“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” — Hopi Elders
“Sometimes it happens that I awaken at night and start to worry about some great difficulty. I decide I must speak to the pope about it. Then I awaken more fully and remember that I am the pope.” — Pope St. John XXIII
We all need to awaken more fully. Everything shifts when we live up to a higher or nobler version of ourselves, the one made in God’s image and aspiring to the “be ye perfect” injunction of Jesus. Yet on the way there, we do have to deal with the small matter that we are made of earthly matter and situated on a planet that isn’t “as it is in heaven” yet! That brings us smack dab against the gap — the discrepancy between our ideal self-concept and our flawed human nature, with its propensity to be “intrinsically disordered” or in simpler terms, predisposed to the egotism underlying all sin.
What to do? It’s a human and universal predicament, when we are all too aware of various forms of dysfunction on one end of the human scale, and the redemptive vision motivating us on the other, given the courage and compassion to keep faith with it. There are two escape routes from the soul work it takes in the crux of this middle ground. One is denying the ideal as unrealistic and retreating to a superficial or cynical reality (supported by the culture of distractions, fantasies, and addictions). The other involves keeping the ideal but giving up hope of being qualified for it. Depression then fills the gap.
There is a third alternative. The awareness of each endpoint of the spectrum can cue a self-forgiving space for the gap between the two, the same place where creativity and art forms emerge. We’re in the middle by default and called to bring awakened consciousness to the journey. It’s the flashlight beam that shines a few yards forward in the dark woods, or the tuning fork sounding the keynote in our souls. It’s enlivened when we identify with moral heroism in a movie or rise in love with someone who reflects our image of the numinous.
Basic human courage and compassion provide the evolutionary momentum we need. Yet there are also maps for the inner journey to guide us on the Way, such as the fourfold path for integrating the great divergences in this life: witness, presence, essence and guidance.
Witness (a quality of mind) involves the capacity to step back and take a dispassionate, reflective view of life’s drama. Witnessing is fostered through mindfulness and meditative practices and allows for the equanimity of “seeing the big picture” with all its contradictions.
Presence (a quality of heart) dissolves the duality between higher and lower such that we can hold the space for wildly divergent poles of our common humanity without judgment.
Essence (a quality of soul) is otherwise known as the “true self” or “point vierge” — who we would be without mind, memory, or association; our unconditioned, unconstructed identity. It allows us a backstage pass, so to speak, to the value and worth of persons.
Guidance (a quality of spirit) is the grace of divining where a particular life situation meets the potential evolution of a person and can serve as a spiritual summons or wake-up call.
Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as Clinical Supervisor of E-Counselling for a major employee & family assistance program and creative director, InnerView Guidance International (IGI). He holds master’s degrees in creative writing, counselling psychology, and education. As a pioneer of e-counselling in Canada, he developed and implemented a short-term counselling model for online practitioners, edited a textbook on the subject, and does related reelance writing. Speyer also directs a documentary series titled GuideLives for the Journey: Ordinary Persons, Extraordinary Pathfinders. http://www.guidelives.ca/