Awakening to Wholeness: My Personal Story
The Limits of Positive Thinking and the Four Principles of Awakening to, and Living in Wholeness.

I recently received an email inquiry from my SOULutions website that stated; “Can you help me think more positively about myself and feel more optimistic about my life? Can you help me stop my chronic critical self talk?”

My immediate thought was, “Yes! This is what I live for, where my expertise is, and what SOULutions is all about!” My second thought transported me back in time to my twenties and early thirties when my awareness was 180 degrees from today. The solution that I provide today is the direct antithesis of the life that I was living back then.

You see, I bought into the “Positive Thinking” movement hook, line and sinker and suffered from its limitations. I could have been a poster boy for the positive thinking movement. I bought all the right pop psychology books, bragged about having the largest cassette tape library consisting of anyone that I knew on personal growth and positive thinking, while attending countless workshops and seminars. When someone asked me how I was doing, I said,”Great and getting better every day”. I never allowed myself to consciously feel angry, sad, afraid or lonely. Definitely I was never bored!

Negative-uncomfortable feelings have no use and no place in my life. At first glance, this kind of makes sense… doesn’t it???

I was also terribly out of balance. I wanted life to be filled with only springtime and no winter, only bright sunshiny days with no dark cloudy ones, all light with no dark, all positive with no negative and all expanded emotions with no contracting ones. I was in a massive state of denial. I chronically sabotaged myself in both work and relationships. I felt disconnected from Life and God and constantly sought out distractions (healthy and not so healthy ones) to help me stay “up, positive and optimistic”. After all… isn’t that what happy is all about? I truly did not have the capacity to recognize what I now know. In spite of all of my positive thinking and eternal optimism, I WAS AFRAID, deeply afraid.

You may be wondering if I’m against positive thinking. No. I’m opposed to the false optimism and shallowness that it can often lead to when used as an attempt to hide from or cover up our uncomfortable feelings and core pain. I’ve discovered that when we protect ourselves from experiencing the pain and difficult feelings of life, we close our hearts at the same time. We also find it difficult to be truly intimate with another and feel disconnected with Life. As the saying goes; “You can put loads and loads of icing on top of crap but it still stinks!”

The message that I most want to communicate is that unfelt feelings do not go away by ignoring them or trying to cover them up. They go underground into the unconscious waiting for an opportunity to be experienced and resolved. Unfelt feelings are the main root cause of all mental, physical, emotional and spiritual disease as well as our collective feelings of fear and separation. “Whatever we feel heals and what we resist persists.”

“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Carl Jung

As Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia writes, “There’s no difference between a pessimist who says,”Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything” and an optimist who says,” Don’t bother doing anything; it’s going to turn out fine.” Either way, nothing happens.

The Mr. Positive and always optimistic me woke up one winter morning in 1995.I looked at my pathetic self in the bathroom mirror and cried out, “Something is missing… what is wrong with me? What am I doing so wrong? Why do I keep screwing everything up? What am I not seeing? Something is terribly, terribly wrong! “I feel like I’ve lost my soul!” This was a moment of great despair and great awakening. “YOU SPEND TOO MUCH ENERGY CHASING SPIRIT AND NOT ENOUGH ON CARING FOR YOUR SOUL”. I heard in a clear, peaceful and somehow urgent voice. (Whether it was a voice in my own head or I was hearing the voice of God, I didn’t know).

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Carl Jung

This was the turning point for me. I stopped all chasing of spirit (or attempted to) and instead felt compelled to get down to the business of caring for my soul. Although I didn’t fully know what that might look like or what or what to be done, I intuitively knew two things:

1. I would have to slow down and stop running from the inner turmoil and anxiety that I had been desperately attempting to cover up with all of the activity and positive thinking, and

2. I would need to find someone to help me finally face myself and work through the unresolved feelings from a confusing, physically and emotionally abusive childhood.

Throughout the early years of ‘facing myself’ I both progressed and digressed. Along the way I felt a deep calling to fully understand both Spirituality and Soulfulness and how they fit together. Growing up in church, I remember hearing references to both spirit and soul. To me they seemed like sort of same thing. Now it seems so crystal clear.

What I saw so clearly for the first time was the following:

Spirit is ever present, always and everywhere… divine presence that animates all life yet is itself unmanifest, not in form and therefore will always be a mystery and never understood in totality. Pure Spirit (God) is beyond concept! (this awareness was a big deal for me because prior to this understanding I had gone from enrolling in Seminary for the purpose of becoming a Minister to then becoming a non-believer who considered himself atheist.) Although human beings throughout the ages have had direct and immediate experiences with this divine presence, the experience itself can’t be spoken directly because it’s beyond concept and therefore out of the reach of language.

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.
Author of the spiritual classic Tao te Ching

Spirit or God can never be proven to exist logically because the burden of proof is on the asserter and the asserter is confined to attempting to prove God’s existence within the limits and confines of conceptual understanding, of which God is bigger. The unmanifested can only be pointed to through poetry, parable, artistic expression or some other means that bypasses the logical mind such as spiritual practice or grace.

One of the biggest problems that we witness within many of our religious institutions is not being taught to recognize that the authors of the scriptures are writing from a mystical awareness of this “divine presence” and attempting to provide a pointer to this presence and not pointing to a historical event or as an actual fact. Christ knew this well and so spoke in parable. If we take the time to look, we realize that the other Masters from every spiritual tradition did as well. As I learned from the late Joseph Campbell, spiritual writings are meant to be read and contemplated upon connotatively. This, if done with a certain reverence can open one up to a dimension of reality beyond concept and to the direct recognition of radiant Spirit. The problem is that the scriptures are most often read and interpreted denotatively, as facts and historical truths, by our egos … and then we fight.

Soul is this same divine presence manifest within Life and the essence that animates each of us. Our individual souls are but cells in God’s body.

Caring for our soul is honoring and nurturing the divine residing deep within each one of us. Chasing our idea of spirit outside us is an illusion. It’s kind of like a farmer chasing the sun in every way possible - attempting to understand it while also praising it, bargaining with it, sacrificing for it and trying to emulate it…all the while without cultivating the soil and nurturing the seeds provided by spirit. Get the idea?

Understanding, embodying, living, celebrating, teaching and being a disciple of this sacred union of Spirit and Soul within each and every one of us is what I dedicate my life to. My Soul purpose is to ignite a fire in others to AWAKEN TO WHOLENESS and in doing so, I care for my soul.

There is a profound Wholeness that every one of us can intimately come to know. Each one of us who chooses this path over the already perfectly functioning way of the ego embarks on an individual hero’s journey.

Here is my personal description of what this state of being can be like and the four most important principles that I’ve discovered so far for Awakening to, and living in, Wholeness:

Personal description: Wholeness is the experience and embodiment of the union of Spirit and Soul, masculine and feminine, light and darkness. It’s all about moving beyond the ego's need to either suppress its core fear of not being good enough and its core desire to impress with how special we are and thus leading towards the soul’s simple desire to express our unique gifts in service to that which is most true, loving and real.

It's an experience and awareness; deep in my bones that I am both deeply at peace and radically alive. I am aware of both an expanding and more intimate relationship with the Universe as well as a deepening and more sensual relationship with Life. I have the sense of fulfilling a unique purpose in life that only I can fulfill in this exact way while knowing that nothing is required in order to be Whole. I’m increasingly aware of a felt sense in my body of both depth (soul-essence) and expansion (spirit- expression). I am in a state of BLISS with a slightly broken heart.

Four Principles for Awakening and Living Wholeness

1. Feel it all, as deeply and fully as I am able.

If we give ourselves permission to be fully present to our feelings of sadness without being overwhelmed by the sadness, we will find ourselves spontaneously able to experience a greater, deeper and more expanded sense of joy in life.

If we allow ourselves to be present to our own personal experience of fear, then we spontaneously notice a greater, deeper and more expanded sense of peace in our lives.

If we are willing to fully own and embody the anger that part of us sometimes feels, then we will spontaneously be surprised with a greater, deeper and more expanded sense of authentic power.

The SOULutions Awakening to Wholeness Process provides specific and reliable tools for being present with our feelings in this way.

2. Question everything, particularly our own thoughts about ourselves, others and the way the world seems as though it should be.

Our thoughts are not a reliable source for interpreting what is true — about yourselves, others or reality. However, our ability to be curious, question and inquire is our mind’s most valuable resource on your path towards WHOLENESS. Question everything!

The SOULutions Awakening to Wholeness Process makes this abundantly clear and provides a framework to work with our thoughts through Conscious Inquiry.

3. Resist nothing. “What ever we resist persists. Yet whatever we have the courage to fully face, feel and embrace becomes grace!”

When we can find a way to stop resisting and fully accept even the most unacceptable parts of ourselves, our "inner critic" and mind chatter becomes dramatically quieter. We, then, begin to find ourselves miraculously able to, not only accept ourselves and others more fully but to see, sense and feel the Divinity in ourselves, others and even what we once perceived as the most unacceptable aspects of LIFE. This awareness is the essence of the SOULutions Awakening to Wholeness Process!

4. Embrace uncertainty.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “there is nothing permanent but change”. Whenever we argue with reality, reality always wins. Reality is our ultimate Guru. When we are able to honestly observe and accept the reality – the truth that there is nothing permanent but change, we can begin to accept the impermanence of all LIFE. Within this acceptance and full embrace, we become creatively and fully alive in the present!

The SOULutions Awakening to Wholeness Process encourages us to fully embrace the reality of uncertainty. When we do so from the depth of our being, our attention naturally turns toward the preciousness of all of LIFE. Our heart is set on fire to express our unique individual gifts in the world for a purpose that we feel is a unique and mighty one that honors LIFE and is in service to the conscious evolution of our planet. In living this way, there are no ordinary moments.

Guest House

This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, meanness
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

Meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Casteel is an expert in emotional healing and transformation. His practice, SOULutions is also a transpersonal practice. This means that we incorporate the spiritual self that each one of us has and use these beliefs and experiences in the therapy. In short, we deal in matters of the heart, soul and Spirit. We work with our clients to find a complete state of wholeness which is the integration of the mind, body and soul.

"In my role as Transformational Life Coach, I think of myself as a sculptor of sorts. You may have heard the famous line by Michael Angelo when asked how he created the magnificent statue of David out of a simple block of stone, he responded: "He was in there waiting. All I did was the excavating. I just chipped away all that did not belong." So, with my clients, I play the role of being a soul sculptor; partnering with them to delicately chip away all that does not belong.We do this by softening the edges of old wounds and chipping away the self- limiting lies blocking them from realizing and revealing the magnificence of who they already are, in their Essence."

Michael has 30-plus years of experience studying and working with transformational psychology and emotional healing practices. His highly original and creative approach to emotional healing and life transformation blends modern psychology with the ancient wisdom of religious practices. He brings considerable passion to his work helping people release their emotional pain and end the feeling of being stuck and disconnected.

As the innovator of safe and unique transformational processes, Michael has guided many people to authentic spiritual experiences providing a new level of peace and awareness in their daily lives. He has extensively studied and personally experienced the healing effects of every part of his programs, practices and techniques used by SOULutions.

Michael holds degrees and certifications in many healing modalities including psychology, life coaching, theology, advanced hypnotherapy, rebirthing, energy medicine, breath therapy meditations, yoga, emotional release practices, Enneagram studies and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. As designer of seminars like the FIRE of Wholeness Breakthrough Experience, Embrace Your Shadow and The Breath of Life, Michael has presented to thousands of people all over the country, including the 2006 Alliance for a New Humanity with Deepak Chopra.

Michael is on a mission to contribute to the conscious healing and evolution of our planet, one heart and soul at a time. He does this by helping people heal the emotional wound and self limiting lies preventing them from experiencing their authentic self. Traditional therapy spends years negotiating with the ego or false self. In Michael's work he moves people beyond their ego to meet their true self, what he calls their Essence. Once clients make this spiritual connection, they can release and heal the emotional wounds that block them from living their fullest life. Michael is a native of Atlanta and currently resides in a townhome overlooking the Chattahoochee River with his partner in love and life, Leslie.