This reflection formed part of a recent retreat held at Wentworth Falls, NSW.
RETURNING TO THE SELF
It is a lovely phrase, but what does it mean? We may understand it intuitively, we may feel its gravitational pull, but our left-brains don’t quite know what to do with it.
It is the essential blending which takes many forms. It is the knitting together of mind and heart to bring about the synthesis we call Wisdom. It is the communication across the corpus callosum that both divides and connects the brain, so that right and left brain can utilise their own areas of strength while still working in tandem. It is the integration of all aspects of our lives – the physical, the mental, the emotional, the creative, the intuitive, the transcendent and the immanent. It is the recognition that we are an integral part of all that is.
In the words of T S Eliot :
We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot — “Little Gidding” (the last of his Four Quartets)
Returning to the Self is about exploring – the outer world and our inner world – freeing ourselves from preconceptions and bringing to the exploration the beginner’s mind – the mind of one who looks at the world anew every day.
A major component of the exploration is our spirituality, whatever we conceive it to be; whether it be the classic idea of a deity or finding self-transcendence in nature; through immersion in the miracle of music or a sense of mystical union with the cosmos. What is our place in the universe; how do we relate to one another, to other beings, to this fragile earth on which we make our home?
Spirituality is a vastly misunderstood concept and is all-too-often hijacked by organised religion. Of course, it also resides within religion but is, by no means, confined to it. It is our myth – whatever underpins our view of the world. And, as such, it is of enormous importance, because it shapes and directs our ability to integrate, to self-actualise, to return to the self.
We may not even be aware that we possess a mythology. But we do. Everyone has even a vague opinion of what life is about, what happens when we die, where the universe came from.
So part of our exploration today is to gain a sense of what is asking to be integrated in ourselves. Are we fragmented with a compartment over here for our personal mythology, another compartment over there for our attitude to the suffering in the world, yet another for our creative life and yet others for our career, our recreational activities, our relationships, our self-image?
Are these all aspects of ourselves that behave as though they were independent entities, not informing one another as part of a cohesive whole? Or, perhaps, do several aspects work together but there are one or two orphans that don’t somehow seem to fit?
How do we achieve the kind of internal cohesion that avoids self-centred introspection and promotes a recognition of the fact that we are interconnected with everything and everyone?
Our great ally in this process is the subconscious mind, with its rich cast of characters, images and symbols, the dreams that perplex and guide us, tease at the edges of consciousness and draw us, stumbling along the pathway of integration.
In dreams, on rare occasions, we will hear a disembodied voice, sometimes giving us explicit directions, often telling us a fundamental truth. This voice can be trusted, because it is the voice of the soul – the Old One who lives in our very bones and speaks the truths we need to hear.
Listening to our dreams, the directions in which our daydreams take us, the promptings in things we read or hear – these are the stuff of mindfulness.
When we are truly present to what is happening, when we can release our knee-jerk reactions and begin to see through our prejudices and unquestioned viewpoints, then we begin to return to Self. We begin to know ourselves and, by extension, to know the wider Self of which we are all a part. This Self is the energy of which the universe is made and which maintains it in existence.
Wentworth Falls Lookout – April 2013