11 - Integration and Three Centers of Knowing and Being - Part Two
Updated: May 19, 2020
Let’s just assume you’ve made your peace with whatever kind of God character you prefer, and are on the journey of learning how to interact and participate with the Divine energy of the universe. How will that begin to change you and help you become more fully engaged with your three Centers of Knowing and Being? How will that center you in your truest self, and accomplish the goal of personal transformation, which is selflessness? Don’t think I’m trying to gloss over the most important element in all this, which is the long, slow journey of coming to know God. That will constitute and consume a lot of what a modern contemplative is about. It’s the most important part. If we cannot engage with the one who can guide us on this journey, we won’t be able to move very far down the path. So, I’m not just treating this lightly, and casually skipping over it. But, for the sake of an introduction to all these ideas, I want to move on and get to what life looks like when we have come to know God, and are leaning hard into the fullness of all we are meant to be. So, what does it look like when all these parts start to become a whole person?
Let’s start with a picture, an illustration, a diagram if you will. I might even be able to include said diagram, but for now, lets just paint a picture with words. Let’s put on our imagination hats, boys and girls. Imagine three circles, all the same size, standing end to end on top of each other like. The top circle represents our Spirit Center, the middle our Soul Center, and the bottom our Body Center. Then imagine two same sized circles to the right and left of our Soul Center circle. To the left is the Body-Knowing Center, to the right is the Heart-Knowing Center, and in the same space as the soul circle, fully overlapping if you will, is the Mind-Knowing Center. Got the picture. If you do, you might realize that all these circles create a cross. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make some correlating reference to a Christian symbol. This cross is more about the intersection of these two sets of centers, and how they all connect and work together. Notice that both lines, created by both centers, intersect at the point of the Soul Center and the Mind Knowing Center. That’s because it is through the Soul Center that all the points of the Knowing Centers register and recollect. It’s also because the Mind Center is the most conscious. The Soul Center is like the interface between our three EQ and IQ centers and our other two Being Centers. Notice also that the Spirit Center is at the top, and the Body Center is at the bottom. This order is important, and for a purpose. The Soul Center is like a double bridge, connecting the Body and Spirit Centers to each other, and the three Knowing Centers to those other two Being Centers. This diagram illustrates, at a glance, how all these parts work together. Lets delve in a little deeper to what all this means.
The Spirit Center is at the top for a reason. It is our highest level of being, and for many reasons. Of all our Centers of Being, this is the most grounded and permanent. Our spirit is that part of us which is eternal, ageless, and not bound by the frailty and triviality of a physical world caught up in the chaos of entropy. Likewise, it is our Spirit Center which also connects us the mot directly to God. I suppose, in my little diagram, I might have another circle floating separately above the Spirit Center, labeled "God." I’m not sure about that, but I want to illustrate in some way how God is fully separate from us (individuality), yet also connected to us through our spirit (communion), and also fully able to inhabit every part of our being as we open the door and allow for full participation with God (co-union). That is the goal. As the Divine light is moves into our lives, that light filters in to our every part, revealing each for what it is, where it needs works, and how it can become fully healed. That Divine energy also us experience the fullness of life as God intended. Perhaps it’d be better to illustrate all the space around this diagram as God, because God is in all things. And yet, we alone have the ability to shut God out, to be darkened through a kind of separation from that light, if we choose it. In fact, I believe this is where we all begin. That’s what makes this whole journey of personal transformation necessary, because we have lost our connectedness to God. But that also doesn’t mean we aren’t also completely surrounded by God, and still sustained by the life of God, even when we have become so disconnected from God through the darkening and disuse of our Spirit Center. That God is always with us, and yet that we are still somehow disconnected from God, is just one of those hard to explain mysteries. But it’s true. And it’s largely the work we are engaged in, to open the door through our spirit to God’s Spirit in order for this self-recovery to take place. That’s why our Spirit Center is at the top of the cross, because it has the most direct connectedness to God. The question is, how do we begin to do that? How can we awaken our Spirit Center in order to get reconnected back to God? The answer is in all the other Centers of Being and Knowing.
Remember, in an earlier post, I described the objectivity each part of our Being Centers can have for the others. In that post I mainly described how our Spirit Center can ground our Body Center in the eternality of our being, because the Body Center is mostly caught up in the apparent entropy of the physical world to which it is most connected. But that process works in reverse as well. If you remember, I also compared our spiritual body in terms of our physical body, because each has correlating functions. The grace and beauty of God’s heart is that he/she is always works with us where we are. And where are we, for the most part, but in a state of over-identifying with our body/mind paradigm. In order to connect to those parts we cannot see, we must begin with those parts we can, and work our way from the seen to the unseen. This also speaks to the beauty and reality of the intrinsic interconnectedness of the physical and spiritual worlds in which we live. These are not separate worlds, just as we are not separate parts. The very reason we have become so dysfunctional (and the world with us) is because we have become so disconnected in our parts, often operating out of some of those parts instead of the whole. So, it’s going to take stepping back to the bigger picture of who we are in order to regain the fullness of who we are meant to be. The grace in this is that we can begin right where we are, with a body and a mind. We can use those more "seen" parts to reconnect with those less visible parts. The beautiful Christian story is a God who puts on flesh, who shows up in our neighborhood, who looks and acts just like us, in order to show us how to transcend the mortal limitations of our small-self in order to fully reconnect with our true self. That was the point of the Jesus story. The good part of any religious story is a God who meets us where we are, in order to get us to where we need to go. Any element of religion that has us trying to get to God, before God will engage with us, presents an impossible task. So, how do we begin where we are, and engage with God where we are? We start with our body and mind.
If the contemplative life is about anything, it is about a set of practices meant to restore a greater sensitivity towards God. That means there are physical and mental exercises we can do, in order to re-enliven our other parts. When I was a pre-teen, I struggled greatly with depression and loneliness. My home life was very dysfunctional. I had no close friends, and I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, with anyone. I knew people at school, and was very involved at church and in my youth group, but in all those spaces I still felt isolated and alone. The one thing that got me through that time was my walks with God. I would spend many evening walking for hours, just pouring my heart out to this God character. It was interesting, I don’t know how I had the intuition to take my ideas of God out of a religious space and put them into practice in my every day world, but I did. And it saved my life. In walking and talking with God, I began to feel that God heard me, and was actually walking with me. That sense has never left me. Throughout my life, my best times of meditation and communion have been walking, especially in the woods. I feel like I’m seeing the face of God, and experiencing his/her heart very deeply as I walk in nature. And that’s the point of any spiritual practice. It uses our body and mind to connect to our spirit, and God’s Spirit. Some religions call this prayer, others meditation, all of which include expressions from the mind, and posturing of the body. In a way we are intentionally pointing our minds and bodies in the direction of our spirit, even when we have no sense of where that is, in order to reconnect with the Spirit of God. It’s something we do, at first, in the dark. That is, it’s something we first simply choose to do, even when we have no real, experiential evidence that these actions are producing anything at all. This is what some religions call belief, or faith. First, we must simply believe these invisible parts of ourselves exist, and can reconnect us to an invisible God who we also must believe exists. If we can’t first take it on faith, we will not begin. Why would we set out on an adventure to a place unless we believe that place exists? So often, with our overly rational minds, we want to see the place we're trying to get to. That’s understandable. The spiritual is an unseen place, but the path to it is not invisible. The path to the unseen begins with what we can see. There are others who have gone before us, and can help paint a picture of where we are headed. We are not on this journey alone, and we are not the first ones to walk it. Others have gone before, and left behind polaroid pictures like bread crumbs to following on the path to greater union with God. There are many religious texts, writing, and even contemporary contemplatives who can point us down the path. When we read these stories, we are getting a picture of the unseen place we are trying to reach, and, in a way, beginning to see what it looks like for ourselves. These are religious post-cards of the exciting places we could go, given in order to move and compel us on in our journey. That’s why it’s important to educate your mind in spiritual truths and practices. That’s why I’m writing these words. That’s why things like the Bible exist, as a picture book of what it looks like to know God, painted by people who have. Things like that can help show us what this spiritual journey is like. In all this it’s important to practice our spirituality, to literally exercise our faith by teaching the body and the mind how to orient themselves in the direction of that part of us which can reconnect us back to God, spirit to Spirit.
It's not my place to tell you where to start in that journey, or which picture books to use. I can tell you, honestly, that figuring out where to start can be confusing, especially in light of those closed systems of religious certainty which all claim to be the only way to God. Just know, there is no one way, and you don’t have to figure out how to get to God. God is already with you, actively and lovingly pulling you along on in this journey. The goal of the spiritual life isn't getting to God, it's awakening to the reality that we already are. God’s not some smug, apathetic patriarch on a throne in the clouds, aloof and disenchanted with humanity, waiting for us to somehow figure things out before lending a hand. God is active and alive all around us, literally sustaining and blessing us every day with life and good things. God really does all the work. Our work is just beginning to see and step into the flow of what God is already doing in and around us, every day. The process of deciding where to start is trial and error. But there is plenty of data for us to test out. Don’t be afraid to throw a dart at the map. Don’t be afraid to fail. The main thing is just getting out and getting started. God meets us where we are, but it’s much easier to direct a ship that’s moving than one that’s standing still. Sometimes we just need to start moving, even if the start is not all that great. In reality, it probably won’t be. I spent a lot of time struggling through a religious system that, in many ways, really didn’t work all that well in reconnecting me to God. But you know what, eventually it happened, and my religious upbringing did give me a start. I’m thankful for that. Of course, in the coming posts I’ll also be sharing some of the writings and teachers that helped me along the way. But don’t be afraid to jump on the internet and see what’s worked for others in their spiritual journey. You really can’t fail, as long as you’re trying to move. I hope you know that, and I hope you know that I’ll be here failing forward with you. So, let’s keep going, and encouraging one another as we go.