Discovering our Inner Depths
edited: Thursday, March 28, 2002
By Theodore J. Nottingham
Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2002
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Initial steps to a deeper spiritual experience.
"Put out into the deep" Luke 5:4
Spiritual teachers have described their experience of the depths of the soul as "peak experience," the "peace that passes all understanding," the "inner light," "becoming transparent to the divine". Whatever words are used to describe it, the result of encountering this inner depth is always the same: it allows us to enter a vaster identity and wisdom which enables right action to be manifested in the world.
We are each meant to live with serenity, joy, and compassionate outreach to the world around us. This is our birthright, but in order to experience it, we must recognize how far we are from living in this manner, why this is so, and what efforts we must make to live in such a way. This new awareness and these efforts are the process that leads us into the depths of our spiritual nature in order to become temples of the Holy Spirit.
The first step along this path is to notice that we live in different states of consciousness. This is not as obvious as it sounds. I am not referring here to moments of happiness in contrast to times of depression but to a state of awareness that puts us in touch with a deeper reality. Perhaps you have had moments of experiencing such a liberation from your ordinary condition. Moments of great joy, or gratitude for being alive, or while standing before a scene of great beauty. Moments when our awareness is lifted beyond the knots and tensions of our worries and concerns and we are free to enjoy the experience of being here now and happy to be alive.
These are times of deep spirituality. We have had such experiences as children when we were less weighed down by the things that now preoccupy us. You may think that those times of bliss and wonder are gone forever along with the other delights of childhood. But that is not the case. We are meant to dwell permanently in this sanctuary of the soul where Christ dwells, forever knocking at the door of our heart to be let in. It is possible to taste and live this joy and freedom – this inner awakening -- even during rush hour, even at the office, even when circumstances are difficult.
We think we know ourselves. We believe that we are one and the same person all the time. But take a closer look and dare to be honest with yourself. When you're really hungry, the you that is hungry is in charge . When you're irritable, the you that's irritated is the boss. When you're tired, when you're excited, when you're mad, each mood and desire is in control. Where is the unity of one self in all that? Again, we function in a stimulus-response manner that takes away our capacity to be unified as individuals. We can't count on ourselves to be the same person from one moment to the next. The person who decides the night before to get up early in the morning is not the one who has to turn off the alarm and roll out of bed. That person has a very different idea of what he or she wants to do. This is why Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms: "Watch! Do not sleep." Such honest self-knowledge may lead us to a unification of our will and to the capacity to accomplish the will of God in our lives.
To make matters worse, each of these impulses that claims to be the whole person is separated by blinders. They do not know each other. When we are our happy-go-lucky selves, we don't remember the mean-tempered one. Our condition of multiplicity is further complicated by the fact that we live so much of our life in imagination. Consider how much time is spent worrying about the future, or fretting over the past. Think of all the daydreaming that goes on in your head. In our ordinary state of consciousness we are made of many disconnected selves and are pulled to and fro by imagination and unintentional thoughts. We are as separated from our true selves as we are from other people.
Yet we are all connected and rooted in the deeper life that brought us into being. These inner depths are our source of hope and sanity in a world of chaos. We do indeed live and move and have our being in God and, with that awareness, we discover our real importance and our role in the world.
To enter into the depths of our spiritual home, which is so intimate to us and yet so much more than we are, is to come in contact with the very mystery of our existence. And the more we open ourselves to this power at the center of our being, the more we are made whole and capable of truly caring for others.