On the spiritual plane, it’s difficult to arrive at consensus about much of anything. “Denomination” is just another word for “division.” Dogma is divisive. The differences in religions lead to wars. We don’t see things in the same way on the same pew, even.
Perhaps we can agree, at least, that there exists the unconscious world. The Unconscious World is composed at least of the not-now-conscious world—the world I know but am not thinking about (like what I had for dinner last night, etc.), and the world that I don’t know anything about even though I may think really hard about it. The latter is the world where dreams come from, the night kind and the kind that provides us with college majors, and life choices. The kind that directs our energies, fuels our efforts, directs our living. This is the world where “feelings” reside, where intuition and creativity live, where “the Muse” muses and inspires, where “we” decide what “we” care about (How many of “us” are there in there, anyway?). It’s the world that provides meaning and purpose for the things we do in this world of ordinary, apparent, physical reality. It’s the world of “heart,” and “soul,” and “spirit,” and “self.” And, it’s invisible, yet real.
We talk of “charisma” and “presence,” and say that some people have it and some don’t. It comes into the room with some of them and exits when they leave. What is it that we experience in those people? What is the mechanism by which we experience it?
We talk of “falling in love,” and speak of “love at first sight,” and get all warm and giggly in the presence of some people, but not all people. What’s going on there?
We “connect” with some people, not others. We are “easily conned” by some people, not others. We recognize some people as “evil” and some people as “kind.” We operate on an invisible plane as easily and as surely as we negotiate traffic or find our way to the cereal isle at the grocery store. How do we do that? In us, the two worlds, visible and invisible, physical and spiritual/emotional (Where DOES that line lie?), come together to produce “our world.” In order to “live well,” we have to live well in both worlds. We have to orient ourselves, “read,” and find our way around in both worlds. We seem to have plenty of help in negotiating our way through the physical world. What we need are reliable “guides” in the invisible world. This is complicated by the fact that the most reliable guides know that they don’t know a thing, and realize they can’t say what they do know. We have to know what they mean before we can understand what they are talking about.
On the other hand, if our “yoga,” our “practice,” can take virtually any form, how do we know what to do to open our hearts, and minds, to The Way? Do we just trust our heart to find its own way to The Way? If that’s so, what do we need guides for? It seems that we need guides to tell us to trust our heart to find its own way to The Way. To remind us that there is a Way, and to goad us into taking up some practice to uncover it for ourselves and align ourselves with it.
The Way is the way of bringing the two worlds together in one life, in the life we are living. It is the way of merging, in ourselves, the physical and the spiritual/emotional, the conscious and the unconscious, the visible and the invisible. We live on the boundary between the two worlds, on the border between Yin and Yang, and make one world present to the other.
Our work is the work of integrity. It is the work of living in the physical world of practical, hard-and-fast, apparent reality in ways that are integral with the inner, invisible, world of that which is deepest, best, and truest about us. We integrate the physical and the spiritual, the conscious and the unconscious, the visible and the invisible. We bring the one to life in the other, wake the one up to the other, and make the two one.
As we do this, we don’t change in the sense of morphing into something different from anything we have ever been. We become who we are, who we always were. We can only be like ourselves. We cannot be like someone completely opposite us. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are both right-handed, and they both spell their name with a “y.” And, the similarities don’t end there. When we do the work of integration, we integrate our shadow, incorporating our “unacceptable” tendencies (And the quotes are there to point out that our shadow is a cultural phenomenon, not an unchanging, unalterable, psychic fact. With different people, in a different social and cultural setting, we have a different shadow), we become who we fully are, not as a monster, but as a complete human being.
We cannot become who we are without waking up to who we are and to who we also are. We see what we see (and also see), hear what we hear (and also hear), taste what we taste (and also taste), smell what we smell (you get the idea) sense what we sense, feel what we feel, think what we think, know what we know, believe what we believe… We become aware of how it is with us, and consciously choose to act out of the information and awareness that is available to us in each moment. “Appropriate” becomes our decision, not a culturally, or socially, imposed “should.”
We will always pay a price for our actions, internally or externally. Sanctions will be imposed externally when we step over, or erase, a line, or, internally, when we stop ourselves short. How will we live our lives? What does it mean to be alive? The challenge is always to be who we are—to be true to ourselves—within the context and circumstances of our lives. To live successfully is to pull that off.
We have to find a way to connect inner with outer, of integrating inner with outer, of bringing the two together into the one. This is not hard for those who listen. What needs to be heard, is the question. What is vying for our attention? What is trying to be born? What are we ignoring because it would complicate our life or rule out something that we have in mind for ourselves? It may be that in order for something to be born, something must die. To say “Yes” to something, we may have to say “No” to something else. Death and Resurrection. Doesn’t sound much like “integration.”
Integration means honoring all the voices within, and finding ways of appropriately bringing them to life in our lives. Some voices take precedent over others, but no voice can be relegated to the back rooms, locked away, ignored. Yet, any voice can be told “No.” Any urge can be disciplined. Any desire can be denied. Heard, but not necessarily obeyed. Honored with attention, but not necessarily followed, not necessarily indulged. And, it can be like death to say “No” to that which is important, even though the “No” clears the way for that which is also important. Death and Resurrection. And Integration. There is no integration without death and resurrection.
I don’t know if there is more to the spirit-world than this, whether there is reward to be garnered and punishment to be served, and angels, and demons, and gradations, and layers, and golden streets and pearly gates. But, I know there is more to living, to life, than meets the eye. How much more? How do we access it? How do we live fully on all possible levels? What does it mean to be alive? That’s the question that is at the heart of who we are, as individuals and as a community. And, it is the question that takes us to the heart of spirituality. How we answer it determines just how spiritual we are. It is the essence of the spiritual quest. It is the Grail. To drink from that cup is to live. It is what we spend our lives learning to do. Amen. May it be so!