“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Most of us have heard these words from the French philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. And for most of us, there is something about this idea that resonates at a very primordial level. Something in us knows, deep in the gut or the heart, perhaps at an unconscious level, that we are made of more than just the sum total of our thoughts, feelings and the life situation that we are living at the moment. We have a sense of being larger or more infinite than just our little “me.” And for most of us, the idea that we humans are vaster than just finite and personal egos feels relieving, even if we can’t quite access the knowing of it directly.
There is a story I once heard of a five year old whose mommy had just given birth to a new baby. The little boy kept asking to spend some time alone with his new sister. When his parents asked him why he wanted this alone time with the new baby, the five year old said that he needed it because he was starting to forget God.
It seems that we come into this world with an innate wisdom and knowing of our infinite and spiritual nature, but through our conditioning and just life as it unfolds, we forget who and how magnificent we really are. You could say that we get smaller, and begin believing that who we are or what we are made of is just a resume of the roles we play, our successes and failures, the opinions we hold, and the problems we need to solve.
So what gets in the way of our knowing who we really are? What untethers us from our truly infinite and spiritual nature? The long answer to such questions is complex and multi-layered. But since this is a blog, I’ll go with the short answer. The number one thing that makes us forget our true nature as spiritual beings is thought, or more specifically, our fascination with our thoughts. From the time we are very young, we devote most of our life’s energy and attention to our thoughts. And truth be told, most of them are not that interesting, or helpful.
Because a thought appears in our awareness, we assume that must believe it. Because we are conditioned to believe that we are our thoughts, we assume that we must pay attention to every thought that occurs. But this is a false assumption. Thoughts appear and we can choose to believe them—or not. Thoughts just happen; we don’t actually choose to think them. Rather, we are the witness of our thoughts. It is up to us how we want to be in relationship with the thoughts that vie for our attention. This fixation with thoughts causes us to be lost in a trance most of our lives—not actually where we are. Put another way, it causes us to abandon our bodies. With our attention focused on the stream of thoughts we are always hearing, we become disconnected from our senses. This is important because it is the senses that are the portal to our own presence, our basic being, our spirit.
Coming into the body, feeling the breath, the sensations that are happening right now—this is our gateway into now, and it is only through this present moment, now—sensed directly—that we can remember ourselves as the infinite and spacious presence that we intuitively know (but forget) that we really are. The mind turns “now” into a bundle of thoughts, a concept, something to talk about, a place we need to get “to.” But in truth, “now” can’t be talked about, can’t be a destination. “Now” can only be something we are, something we melt into. As soon as we talk about or think about “now,” it becomes something separate from us, a possession, a notion, and a goal. “Now” can only be experienced directly through the body, the heart, the senses. While thoughts have tremendous value for many aspects of life, if what we want is to know ourselves as spiritual beings on a human journey, thought is not the path.
We can’t know our true and infinite nature through thought. In fact, our fixation with thoughts obscures us from this knowing, this timeless wisdom. The body holds this intelligence, this memory, deep in its cellular structure, as if the body itself remembers from whence it comes, the stardust out of which it is made.
Right now, in this moment, invite your body to feel itself, from the inside out. Right now, in this moment, allow your body to arrive—here, where you are. Don’t consult your mind for what it thinks of here. Don’t send your mind down into your body to notice what’s happening now and come back up and tell you. Simply tune into the sounds reaching your ears, feel the sensations happening inside you, experience the breath as it enters and exits, and the gaps in between. Allow yourself to land inside, and to fill up your whole body with your own presence, to sense your being. Feel what it feels like simply to exist.
When we feel the moment directly, through the body, who we are as thought, ego, a “person,” disappears. Our individual “me” agendas fade and we are just now, life—not separate from life, from our spirit, or our true nature. Check it out for yourself; don’t just take it as an idea from me. Use your senses as your portal, experience the boundlessness that your body contains, and you will come to remember yourself as the spiritual being on a human journey that you truly are.