Our Voice from Home

Last week, I spoke of our inner journey as a journey home, a journey to the core of our being. This core is a point of sacred worth. It can be seen also as the centre, the inmost self from which all within us flows and into which all is gathered. It is a place deeper than yet inclusive of the both/and of life, the joy and sorrow, the fear and trust, the light and darkness.

The challenge is to recognize the both/and of life, to live from and to that core. To do so is to be at home with ourselves, in all our dimensions as well as our unity. It is to be a whole person with many dimensions and gifts. If we are at home to ourselves, we may then be at home with others as well, comfortable with their sorrow as well as their joy. We can be present to ourselves and to others in their pain and sadness, and not simply avoiding others or trying to cheer them up. It is not a matter of wallowing in hurt or engaging in condescending pity. It is recognizing what Susan Cain calls the “bittersweet” of life. She see it transformed into the beauty of the songs of Leonard Cohen. In these the hallelujah remains, despite the presence of the cold and broken. The familiar spiritual also follows the line that “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,” with the words, “glory, hallelujah.”

One example of this recognition is found in the physiological reality of tears. They flow in times of both acute sorrow and overwhelming joy. This is perhaps an indication that both tears flow from the same source within us. Another example is found in the conversation between trusted friends. We may readily move between laughing and crying, between levity and depth, without hardly noticing the transition. It seems there is a place in us deeper than the separation of apparently contradictory feelings, and into which they are gathered..

It seems as well that beautiful music has a certain poignancy to it. Their beauty heals, delights, and enriches us. At the same time it touches our aching longing that has a tinge of sadness to it. I recall on one occasion spending the day in the woods around Montmorency Falls near Quebec City. Later that day, we listened to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, which seemed to name that experience perfectly. Even while totally immersed in the experience of nature and the exquisite music, I was aware of the passing nature of both. It was an experience both of the beauty and brevity of life. The both/and of life were present and even transcended by what was beautiful.

One way of expressing this thought is to consider the voice that comes from our inmost core, from our true home. This would be the voice of our true self, our authentic voice. It would be the voice we hear and speak from when we our in touch with our sacred worth. It would be the voice we hear when we are aware of the both/and, the light and darkness of life, yet the meaningfulness that encompasses them all.

Often the voices we hear–and that perhaps we listen to but should not do so–are the voices which push us to conform in order to be accepted, which push us to external success, which call us to be perpetually busy, to acquire things, to live from outside. These may be the voices that call us a failure, that tell us that we are not good enough. They may even be internal voices that yet push us to run from ourselves for fear of what we may find within.

Yet if we sit quietly, we may hear our authentic voice, the voice beneath all the distracting clutter and clamour. Wayne Muller speaks of this voice in his book, Sabbath. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us. He calls to “consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.” and to honour “ quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.”

We may listen to that sacred authentic voice in times spent quietly by ourselves. We may tune in to that voice when it is echoed in a story, a work of art, a piece of music, a walk in a natural setting. We may discover it in time spent with a friend when we are valued for who we are, not just what we do or accomplish.

In another book, How Then Shall We live?, Wayne Muller speaks further of this voice. He asks: “What is our song? How do we name ourselves? Which word, when we speak it, reveals what is most deeply true about this inner voice, our deepest heart, our fundamental nature? He then offers a response he uncovered during a silent retreat.
Then it got quieter than ever. … I could feel a place inside, below all my names, my stories, my injuries, my sadness–a place that lived in my breath. I did not know what to call it but it had a voice, a way of speaking to me about what was true, what was right. And along with this voice came a presence, an indescribable sense of well-being that reminded me that whatever pain or sorrow I would be given, there was something inside strong enough to bear the weight of it. It would rise to meet whatever I was given. It would teach me what to do. …Neither my pain nor my confusion can stop the relentless companionship of this true and faithful voice. Something more vital, strong and true lies embedded deep within me. Sometimes I barely see it, can’t quite touch it. Then I experience a starry night, a forest after a rain, a loving embrace, a strain of sweet and perfect melody–and that is all it takes to remind me who I am: a spirit, alive, and whole. It helps me remember my nature, hear my name.

The challenge is to come home, to tune in to this inner voice of our sacredness, and to let it unfold in compassion for ourselves and others, with a sense of who we are beneath all the voices that clutter our lives.

May you listen ever more fuller your authentic inner voice, the voice of your true home, the voice of your sacred worth. And may you listen with more compassion for yourself, tune in more fully to the true voice of others. And my you uncover and share ever more generously your many gifts.