Uncovering and Living from Our True Self.

We have spoken of transforming loneliness into solitude. A further thought on that topic might be helpful. Loneliness is the feeling of being disconnected and separate from closeness with another. It can involve a sense of isolation, a sense that there is no one with whom we can be who we truly are, without defense or pretense.

Solitude involves being in touch with and at home to our inmost, truest self, the beautiful core of who we are. This core self is where we–and where all else–flows from the universe itself, even in our very uniqueness. At our very core, then, we are in touch with, connected with everything else. Brian Swimme, among, others has stressed that we are in fact stardust; that all the materials that form our makeup are from the stars. In a similar way, Wayne Muller has observed that the very fact that we are breathing means that we are part of the whole ecosystem of earth. It means that we do belong and that we are in some profound way connected with all that is.

The 13th century Persian poet, Rumi, captures this truth beautifully: “Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is within you.” A difficulty today is that many people live outside themselves and relate only to the outside of others, so both are lonely. If we are in touch with and live from within ourselves, we can more readily relate to the inwardness of others. We have a sense of connection with others, with the universe, with all that is. Dag Hammarskjold writes in a similarly striking way: “The longest journey is the journey inward to the core of one’s being.”

Yet many authors, and even western culture itself, have fed us a script that we are separate from nature and from others. As a result they have fostered an attitude of fear, and a need to control and dominate, which breeds hostility. Language of the conquest of nature then predominates, rather than an attitude of living within and being part of the natural world. In this sense, we are not placed on this earth but emerge from it as part and expression.

Citing the philosopher Hegel, Gregory Baum observes that, in removing spirit, interiority, from ourselves, our relationships, and the natural world, we have removed a sense of connection and belonging as well. We no longer see our own inwardness, our own relationships to self, others and the world as part of who we are. We tend to see them as something alien as something outside ourselves. They become unknown and possibly threatening. They therefore need to be controlled and dominated, or else they may destroy us. We then live our lives externally and, since we distrust ourselves, we therefore turn to and rely on external authority. Instead of being and becoming fully who we are, we become doers of what we are told from outside.

According to Richard Rohr and others, the key is to get in touch with our own interiority, and to learn to trust the unfolding process of life within ourselves and its outflowing from our inner home.

Thomas Merton also differentiates between the true and the false self. For Merton, the false self is the self of surface whims, opposition to others, and social roles. The surface self is the superficial, busy, compulsive, diversion-seeking self, the self of surface wants, needs and greediness. The separate self is the self seen as apart from and in opposition to others, in competition with them for survival, goods, and gratification. The self of social roles is the self filtered through the slogans, myths, prejudices of a society.

In Merton’s view, the true self is the deepest, inmost self, the inmost centre or core of our being–the heart –a unique, dynamic, spiritual centre, endowed with an irremovable dignity. It is our identity as
as a unique word, or precious gift, flowing from an infinite source, a source that is best depicted in terms of wisdom and compassion. I find the world, he insists, in my own ground, in my deepest self. It is there too that I find “the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.”

In sum, our true self is a connected self, a self that is inseparably bound up with others, with the earth, and even the universe. It is best discovered in solitude, in kindness to self and others, and in sharing our unique gifts with the world.

Gabor Mate, in The Myth of Normal, states that we have two fundamental needs: the need for authenticity, and the need for belonging or attachment. For a time, even with the best will, parents may push their children to sacrifice their authenticity in order to be acceptable. While this can lead to many problems, the drive to authenticity remains, and may be awakened again by compassionate self inquiry. In effect, this approach can be translated to mean that our sacred worth remains and can be uncovered, respected, and lived from, by looking into ourselves with kindness.

May you ever more fully learn to uncover and live from the beauty of your inmost heart and home, and see and respond to that beauty in one another. To do so, as Merton insists is to alleviate the greed and cruelty of the world, to make it a home rather than a prison for each of us and for all that is.