Spiritual Disciplines

The Priority of the Inner Life

inner-lifeIt is a strange phenomenon indeed that though we experience life from the outside-in, it must be lived from the inside-out. Our experience of reality comes to us via the senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and sound.  These five sensory inputs, combined with the relentless (and often neurotic) processing and reprocessing of the mind can often overwhelm us with information that leaves us in a state of constant reaction, fighting fires that may or may not be there, trying to quell fears and deal with anxieties that may not have any substance in reality and obsessively dealing with regret over the past and apprehension concerning the future. This outside-in pattern of living is highly unsustainable and is perhaps an excellent definition of insanity, which explains why our current generation is more anxious than Londoners during the Blitz, more depressed than the average American during the Great Depression and possibly more fearful than at any other time in human history.

To live from the inside-out is to reverse this pattern and learn to flow from the stable, eternal source that wells up inside each one of us. For the person who has discovered this eternal source, the incessant tugging of the ‘urgent periphery’ loses its hold; for the resources discovered within are limitless, timeless and utterly without depletion. The striving is gone. The urgency has vanished. The strain is absent. The storm is stilled. The soul has come home.

The cultivation of this inner life is the greatest and most rewarding activity that a human being can engage in. That you have this source is as undeniable as the fact of your existence, yet it is perfectly possible to live your entire life on the periphery without ever coming to the heart of the matter and discover the source from whence you flow. This is where your song is born. This is where your overcoming power resides. This is where intuitive wisdom is discovered. This is where you are truly known. This is home.

Meister Eckhart once said, “God is at home, it is we who have gone out for a walk.” As we return to this Inner Place, we find an Eden where we are welcomed to eat of the tree of life, a refuge where our weary hearts can find rest and nourishment, a sanctuary from the incessant barrage of modern life and a holy place where the screaming urgency of the world is drowned in the deafening silence of eternity and the dazzling array of sights blotted out by the softly nurturing darkness of the womb.

The doors to the Inner Life are many and have been carefully marked out over the years, yet in our days the Way has become hard to find and the markings of those who have gone before often bewildering to interpret. Many of the old paths have become overgrown and the tangle of years of neglect have made them difficult to trace. Yet for those who have ears to hear, eyes to see and a heart that yearns for something more, the ancient paths of solitude, prayer, contemplation, silence and meditation will still open for us a way back to Eden and serve as a highway to the source.

The secret was known by the Jewish Psalmist when he instructed his listeners to, “Be still and know that I am God” just as much as it was understood in 5th Century BC China by the sage Lao Tse when he wrote, “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” The first step on the path home is a step that leads us away from the distracting technology, the urgent agenda, the busy life and the compulsion to keep the plates spinning and, if possible, add even more plates to the frantic dance that is our life.

There are many things we may feel we need to prioritise for a meaningful existence, but the truth is that the one thing we often forget is the most needful of all. To make time to come home to the hearth of the heart, the place of prayer, the shrine of solitude, the chapel of contemplation and the sanctum of silence is to make time to reconnect with the source of not only our own life but the life of every other being on the planet and every other thing in the universe. And coming home to this sacred space we discover that God has indeed never left home, it is truly us that have wandered…

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