Recognizing Who We Are
“Here is where our real selfhood is rooted, in the divine spark or seed,
in the image of God imprinted on the human soul.”
Sue Monk Kidd
My search for truth started when I was seven, sprawled out on the floor of our playroom den reading books with my ten-year-old brother. Someone had given us a children’s book with illustrations depicting God with white hair and a long beard, sitting on a throne. It was 1968, so perhaps this concrete interpretation of the Almighty was common for the times. But even as a child, this image never really rang true for me. I remember repeating to my brother what a cousin told me, “God is love and is in everything, and life goes on forever.” As soon as I heard this, it felt right to me.
My brother had been informed otherwise. Probably by some well-meaning adult who was trying to keep him from running into the street and getting hit by a car. He told me that when we die, that is the end for us. We lie in a coffin, a big black box, and we can’t see, hear, or think, or know anything. When we die, he said, we no longer exist.
That was the beginning of a split in my consciousness that caused me to vacillate between my gullible mind and the truth that I knew deep down. Sadly, as life marched on for the next decade or so, this inner knowing became increasingly difficult for me to access. Although each night I laid in bed at night in wonder, contemplating the miracle of infinity, this also marked the beginning of my nightly descent into terror as I tried to imagine not existing. I would picture the black box and think about what my brother said. While I was terrified by these thoughts, trying not to think them was like trying not to watch a violent scene in a horror movie. You cover your eyes, but you are compelled to look between your fingers to see what happens.
With my curiosity aroused, I began to contemplate what other mysteries the universe might hold. Who are we and what are we doing here on this planet? Were we created or did we get here by accident? Do our minds exist only in our brains, or are we connected to something bigger? Does the universe go on forever or does it have boundaries? What is on the other side? How can infinity exist? How can it not?
The uncertainty these questions conjured and the image of the black box kept me rapt in fear, preventing me from fully appreciating the world around me. It probably contributed significantly to my becoming a shy, scared little girl who stood back from the world with little awareness of the fire that burned inside me. So lost was I in my sense of disconnection from my essential nature that I lost the ability to hear my own song. I forgot how to follow my natural impulses, and my instincts were dulled into sleep.
Fortunately, at the core of our being, we are all imbued with the Truth of Who We Are, an inner knowing that cannot be extinguished. This truth burned as but an ember deep within me, yet it was enough to fuel my search for the Divine. I pledged to explore the Universe at its absolute depths. As I look back now, I realize that like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, my return to Presence has always been inevitable. I am by nature a truth seeker. And we are promised that whatever we seek, we shall find.
Although I used to think what a terrible waste of life it was for this to happen, my slide into a continuous state of anxiety, I can’t be sure this wasn’t the greater Plan all along. The intensity of my fear pushed me to uncover the answers to life’s questions experientially and not just intellectually. As a result, I have had many transformative experiences that tell me unequivocally that yes there is more to me and to Life. My journey has taken me full circle from that place of childhood Grace and purity, to my fall into the netherworld of fear and resistance, and back to an open heart, greater presence and fulfillment, and a more authentic expression of who I am.
I will not say that I am always fully present at this point in the evolution of my consciousness, but I have a heightened awareness of when I am out of sync with life, and therefore not present. I am a lot less anxious than I used to be, and fairly regularly, sometimes for extended periods, I have magical moments of blissful presence.
What About You?
What did you learn from your early environment regarding physical death and immortality?
How did you manage any fears that may have come up about this?
As a child, do you remember experiencing a felt sense of being connected to a higher power?
Do you remember any times when your inner sense was at odds with what the world was teaching you?
What is Presence, anyway? And what can it do for me?
Presence is the state of our being when nothing stands in the way of our full experience. It is the fullness of our being. There are many descriptions for the state of Presence, and there are two reasons for this. One is that Presence has many qualities, so not everyone experiences presence exactly the same way. Some people focus in on the peaceful and blissful feeling of being in Timelessness. Others are more affected by the sense of unity with all creation that they experience. Still others notice a sense of aliveness, full physical embodiment, and a solid feeling of inner support.
The other reason is that sometimes we only experience a glimpse of Presence, or just one or two aspects of it. This happens because being states are fluid, and they are temporary reflections of our changing state of consciousness. Often Presence emerges in peak spiritual experiences, during prayer or meditation, or in the midst of crisis. Potentially, Presence is always accessible to us, but human beings are caught up in the material world in a way that we bypass the present. Some say that this is because when we entered this physical existence, the element of Time was ushered in to give us the illusion of a temporal reality. This was necessary in order to create the laboratory of Life for the evolution of our souls.