Know thyself, and thou shalt know all the mysteries of the gods and of the universe.
– inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
As George Saunders’ passionate statement makes clear, the benefits of coming to know our luminous center of awareness, love, and strength are substantial – to ourselves, to others, and to advancing the cause of humanity’s flourishing. Connecting to our innermost core is not a panacea – it will not make life trouble-free or eradicate its difficulties and tragedies. Nor is it easy to accomplish. But if we embrace the challenge and do the work, the connection to our creative core will progressively get stronger. And as it does, the following statements become increasingly true and operative in one’s life:
- I become less driven by habits, compulsions and distractions. My awareness of alternative choices opens up and I can more easily direct my attention where I choose. This empowers me think to more clearly and imaginatively and act more skillfully and appropriately.
- I recognize and honor the corresponding core of being in others and more readily understand their perspectives, needs, and aspirations.
- I access my deeper sources of knowing, making me less susceptible to emotion-triggering speech and all forms of disingenuous information.
- I can more successfully maintain my poise in the midst of turbulence and adversity.
- My senses become more enlivened and the world around and within me becomes more vivid. I enjoy life’s pleasures more deeply.
- I realize that my personal agency exists within a complex web of interdependent relationships, and I am strengthened and enriched by that realization.
- Less caught up in and identified with my thoughts, feelings and actions, I can deal more effectively with difficult emotions, both in myself and others.
- I engage people more confidently and compassionately, including strangers and even antagonists. I become more capable of participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
I realize I am making rather bold claims about the progressive benefits of becoming increasingly connected to our attentive, radiant core. And, indeed, this is a lifelong challenge and never-ending process. But I am hardly alone in making these claims.
Under the Sun
The rich rewards of knowing our core, by whatever name or no name at all, have been known for millennia. Teachings about the center of being – and how to grow closer to it and honor the same core of goodness in others – are certainly not new. Such tenents are a principal element of all wisdom traditions, whether religious, spiritual, mystical, or metaphysical in nature. Many philosophical and psychological schools of thought also posit a core self, and commend pausing, slowing down, and relaxing into a more attentive, centered, expanded state.
In my view, these are all ways of talking about the same phenomenon. And ultimately what counts regarding our spacious, attentive core are not words or even thoughts about it – though they can be useful – but its direct experience.
The ability to rest in and act from one’s innermost depths in any situation and under all conditions – and to recognize the same depth in others even when they do not – has always been the mark of authentic saints, mystics, and other highly evolved human beings. And while reaching such lofty heights is not likely for the great majority of us, we can awaken to the existence of our common creative core, know it more deeply over time, and connect to it more frequently in ourself and others.
I have been striving for decades to know my core and become more adept at connecting to it. Am I claiming to have mastered the skill? Of course not, far from it. But I know that my inner core exists and I experience the value of making steady if halting progress in my endeavor to know it better.
Choosing to test this hypothesis launches the journey. Then the real work begins: developing the ability to connect to the attentive, loving, courageous center of our being in an ever-widening range of circumstances, to the benefit of all concerned. This work is unavoidably difficult at times, but we make it more endurable, productive, and meaningful by holding in mind that our conscious, expansive core is real – in myself and in everybody else.