Let’s start the above diagram. The Being Centers run Spirit, Soul, Flesh from top to bottom. The Knowing Centers run heart, mind, body from left to right. That order is important. There is no hierarchy to the Knowing Centers, but not so the Being Centers. The data that comes through the Knowing Centers is all equally important. But the leading of the Spirit in the Being Centers is vital. That's because the Being Centers help process and prioritize the data of the Knowing Centers. The way that data comes is through the Soul Being Center.
The Soul Being Center helps connect all the other centers. That's why it's the Center at the Center, but also encompassing all the others. Through the soul is the hub of our personhood. It allows communication from flesh to spirit, and from the heart, mind, and body to our flesh and spirit.
The Spirit Center is at the top for a reason. It is our highest level of being, and for many reasons. Of all our Being Centers of Being, it 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 to God. God is both inside and outside the circles of our personhood. But God can be in us by degrees. We can be darkened in our connection to God, just as in our connection to all the parts of our self. That darkening can cut us off from the Spirit of God and our spirit. That is the dysfunction of the mind/body paradigm, where we don't understand or operate fully in all the other parts of ourselves. Connection and reconnection to God helps us to better reconnect to ourselves.
That’s why our Spirit Center is at the top , 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 in order to get reconnected back to God? The answer is in all the other Centers of Being and Knowing.
The grace and beauty of God is that he is works with us where we are. Where are we is 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 is because we have become so disconnected in our parts, operating out of some 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 is the point of Jesus and the Gospel, that God meets us where we are in order to get us to where we need to go. 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 with depression and loneliness. My home life was dysfunctional. I had no close friends. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, with anyone. I knew people at school, and was 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 taking walks with God. I would spend many evenings walking for hours, pouring my heart out to this God. In walking and talking with God, I developed a growing sense that God was 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 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 with the Spirit of God.
Some religions call this prayer, others meditation, all of which include expressions from the mind, and posturing of the body in order to be more in tune with God. 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 choose to do, even when we have no real, experiential evidence that these actions are producing anything at all. This is action of belief and faith. First, we must believe the invisible parts of ourselves exist, and can reconnect us to an invisible God who we also must believe exists. If we can’t take those first steps by faith, we won't get anywhere on the journey of becoming healed in our whole personhood.
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 us "see" 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, writings, and even modern 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 the Christian scriptures 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 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.