The Big Question

mistThe afternoon sun poured in through the venetian blinds as we sipped our tea.  My client, visiting for her regular spiritual mentoring appointment, took a breath and dropped The Big Question into the companionable silence.

“Angie – what do you believe?”

I knew what she was asking and it was not an inquiry into the structure of my own belief system.  Her journey had taken her into the darkness of confusion and she wanted a roadmap.

How could I possibly distil decades of searching, finding, rejecting and reformulating into a something meaningful for the earnest, questing soul who sat before me, nibbling on a muffin?  After a moment’s reflection, something inside me spoke from the heart.

“I believe that I am loved.”

I could see the questions, the objections, the denial in her eyes before she spoke again.  It was clear that she felt cheated somehow.  Where was the potted theology, the tidy rule-book, the certainty, the religious platitudes?  The words tumbled over themselves as she voiced her perplexity.

“But by whom or what?  What sort of love?  How do you feel it?  Do you believe in God?”

Her voice was accusing.  She had come to the point in spiritual mentoring that is the hardest obstacle to overcome – the need for concrete answers.

In the brief moments before I replied, I thought of a quote I once heard when studying theology.  I cannot remember the name of the author, but I have never forgotten the message.  In essence, it says that there are two kinds of simplicity: the kind that comes before the complexity of theological exploration and the kind that comes after.

How did I answer her?

I told her only what I had learnt ; that religious doctrines are the finger pointing at the moon – they are not the moon itself; that ideas we may have of the divine are simply ideas and do not reflect the reality; that the moment we try to comprehend the infinite we reduce it to the size of our finite minds.  That the truth lies within us, is encoded in our very DNA; that if we listen with infinite care, and infinite acceptance, it sings to us in the silent watches of the night

And what of the love, that enveloping sense of being held, safely, no matter what may befall?  That ageless sense of existence in the eternal now, the eternal “Yes”?  Even as I spoke, to my ears the words evoked the babblings of a failed poet, a frustrated mystic, who yearns to convey the ineffable which, by definition, can never be described.

She listened intently, searching for a word, a handhold on the side of the mountain, even as the narrow, theological ledge upon which she had sheltered for many years was giving way beneath her feet.

Finally, a phrase came to me out of nowhere, as phrases do at such times when we relinquish the cerebral and speak with the voice of the soul.

“It is the heart’s knowing.”

And then, she understood.

[This story is a composite of several journeys I have been privileged to share in my work as a spiritual mentor.  The chronology and minor details have been altered to protect client identity.  The core message remains unchanged.  The muffin is real.]

muffin

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4 thoughts on “The Big Question

  1. Beautiful, Angie. For me, it’s only been in fully letting go of ‘believing’ that I’ve found peace; in accepting what Native Americans call the Great Mystery – the heart’s (or perhaps the soul’s) knowing that there is an infinitely intricate interconnectedness to all existence; and that it is utterly beyond our intellectual limits of understanding. My soul recognises and feels resonant with the Great Mystery …

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