I have a great job. In fact, in my mind, it’s the best of all possible jobs. I help people get what they want – what they REALLY want: inner peace, freedom, joy, love, aliveness, happiness – things like that. Sometimes, I see myself as a kind of charlatan – “selling water by the river,” as someone once put it. The truth is, we already have everything we want; we’ve just forgotten that we have it. The fruit of our inner work – the kind of work I help people do – is to wake up from this state of amnesia we’ve long been in, and remember who and what we really are.
I distinctly remember when my own amnesia set in. I was nine years old, and I became terrified of dying – of losing everything I loved in and about life. The question, “Why was I born if only to die?” plagued me, haunted me day and night – especially at night. I couldn’t allow myself to fall asleep for fear that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I realized that as long as I kept breathing, I would stay alive. So I started controlling my breath – and my life! It was literally like a veil lifted that had clouded my awareness, my aliveness. Fifteen years later, the causes and conditions of my life ripened to the point where I had what Abraham Maslow, the father of the human potential movement, called a “peak experience” (where “the individual becomes most truly him/herself…and is permanently transformed”), and re-experienced what it felt like to be fully alive. I dedicated the next thirty-four years of my life to exploring the depth and breadth of human possibility — discovering and sharing with others ways of coming fully back to life.
What does it mean to come fully to life? What is the full human potential – the fruits of our inner work? And how does one come back home to oneself? Answering these questions may be too ambitious for a short article, but here’s one way to start: sit silently directly in front of a loved one (a mirror will also suffice), look into his/her eyes, and ask yourself, also silently, “Who are you?” Really want to know. Let go of everything you think you know about this person, and see her/him freshly. Open your mind and your heart and see who it really is that you’ve been in relationship with all this time. Want to see the deepest possible truth about this person – who s/he is behind all the masks that we all put on to protect ourselves from being seen. Be aware of and in touch with whatever feelings arise in the process. Stay with the inquiry as long as you can. In the process of this exploration, if you really put all of yourself into it, you may get a sense of what it’s like to be fully present, fully alive.
The journey back home to oneself is “a long and winding road.” Along the way, one sees that suffering is created by resistance to pain (and/or joy!), and that “the only way “out” is “through.” That is, by working in and through one’s “issues,” one naturally re-awakens parts of one’s being that had been asleep. So then the issues in one’s life, instead of being seen as obstacles to avoid or overcome, actually become the pathways we need to walk to the end of to find the lost aspects of our being. Seeing this, one naturally moves towards, rather than away from difficulty, and gradually comes to trust one’s ability to work through any problem that may arise. Life then becomes an adventure to be lived and learned from.