How Important is Building an Inner Life?
Solitude is a mighty power to building an inner life; magnetic in its ability to draw to us (and through us) wisdom and voice of the spirit. Whether it’s our own higher self, the guidance of angels and spirit guides, or the pure, unfiltered voice of the divine, when we connect to that energy, we transform. We become better than we think we are.
It is only when we eliminate the external noise of the world, when we lay aside the self-destructive chatter of our ego-self, that we can receive such wisdom. This is not new. A gem of a directive comes to us in Kings, after God delivered a typical, Old Testament earthly shakeup with the prophet Elijah as witness, looking for the Source:
“but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; …the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; …the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”Most readers interpret this phrase as the indication that we must temporarily detach from the world. In silence, we will recognize that voice, which may not be audible and most likely it is not. Instead, we experience visions, thoughts, sensations, feelings, an unquestionable sense of “knowing.”
Connecting Deep Within, to Our Inner Life
It is not uncommon for beginning meditators to shed tears involuntarily when they make that early connection to the Divine. Why? Spiritual teacher and therapist Joan Lieberman explained it this way: that we experience a deep and immediate recognition; our true home that is often emotionally overwhelming. Whether we call the process of quieting the mind contemplation, meditation, reflection, or prayer, we are reaching the same goal: building a life of the interior–our inner life.
Each of the major religions, indigenous spiritual paths, and mythologies are replete with stories of a protagonist sequestered by design or circumstance. The hero undergoes a profound transformation through an internal dialogue with the Spirit; though often, illness, suffering, or sacrifice precedes it. Remember Moses at Mount Sinai, Jesus in the wilderness, Mohammed in the cave, and consider the rituals of native American vision quest and the involuntary shamanic symbolic death before enlightenment.
Accessing the Inner Life through Contemplation
In What is Contemplation? Catholic mystic Thomas Merton asks (and in his writings, answers) the question that shows us how accessible this inner life is: “Why do we think of the gift of contemplation, infused contemplation, mystical prayer, as something essentially strange and esoteric reserved for a small class of almost unnatural beings and prohibited to everyone else?” While he frames his answer in a Catholic Trinitarian scheme, the question is elastic enough for each of us to answer in the way most compatible with our personal belief system, even if we do not subscribe to an organized religion and follow instead a more self-directed, holistic path.
Even our most cherished childhood fairy tales contain a blueprint for self-discovery through silence, which often comes through the protagonist’s isolation before transformation. This pattern drives all of our Grimm Brothers tales; not a hidden or subliminal theme. It is only our own obstructed vision that prevents us from seeing it until we are so directed.
Snow White, for example, lay comatose and is isolated in a glass coffin before her transformation; Rapunzel is trapped in an impenetrable tower before hers; Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) takes an entire town with her in a 100-year meditation before a prince discovers and destroys the overgrowth and restores life to all. The most frightening experiences in fairy tales occur in the woods, a symbol of our untamed mind – and when characters must confront their fears in seclusion, they awaken to a new sense of self and, ultimately, good.
Recognizing the Benefits of Building and Inner Life
The importance of the inner life is not restricted to the spiritual among us, either. Scientists recognize the benefits of meditation and contemplative life. Recent studies at UCLA and Harvard have demonstrated these benefits of meditation:
~ It disconnects us from the self-absorbed view of the world, which leads to anxiety and depression.
~ An inner life creates focus, moving us from mind wandering patterns that invite depression.
~ It measurably relieves stress and anxiety.
~ An inner life physically changes brain structure and preserves gray matter as we age.
We have many options to begin our entry into the serious inner life. These include yoga classes, particular trademarked meditation programs (which are costly but helpful to millions), Reiki circles (inexpensive weekly opportunities to sink into a trance and receive healing, guided meditation CDs, and DVDs, YouTube videos (thousands available). Even when we are unable to reserve to 15-20 minutes for formal meditation, we can consciously lower the volume of the exterior world. This gives us greater access to higher and deeper thought. The drive to and from work is an ideal time. We can roll up the windows, turn off the radio, breathe. Use every traffic light stop to inhale deeply, hold, and release tension. Even the smallest entry into mindfulness creates change.
About the Author:
Rev. Lisa Shaw is an animal communicator, intuitive counselor, Reiki Master, writer, and professor, who lives in South Florida. She conducts a weekly Animal Reiki Circle on Facebook, has Hospice Chaplain training, and holds an M.A. in Pastoral Ministries. Her e-book, Illumination: Life Lessons from Our Animal Companions, is available on Amazon. Her website is www.reikidogs.com.