There is mystery in our lives. Where do we come from? Where do we go? Somehow, we all need to find a way to navigate this. This is mostly the business of religion. For many of us though, and in some stages of life, we become so identified with our role/s that there simply isn’t any time or space to contemplate the before and beyond. These questions only erupting to the surface at times of tragedy and loss.
I have been attracted to religion; the reverence, the sacredness. But never have I been able to slip into what seems like a strait jacket to me – a strict set of beliefs, a well delineated map of what is right and wrong for me to follow. I can see the attraction of that though. Like receiving an instruction manual, a guide book. A code to live my life by. Supported by the weight of history and stories of mystical happenings long before my time, the context long lost, informing the steps I must take today.
I once had a dream of being severely reprimanded by a priest. This was a little while after I’d had a profound experience of feeling bodiless and bathing in a sense of peace, love and oneness. I was feeling as if I’d been given an understanding of the mystery of life, and was perhaps a little cocky, arrogant. I don’t mean to disregard the depth of the history of religious practice or to be disrespectful to traditions. I just want my understanding of Mystery to be first hand.
Systems of belief give us a way to navigate life. I do in fact hold them with the deepest respect. I have a love for ritual and ceremony. I just can’t commit to one above another. A belief system, a world view, offers a sense of belonging. And, that is so important for us human beings. If held too rigidly though, it also creates ‘othering’. And, there’s been a lot of violence throughout history, and to this day, justified by believing in the superiority of one set of beliefs over another. I think it’s complicated though, and understandable.
When we’re really small we’re so vulnerable and of course the most important thing for our survival is to belong, we’re born dependent. It’s intelligent and innate, the ability to sense what the expectations of the group we are part of are. I know I was exceptionally good at this when I was younger. It worked well for me, until it didn’t.
A sense of belonging to a group, a cause, a movement, a family, a religion is a powerful thing. It seems that we can absorb by osmosis the many, and often unspoken, rules and find ourselves aligning with the status quo of each group quite unconsciously. I can certainly remember, as I moved between various groups, with different rules, reattuning to the status quo of each as if tuning into a radio station. I also remember the terror of the threat of two of these worlds colliding and being faced with reckoning where my allegiences should lie.
The song of our own heart
Later in life, and possibly only when we’ve shored up the resources to ensure our survival can we begin to tune into our own truth and move through life without having to continually ‘find the local station’ so to speak. I believe there is a prerequisite to this. Knowing how to hear the song of our own heart. We can discover another way of belonging that isn’t dependent on any external environment, approval or authority.
That experience of peace, love and oneness, back when I was twenty, has been very instructive for me. (And, it has taken many, many years to begin the hard won embodying of it.) That experience came from within me. It was a gift that gave me first-hand experience of my/our true nature. We are not separate. We are all interconnected.
Our true nature is eternal, unlimited. And, this cannot be conceptualised. Any belief system or religion will only ever be a pointer, an attempt to define the indefinable.
Our bodies, beliefs, allegiances and identifications are limited. As Georg Feuerstein (author of The Lost Teachings of Yoga) says “if we don’t know our true nature we will always identify with something less than what we are”. The more open to Mystery we are, the more rigid beliefs, identifications and religion become less central. They are useful guides and maps, not something to get rid of, but perhaps to hold a little less tightly in recognition of the vast, unlimited reality that we are.
The only way to connect with our true nature is on the inside. And the way to start tuning in, is to listen to and honour our own truth. It’s like a rudder within us. The song of our heart has a particular resonance that guides our way. It develops as we listen to all the messages our body gives us rather than dismissing them, which, incidently, our culture encourages us to do with its heavy emphasis on the rational mind. To quote Georg Feuerstein again “to remember to be present with the whole body is a skill to be learned”.
As our attunement gets stronger it may require us to take a path which we otherwise wouldn’t have. A path that those around us may not understand or approve of. When things occur within a group that we belong to that cause a conflict or challenge to our own deeply held values, our inner resonance, the territory can get rough. It’s crossroads; maintain the status quo of the group or take an alternate stand. The later has a cost, a price to pay. And, to use Martha Beck’s term ‘the way of integrity’ can be a lonely road. It’s a place where we bargain the value of maintaining an external authority at the expense of honouring our own.
Our direct route home
In my experience it gets easier the more often we make the choice to honour our own authority over those of some outer group or culture. That said, I have experienced prolonged periods of grief at the loss caused by such decisions. However, the grief is without regret, it’s part of the process. And it’s not about making the group or someone else wrong, it’s simply about honouring our own truth. The value of personal integrity cannot be measured. It is our direct route home.
I think that’s when we grow up, when we dare to consider our own authority as greater than that which is imposed upon us. It’s also when we get to make a difference. As children we learn to adapt to our environment, and that is intelligent. We do what we need to, to survive. When we’re all grown up, probably not until the second half of life (maybe earlier for some) we may have the courage to stand for a greater truth, and that is evolution in action. Maybe we can right some of the wrongs of previous generations.
A place that connects us all
My deepest truth is that we are all one, interconnected, inseparable. Each of us unique expressions springing from the same well. In a world that is based on the belief that we are separate individuals, I’m often paddling against the current. But there it is, my rudder. When we tap that place within that connects us all, our journey maybe unique, but we’re all heading in the same direction, steering our way back to the truth of what and who we are.
We have a door to the infinite within us. The song of our heart does not know separation, it is where we link to the eternal part of us that is always connected to the Divine. It is open for all of us to step through for respite beyond life’s challenges. We walk through it by simply listening to and honouring our own truth. Even if at first, that is just by being honest with ourselves.