Chapter 1 - Discovering Divine Presence
Awakening to the still small voice within. This chapter
provides an introduction to a point of view in which Divine
Presence is the centerpiece around which all of life revolves.
Adrift in the World
Humanity is facing a crisis, with so many aimlessly adrift in a sea of unrest, selfishness and hostility, growing ever-increasingly discontent with life. All around us, people are longing for something better, a better way to live, greater happiness, lasting peace and a more fulfilling life.
As many as 96% of the world-wide population claim to believe in some
sort of "Higher Power", "Source" or "Creator",
yet all around the world, millions suffer from an unfulfilled
inner longing, experiencing some vague sense of dissatisfaction which leads them to
restlessly search for
In a life centered on worldly matters, the body and soul have no common purpose, no harmony. Our minds have become so intensely focused on worldly concerns that we may even begin to feel that we are separate and independent, which leaves our soul forsaken, unfulfilled, longing for a greater role and more fulfilling experience in life.
We need both the body and the soul, but there will be no true peace or satisfaction until the soul is allowed to be the inspiration for all that the body does, and the body becomes merely the soul's instrument for the direct experience of love, harmony and beauty in this world.
When we neglect, or ignore, the deep longing of the soul for direct experiences of love, harmony and beauty, then the ego will wander off doing whatever it chooses, leaving us without any enduring peace or satisfaction. To find the enduring peace, satisfaction and joy which are our birthright, the body must act in harmony with the inspiration, longing and inner guidance of the soul.
All too often we have developed the unfortunate habit of following the endless chatter of the mind, rather than following the inner voice of our True Nature. In doing so, we have lost the harmonious connection between body and soul. To attain the fullness of life which we are longing for, we must consciously follow the longing, guidance and inspiration of the still small voice within, and harmoniously re-unite body and soul in the direct experience of love, harmony and beauty here and now.
Our dissatisfaction with life is ultimately due to a lack of understanding of our own true nature. To begin to discover our true nature, we simply need to change our own point of view. We have already been given everything that we need for happiness, and every breath that we breathe should be a glorious reminder of the spark of Divine Presence, our True Nature, which resides in the depth of the heart. We simply need to turn within, and live life from the inside out.
In the calm pure depths of one's own heart there is a fountain of truth, love and understanding, a wondrous flow of supreme guidance which is far greater than anything that the logical, rational mind has to offer. Only the heart can understand that which the head has been overlooking.
Our dissatisfaction with life clearly shows that we have lost our awareness of our own true nature. We live in the midst of what outwardly appears to be separation and individuality, but in reality all that exists is only the exquisite Presence of the One who is seen in myriad forms. Through our common human heritage of the gift of our True Nature, the essential oneness of all that exists, we are all inter-related. Our own happiness is inextricably intertwined with the happiness of others. To find our own happiness, we must strive to help others be happy too.
In response to the question "What is the soul?", the Prophet Muhammad was inspired to say: "It is an activity of God". Isn't that a beautiful thought? We're each a unique "activity of God", intended to be instruments of the Divine Presence in this world, fulfilling the soul's longing to experience love, harmony and beauty in every situation. What the ego wants is really not very important in the grand scheme of things. What is important is that we learn to serve our true nature, bringing the Love of our True Nature into this world, each in our own unique manner, and enjoying the calm abiding inner peace and joy which are one's birthright.
To find the life-satisfaction which is our birthright, we must harmonize the abilities of the body and the soul. We need them both, but we need to engage the useful attributes of both body and soul in a harmonious manner, allowing the soul to guide and inspire the activity of the body toward experiences of love, harmony and beauty.
Amazingly, no matter how far we may stray, no matter how many errors we may make, no matter what has happened in the past, the still small voice within is ever-ready to guide and empower us, if only we will take the time and effort to listen and accept its gifts.
In these chapters, this inner fountain of ultimate truth, this inner flow of supreme guidance, will simply be called True Nature or Divine Presence, but please don't be distracted or confused by any particular name. The word "Divine" is not used here in a theistic sense, but rather is used to emphasize that this calm abiding peaceful presence which is found deep within the heart of every person, is something which defies simple description. Within each person is a brilliantly radiant inner source of beautiful traits such as loving-kindness, generosity, patience, joy and compassion. Indeed, your True Nature is a spark of the Divine. Perhaps you may choose to think of it as Truth, Grace, Inner Beauty, Sat Nam, Buddha-Nature, Ruh, the Spirit of Guidance, Ruach, Atman, or Holy Spirit... all these words are merely metaphors which help us to focus our attention toward something much greater than "I", "me" or "mine"; our inner life, our spiritual life, our True Nature.
For enduring happiness and satisfaction in this life we must focus our attention upon the inner life, realize our own True Nature, and find a way to allow that still small voice within to guide our thoughts and actions in every moment, in every situation.
The Calm Depths
Beneath the ever-changing waves and turbulent surface of the ocean, there is an abiding peaceful calm which permeates the depths and supports the weight of the turbulent surface. Similarly, each human being has a turbulent ego-driven surface, and the calm abiding peace of Divine Presence deep within. We need both the surface and the depths, yet we need to allow the burden of life’s turbulence to be supported and nourished by the calm depths of our True Nature.
When one lives primarily on the worldly surface (the domain of the ego), life seems to be a source of great suffering due to the turbulence and commotion caused by the ego. But when one balances the turbulence of the worldly surface with time spent calmly abiding in the peaceful depths of the heart (the domain of Divine Presence), all of life is filled with the profound peace and utter tranquility of our True Nature.
Life is not about "you" or "me". That is, life is not about the little self, the ego, which most people mistakenly identify as "me". In truth, life is about the unfolding, blooming, and free expression of the true Self, allowing our True Nature to express itself as an endless outpouring of Loving-Kindness in the midst of daily life.
Life is love and the activity of love.
Joshu Sasaki Roshi
Divine Presence brings into one’s life the greatest, noblest and most sublime experiences. It is an inner source which provides perfect guidance and perfect peace. Divine Presence is our ultimate connection to the guidance and perfection of the All-Mighty One.
Learning to recognize and appreciate the difference between the turbulent surface of the ego and the calm depths of True Nature in one's own life is often called awakening, and is truly a pivotal point in one's spiritual evolution. We must learn to recognize the activity of the ego, only then it is possible to begin to rise above the self-centered activities of the ego and allow the soul to fill its cup with direct experiences of love, harmony and beauty.
People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
The little self, the ego, can be a formidable veil between the worldly realm and the spiritual realm, which is to say, between the body and the soul. In those who are excessively preoccupied with, or attached to, the self-centered concerns of the ego, the ego becomes an obstruction, or veil, between body and soul, causing our True Nature to be obscured. As soon as the obstruction is removed, the Divine Presence begins to flow more freely into all aspects of one's worldly life, bringing love, harmony and beauty to every situation and providing the soul with that nourishment and experience for which it longs so deeply.
There are two fundamental steps which are necessary in order to move toward a life of harmony with your True Nature. Each of these steps is greatly facilitated by spiritual practices, such as meditation and enjoying the wonders of nature:
1) Rise Above the Ego: Rise above any excessive preoccupation, attachment, or identification with any self-centered thoughts or concerns of the ego.
2) Abide in Calm Awareness: Strive
to live in a continuous state of calm awareness wherein the still
small voice within, the Divine Presence, can be clearly perceived
and followed in the present moment, thereby bringing love, harmony
and beauty into every situation.
To experience the divine union of body and soul, leading to lasting
peace and happiness, one must rise above excessive preoccupation
with the never-satisfied, self-centered, divisive ego and aspire
to embody the tranquil, ever-present, all-inclusive Divine Presence.
Only the word "I"
Student: Sir, if one gave up the I, nothing whatsoever
The true purpose of your life is the conscious and free expression
of the Divine Presence in the unique manner by which you, and only
you, are divinely empowered to bring the love, harmony and beauty
of Divine Presence into this world. That is your True Nature.
God is within you; you are His instrument, and through you He expresses Himself to the external world.
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Gospel of John, 14:15-17
This profound change of focus, from self-centered to selfless,
does not mean that we should reject progress such as personal improvement,
or scientific achievements, but rather that we should pursue such
progress empowered by Divine Presence, realizing that our greatest
potential will be realized when we are in harmony with, and acting
as an instrument of, the Divine Presence.
Awakening to Divine Presence, the Still Small Voice Within
The foremost obstacle to one's own lasting happiness is the belief that true happiness is dependent upon fulfilling some worldly desire. For example, in seeking happiness some may accumulate material possessions, or strive for power, or pursue fame, or hunger for certain relationships, or blindly submit to man-made authority. However, true happiness is only found while following the guidance of the still small voice within; the Divine Presence, our True Nature.
True happiness, enduring happiness, is not found by chasing after or clinging to anything in this world. True happiness is only found when one rises above desire, above resistance, above clinging attachments, and arrives in a state of acceptance and harmony with what is.
There is nothing wrong with progress and advancement, they are natural and desirable. But all too often we charge headlong after our goals without the inspiration or guidance of the Divine Presence within. We need to be in this world, yet we must never forget that spiritually we are not of this world.
Many of the most troublesome difficulties in life arise when we either resist the situation or stubbornly cling to our worldly desires, thoughts and attachments, forsaking the inspiration and guidance of the still small voice within, thereby causing immense suffering for ourselves and for others.
Although we certainly need to participate day-by-day in this ephemeral physical realm, the greatest of strength, guidance and happiness can only arise from our conscious connection to the eternal spiritual realm. We are in this world, but not of this world.
How can one explain spiritual progress? What is
it? What is it like? Spiritual progress is the changing of the point
Claiming Your Spiritual Birthright
All too often, mankind today is discontentedly languishing in a confused state of not knowing how to find happiness, mistakenly relying upon external stimuli, chasing after worldly wealth, and personal status. Such dependence upon external conditions and external stimuli is the most immediate challenge facing mankind today.
True happiness and a sense of great purpose in life are only found deep within, yet the outside voices such as advertisers, bosses and government all expect (and often demand) that we become unaware, little more than mindless automatons, easily led from task to task, job to job, store to store, war to war, by their self-centered agenda.
Surely it was bad enough when there was merely a church or religious group trying to demand our subservience, but today our employers, the mass media, advertisers, and governments all strive to stifle our True Nature in order to replace one’s own inner guidance with blind obedience to their self-serving dictums.
Throughout history, whenever the social order has begun to flounder, the great mystics and prophets have all tried to chart a better course for mankind, a path of individual righteousness arising from individual communion with the Real, the Divine Presence within. Those great mystics have all heard the still small voice within, a "knowing" which arises from the utterly silent depths of the heart, and so too must we learn to hear that same profound inner guidance if we are to evolve beyond mere animal behavior and awaken to our true potential.
Your purpose on earth is to embody and manifest the Divine Presence in your own unique manner of expression, bringing love, harmony and beauty into the world in your own way, directly experiencing the wonder of being alive. Each and every person is a unique creation, imbued with certain specific potentials which are available to ripen, blossom and flower in their own time and in their own manner.
Such divinely inspired blossoming and flowering in life is your birthright, yet more and more we are duped by advertisers, governments, employers, and even friends into believing that our happiness depends upon on satisfying the external demands of the world, when in fact the greatest happiness can only be found by turning within, discovering the still small voice of the Spirit of Guidance which re-unites body and soul. And then, armed with that new-found footing upon which to stand, with body and soul acting in harmony, re-emerging into the midst of daily life with every step and every thought empowered by guidance from that still small voice of our True Nature, the Spirit of Guidance, the Divine Presence within, allowing the Inner Light to inspire the activity of the body with beneficent attributes such as loving-kindness, harmony and beauty.
The intent of this chapter has been to describe the goal in a variety of different ways, in order to make the goal clear and comprehensible. That is, to find the happiness and satisfaction which we long for, we must each manifest the Inner Light in our own unique manner, bringing love, harmony and beauty into the world in our own unique way, with the beneficent beauty of the heart guiding and informing every thought and action.
Now, with the goal now clearly in sight, the following chapters offer a variety of ideas, tools and encouragement to help harmonize and re-unite head and heart, body and soul, empowering you to fully embody your own true purpose in life: acting in every moment as an instrument of the Divine Presence, filling the inner reservoir of the soul with your own personal experiences of love, harmony and beauty, and losing your "self" in loving-kindness, gratitude and awe.
Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,