J. Randall Ory
12 - Integration and Three Centers of Knowing and Being - Part Three
I’ll be honest, I originally thought this would be a one post topic, and now I’m already into the third part. Maybe this will be the last. I don’t know. What I do know is that we never really "wrap it up". If you’ve had any experience in spiritual development, then you know that the more you know, the more there is to know. Greater spiritual progress elevates us to a place where we come into contact with the infinite energy of God, which only proves to reveal the vastness of all we do not know more than what we do. When the limited container of me touches the limitless space of God, then I know just how small I am, and yet, just how valuable too. I remember this quaint little Quaker song I learned in music class in the third grade. It was called “Simple Gifts,” which had a line that went, “Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.” The irony of the upward spiritual journey is that it actually brings us down. As we reach up towards God, we find that we are actually coming back down to a more humble, simple, pure, and true place of personal being. Isn’t it true that most of the problems with the human race can be traced back to an overweening sense of self-importance? Likewise, there’s nothing like the embrace of the Infinite Eternal to help us see ourselves as a part of a much bigger universe, an embrace which equally elevates our value but diminishes our self-centeredness. It is our disconnection with God that allows us to think we are more important and powerful than we really are. When we grow in humility and a greater sense of otherness, we see that we are part of a much larger world. Then we find our significance from our place in that larger world, which naturally make us feel smaller and bigger at the same time. It reminds me of a Pink Floyd lyric from the song “Wish You Were Here,” since we’re on the subject of meaningful song lyrics. This particular line goes, “did you exchange a walk on part in the war, for a lead role in a cage.” The transfer of our lives from the small self to Divine connection is like trading a lead role in a cage for a secondary part in a much greater story. As I’ve already said, it is our overreliance on the mind/body paradigm that leaves us smaller but feeling larger, and a reconnection to our fullest self that makes us feel smaller while actually becoming greater. As we do the work of connecting to the Divine energy, and really begin to grow out of the body/mind self to the full self, then we know that we are truly coming alive. But what does that look like? That’s what I’ve been trying to describe. So, lets wrap it up.
It’s hard to explain the beauty and wholeness that comes from a life centered on someone else as our guide, wisdom, life, truth, love, and meaning. The reason why I’ve emphasized the idea of our Soul Being Center as a sound system more than a meaning maker is because the truest mode of life is with God as the director of our lives, in every way. I can’t overstate this enough. The divine energy of the universe is actually, already giving you direction in your life in ways that would lead you to the best life could be. The problem is we’re not always listening, and mostly don’t know how. What we mistake as the source of our own ideas about how we can be happy and fulfilled, is actually just raw data that could spin us in any number of directions, none of which may actually make us happy at all. We simply can’t just take all the data as the source of how we are meant to live. What’s truly going on is that God is trying to direct us through the two outer Centers of being, body and spirit. Both of these are in contact with God in two ways which correlate to the two worlds in which we live, the physical and the spiritual. God is in both, and speaking to us through both. It is the Body and Spirit Centers which are meant to give meaning to all that data pouring into our Soul Center, through our Knowing Centers. This happens as we learn to hear God through both. What begins to happen, as we come more into contact with God through the body and spirit, is that we develop a good set of filters for all that data, in order to determine not only which messages to keep, but how to interpret and act upon them. I said earlier that it is predominantly through our Spirit Center that we connect with God. That is true. But we can hear, see, and experience God through both the Body and Spirit Centers, because the energy of God is involved in and through both. God speaks to us through the physical and the spiritual world about what is true and good. It is God who must not only tell us who we are, but how to also see the world as it truly is. God is the biggest lens of reality, completely unfiltered. Only God can interpret all that data into true meaning. We often look to our data center (our thoughts and feelings) for meaning. This can happen when we don’t have any other way of understanding the data. We are trying to put all this data together for ourselves, but we really don’t know how. I remember learning about Gestalt theory in college level phycology. Gestalt theory basically says that we are hardwired for meaning, and will create it even when it’s not there. The most memorable example was staring into darkness. The eye/brain will automatically start pulling familiar shapes out of nothing. It’s also why we see elephants in clouds, and faces in abstract patterns on the floor. We simply cannot do without meaning. But trying to pull our own meaning out of all this incoming data creates conflicting thoughts and emotions, and produces conflicting conclusions and directions. Trying to manifest our own purpose can pull us in many directions. It does not bring clarity, or a clear path. In the process, we may conclude that there is no clear direction, and begin to feel that life is directionless, and meaningless. When we are not connected to a better source of understanding and direction in God, this is what we are in danger of becoming, at least in our own eyes. In this way we can become meaningless. If there is no real direction, and no real path to walk any better than any other, then what truly is meaningful and good? Nothing. It’s all relative. But when God is whispering in our ear, showing us the very purpose we were made for, then we get to start experiencing a meaningful life. Without God's direction, we have to make our own meaning, but any meaning we make is made up, which ultimately makes it meaningless. This is also because we were made for a meaning much greater than any we could muster.
Make no mistake. God wants to walk with us through life. God made us for communion, and community. God wants to walk with us because life is about love and relationship. We were not meant to be alone. We were made for connection, because God is about the connection of love. God made us to live life with Him/Her as the Director of our direction. Because of this God designed us to work in a certain way. That way is what I’ve been trying to describe through the three Centers of Being and Knowing. All these centers were designed like a simple circuit that only works when plugged into God as the power source. How that works, practically, is that when data comes into the Soul Center, we should immediately bring it to God, by asking 1. Where did this come from, 2. What does it mean, and 3. What should I do about it. It’s God who knows better than we how to answer those questions. There is so much that gets revealed when we learn to operate in this way, with God as our Director instead of ourselves. At first, in our journey, we will often only bring the “big” things to God. We will first learn how to hear God in the big decisions and struggles, because we will still often feel like we can manage the little, day to day things on our own. But eventually we’ll learn that God has much to say about everything in our lives. The more we grow in listening to God, the more we’ll see that his/her wisdom always bears out much better than ours, and the more we’ll begin to operate out of that energy instead of our own. There've been times when God directed me in a different way than what I had planned. Sometimes that's been in the simple decisions of day to day life. Other times that's been in big, life changing directions. I don't always get to see contrast of what would have been, had I followed my own plan, but when I do, I'm always glad I followed God's plan instead of my own. What I’ve learned through all this is that God always has a better plan, and leaning into that has enabled me to live a better life, even when it doesn’t always make sense to me in the moment.
When I experienced my three-day panic attacks, and the consequent fallout, I learned more intensely about life under God's direction. The first thing I asked was, “why did this happen,” which was just another way of saying, “what does this mean.” Apart from God, the answers are not very comforting. What we learn on our own is that life happens, we get knocked down, and we’ve got to try and put it back together and move on as best we can. Apart from God, there is no reason for what happens. But, why does it matter? Why do we need a reason for what happens in life? I don't have all the answers, but I do know that we want to know that even our worst days are part of a greater story, and that everything will turn out good in the end. We simply don’t accept the answer that nothing matters. That answer is, in and of itself, produces our greatest suffering. We suffer from the need to know we matter, and the doubt that perhaps we do not. It’s not the suffering that hurts, but that we might be suffering for no reason other than suffering itself. But even suffering becomes bearable when we know it is for a good reason. How and why suffering produces good things is a conversation for another time, but when we are walking with God, we can know that all of life matters, both good and bad. We can experience a continual transformation that keeps making life better. So, when I asked God why I suffered that three-day panic attack, the answer I got was, “behold, I make all things new.” It was a message that took long time to see, but that event that initially wrecked my life has actually become the starting point of a whole new life for me. It’s the direct result of why I’m sitting here sharing all this with you. Without the devastation of that breakdown, I would never have experienced so much good, personal transformation. But it took seeking God for the answers and the way out, and up. It was not some generalized seeking, with some generalized answers. It was a lot of very dark days asking God some very desperate questions. Questions like, “why do my thoughts and emotions feel like a hurricane,” or “why is my anxiety level through the roof?” Gods answer to those questions were basically, “because you’ve been trying to direct your life instead of me.” I can say with absolute certainly, I wouldn’t erase that breakdown, because it’s changed my life for good. I can also say that I would never have experience that good healing had I not already learned something about God as my Director and Guide. The truth is, that breakdown knocked me down so hard, and broken me so completely, I was unable to create any good meaning out of it for myself. My own positivity, even the positivity I’d learned from my Christian upbringing was not enough to handle this trauma. It was a wall I simply couldn’t get around on my own. It was a dark cavern I came to in my life that I had no ability to get out of. That dark hole was a gift. It was the gift of learning that I am not able to handle life on my own. My own handling of life is what put me in that hole. To get out, I was forced to turn to someone much bigger than me. What a gift, and what a difference that has made in my life. That has continued to prove out to a life like I never could have planned for on my own. It’s helped me realize who I am, why I’m here, and the gift I’ve been given to give to others. The purpose God has for me is the gift of how I’m called to love others in ways which also helps them understand the gift of who they are, and how they are meant to give themselves for the sake of loving others. It all comes back to love, and I’m swimming in a much greater sea of that love now, because of how God has taught me to live.
Is all this just some good sounding words, some well-meant ideas about the beauty of a life that's more fantasy than reality? Some might say it’s all pure fantasy. Some might say it’s all in my head. But I know the truth, and I know just how much that truth has changed me. And you know what, it doesn’t matter if you accept any of this at all, but I hope you do. Not because I need to feel important or meaningful, but because you need that to know just how meaningful your life is meant to be. So, I hope you believe me, at least enough to keep opening up your heart and mind to the possibility that God truly loves you and wants to walk with you in the ways I’ve described. It’s much better than any picture I could ever paint. But you’ll only figure that out when you start to experience it for yourself. I want to help you learn how to do that, and learn from you how to do that. We all have a story. We all have struggles which have transformed us. The power behind that transformation, whether we realize it or not, is God. But realizing that can move us towards greater transformation. I hope you keep walking towards the kind of change with me. It’s going to be a great journey. I know it. I hope you believe that too.