Roles and Souls

Roles and Souls


In Polishing the Mirror, Ram Dass underscores the importance of differentiating between roles and souls. We have all been trained to identify with our roles: gender, age, family, culture, education, religion, profession, income, home, and on and on. Eventually we came to believe that we are our roles rather than costumes into which we step temporarily. This misidentification set us up for anxiety and confusion when we are called to change roles or step beyond them. If you have always identified yourself as a corporate executive, for example, when that phase ends and you are called or you choose to step into a different professional identity, such as a life coach, you may experience a phase of distress as you think, “I’m not who I have always been. Who am I now?” If you have gotten particular rewards for your previous role, such as money, accolades, or corporate power, you will have to switch your source of reward to another venue.

Understanding the difference between role and soul will advance and ease your personal evolution and also give you a platform to help your clients. If your client is stuck in his role and he cannot see beyond it, when you understand that he is a soul more than a role, and you hold the vision of him as a spiritual being more than a social being, you invite him to meet you on higher ground and you offer him a way to relieve anxiety and claim a deeper identity that will empower him to navigate through worldly changes.

Your soul is the essence of you as a spiritual being, an extension of the divine. It is not subject to any changes that occur in the world, such as financial, emotional, or physical challenges or transitions. There is a part of you—the real you—that remains whole, intact, and perfectly on course with your purpose in life. To know your soul and live from it is your purpose in life. All other purposes exist in the service of this one.

Hold this context for your clients and call them to hold it for themselves. Whether or not a client considers herself a spiritual being, or uses such languaging, this is the truth about her. You don’t have to explain spirituality or lecture on the topic. Just invite your client to see her experience from the perspective that who she truly is, is greater than anything that happens to her in the world.

Ram Dass calls this perspective “the witness.” It is the part of your mind that observes and understands without getting involved in the emotions or drama of a situation. The witness is always there; it is closer to your true self than the part of you that moves through worldly changes. You can access and step into the witness at any time, and you can invite your clients to do the same.

Ultimately all roles give way to souls. Roles come and go, but your soul is eternal. Use roles, enjoy them, and let them serve their purpose in the game of life. But when all roles have disappeared, you will still be here. You will shine as a soul,as God created you.



1. What five roles have you most indentified with in your life?







2. What new roles or identities are you now being called, or choosing, to step in to?




3. Can you/are you stepping into new roles gracefully? Or do you experience fear or resistance? If so, what is the nature of your fear or resistance?|




4. What thought or attitude helps you flow more easily into new roles?



5. What client you coach is struggling with defining his/her role?


    How might you think of this client, or what might you say to help him/her identify more with soul than role, and help ease his/her transition to a new and more rewarding role?




I recognize my identity as a soul,
and I help my clients identify with their soul.
Together we move from role to soul.