strengths and virtues—love, compassion, generosity, forgiveness, courage—their names are many and familiar. They are the oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen of the soul—the revealers and developers of Spirit—they are soul elements. Lauded in every Tradition since the beginning of time, soul elements are the common denominator of religious and spiritual traditions worldwide. They take pride of place in philosophies, Eastern and Western—and psychological research continues to reveal their unrivaled importance to living a meaningful and healthy life.

Although soul elements are found across all spiritual traditions, the importance of engaging with them as practice is often undervalued—especially in our hectic, postmodern world. We tend to treat our physical bodies the same way—paying little attention to their chemical composition until something goes wrong. For example, we may not realize we have an iron, calcium, or magnesium deficiency until we’re seriously ill. Likewise, when we fall short of soul elements we often go on as if nothing is amiss—at least for a while—until we become so weakened that we develop physical symptoms—such as depression, apathy, and dis-ease.

In the following illustration, Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements, sixty soul elements are presented with abbreviations, emulating the Periodic Table of Elements. Including the abbreviations is a deliberate attempt to bring a more balanced perspective to the way we look at what constitutes life. Early on we’re taught that the Periodic Table of Elements represents the chemical basis of life. And it’s true, it does. But when we conceive of life in purely physical or chemical terms, we lose our humanity. Yes, oxygen sustains our lives in the short term, but as a species, devoid of compassion we find ourselves destroying the very planet that sustains us.

Dana Klisanin. Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements
Fig. 1. Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements

Altruism (A)

Analyze (Al)

Beauty (B)

Charity (Ch)

Compassion (Cm)

Concentration (Ct)

Confidence (Cn)

Courage (С)

Curiosity (Cu)

Creativity (Cr)

Dependability (Dp)

Determination (Dt)

Dignity (Dg)

Discipline (Ds)

Effortlessness (E)

Endeavor (Ed)

Empathy (Em)

Enthusiasm (En)

Equanimity (Eq)

Faith (Ft)

Forgiveness (Fo)

Generosity (Gr)

Goodness (Gn)

Gratitude (Gt)

Happiness (Ha)

Honesty (Ho)

Hope (H)

Humility (Hm)

Humor (Hu)

Initiative (In)

Integrity (I)

Joy (Jo)

Justice (J)

Kindness (K)

Leadership (Ld)

Love (L)

Loyalty (Lt)

Meditation (Md)

Moderation (Mo)

Nonviolence (Nv)

Open-Mindedness (Om)

Optimism (Op)

Perspective (Ps)

Playfulness (Pa)

Patience (Pt)

Perspective (Pv)

Persistence (Pr)

Respect (Rt)

Responsibility (Rp)

Resolution (Rs)

Self-esteem (Se)

Synthesize (Syn)

Tolerance (Tl)

Truth (T)

Transcendence (Tn)

Uniqueness (U)

Vitality (V)

Wonder (Wo)

Wisdom (Ws)

Wholeness (W)

Think of the Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements as a blossom capable of infinite expansion. Many of the character strengths and virtues included have been extensively studied in the fields of humanistic, transpersonal, and Positive psychology. When studied scientifically the character strengths and virtues are generally subsumed into related clusters—those with similar meanings become part of a larger domain.  This makes things easier to study scientifically, but for our purposes, the opposite activity is more desirable.  Words are primal, powerful, symbols: nuances matter, tracing word origins and discovering variations within and across cultures helps us become intimate with the many splendid manifestations of Source.

The Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements is intended to serve as a catalyst, turning our attention toward the soul elements in preparation for the next step along the sensuous path. If you have the time and inclination, consider designing your own arrangement of soul elements—charts, tables, circles, flowers, trees, constellations—set your imagination free.  Add or substitute soul elements that you feel are missing from the list. Trust your intuition.  If the Perpetual Blossom of Soul Element speaks to you in its current form, so be it.  Either way, to prepare for the next step beginning bringing the soul elements more fully into your awareness through either or both of the following:

  1. Print out a copy of the Perpetual Blossom of Soul Elements (or your own design) and post it in your private space, somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  2. Download the image and set it as a screensaver on your digital devices, e.g., smart phone, tablet, or laptop.

Don’t be surprised if the image lingers in your mind long after you’ve looked away. Spirit, the Great Lover, beats against our breast in every heartbeat—yet we seek on. Through placing our awareness on the soul elements, the ecstasy will find us—Emptiness in Presence will be known. Namaste.