“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Here I want you to see that you are more than your body and your physical self. You also have a non-physical self.
Now, I suspect that most of us already accept that we have some kind of physical reality since it is so “in our face” every day. Less prevalent is the acceptance of your non-physical reality. However, you may already believe that you have a “spirit” or a “soul” or some non-physical aspect to your being. If so, that’s good. What I want you to start thinking about more and more is that you are living simultaneously in two worlds, a material one and a spiritual one.
On the one hand, we can all easily acknowledge that we wake up each day to a physical life experience. We carry around with us a sense of being in this third dimension, moving through a sense of time passing, interacting with the material world and all its demands and challenges. During our waking hours, our senses deliver a constant stream of input from the “world out there” reinforcing the feeling that this stuff is what is important and we need to pay attention to it. Our bodies give us input that we need air, water and food. Other physical urges push us outward — for comfort, for sex, for the company of others. Our drives for worldly success push us to make money, gain prestige, gather a sense of power. There is no denying that we are moving through a “human experience” and all that it involves.
On the other hand, and less directly shouting for your attention, is the fact that you are also a spiritual being who every day in one way or another transcends the physical world. Those spiritual needs that we discussed previously (the need for self-actualization and self-transcendence”) are evidence of some existence of a “transcendent” self. The very nature that you can read these words, think about them and have a broad experience of an inner world of conscious awareness is proof of a self beyond the physical. Our urge to express some special talents and abilities, our sense of a “calling” in life, our desire to find meaning in existence are all pointing us to some greater sense of self beyond the physical.
Yes, there are some people who will argue that these “spiritual” aspects of life can be explained in some kind of physical manner. They can argue that our experience of an “inner life” is simply some kind of “epiphenomenon” (a byproduct) of the material world and holds no deeper meaning. They can argue that our consciousness is simply something that arose to give us some physical evolutionary advantage. You may believe this. That’s fine by me, you are free to believe what you want. However, from my experience, what I have come to believe is true (along with many others) is that our real truth is connected to our spiritual nature.
Now to say that our “real truth” comes from our spiritual nature is not to deny the validity of the physical world. It doesn’t have to be one world or the other. This is a situation of “both-and”. We exist in both realms simultaneously. However, our greater truth, our evolutionary path, the direction of our human-spiritual journey lies in the direction of our spiritual selves.
Here is a thought exercise for you to practice. Stop several times each day and ask yourself, is what I am focused upon related to my human self or my spiritual self? Does this thing that is occurring relate to the physical world or the non-physical world?
There will be times when the action or focus is on something in the material-human world. You will be watching TV or talking to someone. You will be eating a meal or bathing your body. You will be focused on some work project. However, there will be other times when it seems that you are being urged into some mental or spiritual realm. You are lost in thought on a particular subject. You are in the flow of some personal creation. You are meditating. And, there will be many times when your focus is split between the two realms. Consider the times you were driving your car lost in thought only to realize that you don’t really remember driving for many miles. You obviously navigated the material world while your consciousness was some place else.
Each day, you float between the material world and the spiritual non-material world. It’s sort of like you have one foot in both aspects of life and you are shifting your weight between one realm and the other based on where you place your attention.
What I want you to begin seeing more and more is that you live each day in two very different places. However, next time, we will shift from seeing these 2 parts of life – the physical and the spiritual – as being not two distinct worlds but rather one existence along a unified continuum.