Trusting a Deeper Aliveness

September 4th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

True Self/Separate Self

Trusting a Deeper Aliveness
Friday,  September 4, 2020

I believe a regular practice of Centering Prayer is one of the most effective tools we have for discovering our True Selves. Sitting in silence, we become adept at compassionately observing our separate self at work, as it tries to maintain control of the inner narrative. Ultimately, however, with our genuine intention and attention, our True Self is revealed, present to the Presence of God. CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault describes how this happens:

When we enter [into] meditation [or contemplative prayer], it is like a “mini-death,” at least from the perspective of the ego. . . . We let go of our self-talk, our interior dialogue, our fears, wants, needs, preferences, daydreams, and fantasies. . . . We simply entrust ourselves to a deeper aliveness, gently pulling the plug on that tendency of the mind to want to check in with itself all the time. In this sense, meditation is a mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death, in which the same thing will happen. There comes a moment when the ego is no longer able to hold us together, and our identity is cast to the mercy of Being itself. This is the existential experience of “losing one’s life.”. . .

Just as in meditation [and contemplative prayer] we participate in the death of Christ, we also participate in his resurrection. . . . For twenty minutes we

[i.e., our ego or separate self]

have not been holding ourselves in life, and yet life remains. Something has held us and carried us. And this same something, we gradually come to trust, will hold and carry us at the hour of our death. To know this—really know this—is the beginning of resurrection life. . . .

Virtually all the great spiritual traditions of the world share the conviction that humanity is the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity. There is a “self” and a Self, and our fatal mistake lies in confusing the two. The egoic self . . . is in virtually every spiritual tradition immediately dispatched to the realm of the illusory, or at best, transitory. It is the imposter who claims to be the whole. This imposter can become a good servant, but it is a dangerous master. Awakening—which in Jesus’ teaching really boils down to the capacity to perceive and act in accordance with the higher laws of the Kingdom of Heaven—is a matter of piercing through the charade of the smaller self to develop a stable connection with the greater Self . . . becoming intimate with our spiritual identity, the sense of selfhood carried in our spiritual awareness. . . .

Through meditation [like Centering Prayer] it gradually becomes ingrained in us that “losing one’s life,” regardless of the action that may ultimately be required of us in the outer world, entails first and foremost a passage from our ordinary awareness to our spiritual one, because only at this deeper level of non-fearbased, wholistic perception will we be able to understand what is actually required of us.

Separateness Is Suffering

September 3rd, 2020 by Dave No comments »


Separateness Is Suffering

Thursday,  September 3, 2020

The idea of the two “selves” within every individual—the True Self and the separate self—is a part of the perennial wisdom and a pathway for transformation in most faith traditions. I share the thoughts of two writers, a rabbi and a Sufi Shaikh (elder), on why this teaching is so central to mature spirituality.

From Rabbi Rami Shapiro:

The term “perennial philosophy”. . . refers to a fourfold realization: (1) there is only one Reality (call it, among other names, God, Mother, Tao, Allah, Dharmakaya, Brahman, or Great Spirit) that is the source and substance of all creation; (2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego; (3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and (4) that peace, compassion, and justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, and violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality. The great sages and mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time and culture. [1]

From Kabir Helminski:

Education as it is currently understood, particularly in the West, ignores the human soul, or essential Self. This essential Self is not some vague entity whose existence is a matter of speculation, but our fundamental “I,” which has been covered over by social conditioning and by the superficiality of our rational mind. In North America we are in great need of a form of training that would contribute to the awakening of the essential Self. Such forms of training have existed in other eras and cultures and have been available to those with the yearning to awaken from the sleep of their limited conditioning and know the potential latent in the human being. [2]

These are key reasons that the Center for Action and Contemplation is dedicated to reinvigorating the teaching of Christian contemplation. The consistent practice of contemplation helps to uncover our true reality, essential Self, or fundamental “I.”

Unfortunately, separateness is the chosen stance of the small self which has a hard time living in unity and love with the diverse manifestations of this One Reality (i.e., ourselves, other people, and everything else). The small self takes one side or the other in order to feel secure. It frames reality in a binary way: for me or against me, totally right or totally wrong, my group’s or another group’s opinion—all dualistic formulations.

That is the best the small egotistical self can do, yet it is not anywhere close to adequate. It might be an early level of intelligence, but it is not mature wisdom. The small self is still objectively in union with God, it just does not know it, enjoy it, or draw upon it. Jesus asked, “Is it not written in your own law, ‘You are gods’?” (John 10:34). But for most of us, this objective divine image has not yet become the subjective likeness (Genesis 1:26‒27). Our life’s goal is to illustrate both the image and the likeness of God by living in conscious loving union with God. It is a moment by moment choice and surrender.

Trusting In the “True You”

September 2nd, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

True Self/Separate Self

Trusting in the “True You” 
Wednesday,  September 2, 2020

Our separate self is who we think we are, but our thinking does not make it true. It is a social and mental construct that gets us started on life’s journey. It is a set of agreements between us as individuals and our parents, families, school friends, partner or spouse, culture, and religion. It is our “container.” It is largely defined in distinction from others, precisely as our separate and unique self. It is probably necessary to get started, but it becomes problematic when we stop there and spend the rest of our lives promoting and protecting it. This small and separate self is merely our launching pad: our appearance, education, job, money, success, and so on. These are the trappings of ego that help us get through an ordinary day.

Please understand that the separate self is not bad or inherently deceitful. It is actually quite good and necessary as far as it goes; it just does not go far enough. Too often, it poses and substitutes for the real thing and pretends to be more than it is. The separate self is bogus more than bad. We need the temporary costumes of our egoic selves to get started, but they show their limitations when they stay around too long.

When we are able to move beyond our separate self, it will feel as if we lost nothing important at all. Of course, if we don’t know that there is anything “beyond” the separate self, the transition will probably feel like dying. Only after we have fallen into the True Self, will we be able to say with the mystic Rumi (1207‒1273), “What have I ever lost by dying?” [1] We have discovered true freedom and liberation. When we are connected to the Whole, we no longer need to protect or defend the smaller parts. We are connected to something inexhaustible and unhurtable. The True Self cannot be hurt. I said that at the National AIDS Conference one time, and it was one of the most healing lines for that crowd. I got letters for months afterward; they realized the “True You” is indestructible. All our hurts and feelings of being offended come from our separate selves.

If we do not let go of our separate self/false self at the right time and in the right way, we remain stuck, trapped, and addicted. (The traditional word for that was sin.) Unfortunately, many people reach old age still entrenched in their egoic operating system. Only our True Self lives forever and is truly free in this world.

The Illusion of the Separate Self

September 1st, 2020 by Dave No comments »


The Illusion of the Separate Self

Tuesday,  September 1, 2020

CAC faculty member James Finley studied under Thomas Merton as a young monk in formation. While many have been influenced by Merton’s writings, few have had the opportunity to learn from the mystic himself. Today, Jim reflects on the insights on the True Self and false self that he gleaned from Thomas Merton.

In the following text Merton makes clear that the self-proclaimed autonomy of the false self is but an illusion. . . .

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.

This is the man I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown of God is altogether too much privacy.

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves—the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin. [1] . . .

The false self, sensing its fundamental unreality, begins to clothe itself in myths and symbols of power. Since it intuits that it is but a shadow, that it is nothing, it begins to convince itself that it is what it does. Hence, the more it does, achieves and experiences, the more real it becomes. Merton writes,

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface. [2]

Richard again: Our false self is how we define ourselves outside of love, relationship, or divine union. After we have spent many years laboriously building this separate self, with all its labels and preoccupations, we are very attached to it. And why wouldn’t we be? It’s what we know and all we know. To move beyond it will always feel like losing or dying.


True Self/Separate Self

August 31st, 2020 by Dave No comments »


The Glory of God in Us
Monday,  August 31, 2020

Today we begin with Thomas Merton’s classic description of the True Self as written following his “conversion” at Fourth and Walnut in Louisville. [1] It is so inspired; I want to quote it at length:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak [God’s] name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our [birthright]. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. . . . I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. [2]

Most people spend their entire lives living up to the mental self-images of who they think they are, instead of living in the primal “I” that is already good in God’s eyes. But all I can “pay back” to God or others or myself is who I really am. This is what Merton is describing above. It’s a place of utter simplicity. Perhaps we don’t want to go back there because it is too simple and almost too natural. It feels utterly unadorned. There’s nothing to congratulate myself for. I can’t prove any worth, much less superiority. There I am naked and poor. After years of posturing and projecting, it will at first feel like nothing.

But when we are nothing, we are in a fine position to receive everything from God. As Merton says above, our point of nothingness is “the pure glory of God in us.” If we look at the great religious traditions, we see they all use similar words to point in the same direction. The Franciscan word is “poverty.” The Carmelite word is nada or “nothingness.” The Buddhists speak of “emptiness.” Jesus speaks of being “poor in spirit” in his very first beatitude (Matthew 5:3).

A Zen master would call the True Self “the face we had before we were born.” Paul would call it who we are “in Christ, hidden in God” (Colossians 3:3). It is who we are before we’ve done anything right or anything wrong, before we even have a conscious thought about who we are. Thinking creates the separate self, the ego self, the insecure self. The God-given contemplative mind, on the other hand, recognizes the God Self, the Christ Self, the True Self of abundance and deep inner security.



Story from Our Community:
Slowly but surely, the loving and open-ended language of the daily meditations is replacing the rigid vocabulary of faith that I so readily absorbed in the earlier days of my faith. In fact, I feel that I am finally beginning to experience faith instead of just a list of things I was taught to accept. What freedom there is in this! I also appreciate how much Fr. Richard “passes the mic” to amplify other voices. I am grateful to have been introduced to Barbara Holmes, Cynthia Bourgeault, and many others. These voices help me find my own. [They] cut through the noise and help me grow from a place of deep belonging. —Alison D.

The Glory of God in US

August 31st, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

True Self/Separate Self

The Glory of God in Us
Monday,  August 31, 2020

Today we begin with Thomas Merton’s classic description of the True Self as written following his “conversion” at Fourth and Walnut in Louisville. [1] It is so inspired; I want to quote it at length:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak [God’s] name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our [birthright]. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. . . . I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. [2]

Most people spend their entire lives living up to the mental self-images of who they think they are, instead of living in the primal “I” that is already good in God’s eyes. But all I can “pay back” to God or others or myself is who I really am. This is what Merton is describing above. It’s a place of utter simplicity. Perhaps we don’t want to go back there because it is too simple and almost too natural. It feels utterly unadorned. There’s nothing to congratulate myself for. I can’t prove any worth, much less superiority. There I am naked and poor. After years of posturing and projecting, it will at first feel like nothing.

But when we are nothing, we are in a fine position to receive everything from God. As Merton says above, our point of nothingness is “the pure glory of God in us.” If we look at the great religious traditions, we see they all use similar words to point in the same direction. The Franciscan word is “poverty.” The Carmelite word is nada or “nothingness.” The Buddhists speak of “emptiness.” Jesus speaks of being “poor in spirit” in his very first beatitude (Matthew 5:3).

A Zen master would call the True Self “the face we had before we were born.” Paul would call it who we are “in Christ, hidden in God” (Colossians 3:3). It is who we are before we’ve done anything right or anything wrong, before we even have a conscious thought about who we are. Thinking creates the separate self, the ego self, the insecure self. The God-given contemplative mind, on the other hand, recognizes the God Self, the Christ Self, the True Self of abundance and deep inner security.

True Self/Separate Self

True Self/Separate Self
Sunday,  August 30, 2020

The thing that we have to face is that life is as simple as this. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story, it is true. —Thomas Merton

I learned the terms “True Self” and “false self” from Thomas Merton (1915‒1968). These are words he used to clarify Jesus’ teaching of dying to self or “losing ourselves to find ourselves” (see Mark 8:35). Merton rightly recognized that it was not the body that had to “die” but the “false self” that we do not need anyway. The false self—or what I am calling lately the “separate self,” disconnected from Divine Love—is simply a substitute for our deepest truth. It is a useful and even needed part of ourselves, but it is not all of us; the danger is when we think we are only our small or separate self. Our attachment to the false self must die to allow the True Self—our basic and unchangeable identity in God—to live fully and freely.

Thomas Merton said that the True Self should not be thought of as anything different than life itself—but not my little life—the Big Life. [1] Franciscan philosopher John Duns Scotus (c. 1266‒1308) said that the human person is not different or separate from Being itself. This is not the little being that you and I get attached to and take too seriously, but Universal Being, “the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being,” as Paul put it to the Athenians (Acts 17:28). We Franciscans call this “the univocity of all being” (speaking of all beings with one consistent voice), “that all may be one” (John 17:21).

When you’ve gotten too comfortable with your separate self and you call it Life, you will get trapped at that level. You will hold onto it for dear life—because that’s the only life you think you have! Unless someone tells you about the Bigger Life, or you’ve had a conscious connection with the deepest ground of your being, there’s no way you’re going to let go of your separate self. But your attachment to that separate self must “die” or “the single grain of wheat remains just a single grain” (John 12:24).

Your True Self is Life and Being and Love. Love is what you were made for and love is who you are. When you live outside of Love, you are not living from your true Being or with full consciousness. The Song of Songs says that “Love is strong as Death. . . . The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of YHWH” (8:6, Jerusalem Bible). Your True Self is a little tiny flame of this Universal Reality that is Life itself, Consciousness itself, Being itself, Love itself, Light and Fire itself, God’s very self.

My Story, Our Story, THE Story

August 28th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Order, Disorder, Reorder:
Part Three

My Story, Our Story, THE Story
Friday,  August 28, 2020

Only the whole self is ever ready for the whole God, so Reorder always involves moving beyond the dualistic mind toward a more spacious, contemplative knowing. In fact, if we are going to rebuild society, we first need to be rebuilt ourselves. A healthy psyche lives within at least three levels of meaning. We might imagine three domes, or containers. The first and smallest dome is called My Story, the second larger dome is Our Story, and the third and largest dome is The Story.

In the first dome is my private life: those issues that make me special, inferior or superior, right or wrong, depending on how “I” see it. “I” and my feelings and opinions are the reference points for everything. Jesus teaches that we must let go of exactly this, and yet this is the very tiny and false self that contemporary people take as normative, and even sufficient.

The next realm of meaning is about Us. Our Story is the dome of our group, our community, our country, our church—perhaps our nationality or ethnic group. These groups are the necessary training grounds for belonging, attaching, trusting, and loving. Unfortunately, some folks just spend their lives defending the boundaries and “glory” of their group. Group egocentricity is even more dangerous than personal egocentricity. It looks like greatness when it is often no more than disguised egotism. Loyalties at this level have driven most of human history—and most wars—up to now.

The third and largest dome of meaning is THE Story, the realm of universal meaning and the patterns that are always true in every culture. This level assures and insures the other two. It holds them together in sacred meaning. In fact, we could say that the greater the opposites we can hold together, the greater soul we usually have.

Biblical religion, at its best, honors and combines all three levels: personal journey as raw material, communal identity as school and training ground, and an encounter with true transcendence as the integration and gathering place for all the parts together. True transcendence frees us from the tyranny of I Am and the idolatry of We Are. Still, when all three are taken seriously, as the Bible does very well, we have a full life—fully human and fully divine.

The person who lives most of their life grounded within THE Story is the mystic, the prophet, the universal human, the saint, the whole one. These are the people who look out at the smaller picture with eyes as wide as saucers because they observe from the utterly big picture—with love. If we hope for societal reconstruction, it will come from people who can see reality at all three levels simultaneously, honoring the divine level and ultimately living inside of the great story line.

Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part Three

August 27th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


Repairing and Restoring
Thursday,  August 27, 2020

Barbara Holmes, a member of our Living School faculty, writes about what I’m calling Reorder as a cosmological fact. When we return to the original Order—the unbroken unity of all of creation with and in God—with new eyes, we see the gifts of abundance, diversity, and interconnectedness always available to us. 

Any community that we construct on earth will be only a small model of a universe whose community includes billions of stars and planetary systems. Are we alone? We don’t know, but if we don’t know how to become a community with our own species, how shall we find harmony with other life forms in the cosmos? Our ideas of community begin with fragmentation, difference, and disparity seeking wholeness.

Our beloved community is an attempt to hot-glue disparate cultures, language, and ethnic origins into one mutually committed whole. The universe tells a completely different story—that everything is enfolded into everything. [1] . . .

Even though the languages of the new physics and cosmology discard mechanistic understandings of the universe in favor of potential, we love order. We see it where it doesn’t exist and impose it through our narratives. Everything that we do conceals the unity that seems to be intrinsic to our life space. We take pictures of objects that seem to be outside of self, we demarcate national boundaries, we align with friends and break with enemies, we give and receive in what seem to be neat sequential packets of life and experience.

By contrast, [physicist David] Bohm [1917–1992] described the universe as a whole or implicate order that is “our primary reality . . . the subtle and universal reservoir of all life, the wellspring of all possibility, and the source of all meaning.” [2] The life space, Bohm wrote, is the . . . order that unfolds as a visible and discernable aspect of this unseen wholeness. . . .

We are one, and our wars and racial divisions cannot defeat the wholeness that lies just below the horizon of human awareness. . . . Diversity may not be a function of human effort or justice. It may just be the sea in which we swim. To enact a just order in human communities is to reclaim a sense of unity with divine and cosmological aspects of the life space. As Hebrew Scripture scholar Terence Fretheim suggests, the “Let us” discourse in Genesis [1:26] is a statement of the community of God. [3]

God is creating and ordering the universe, but does not do it alone. . .

Perhaps in ways that we don’t yet understand, the struggle for justice on many fronts is an enfolding image of the whole—the embodiment of a holistic and unfragmented community. This community . . . would not be the logical outcome of progressive movements toward an ascertainable external goal, but would be the sum of past, present, and future expectations and disappointments. Then the community-called-beloved becomes all that we can and cannot conceive, all that lies beyond the horizon of apprehension but is available to us as part of the matrix of wholeness.

Story from Our Community:
I have always, when stymied, had to deal with my temper and anger. I can cut someone to shreds verbally. I always regret it, but have been unable to stop so many of these false self behaviors. I am now taking Fr. Richard’s Immortal Diamond course about the false and the true self. Amazingly, I have had many situations lately that normally would upset me a lot. However, I have not become upset. In fact, I am halfway through dealing calmly with the situation, before I am aware that what is happening would normally leave me totally frazzled. I know it is God—the Trinity—acting in my life. I have never been able to do this before. —Carol K.

God’s Dream for Creation

August 26th, 2020 by JDVaughn No comments »

Order, Disorder, Reorder:
Part Three

God’s Dream for Creation
Wednesday,  August 26, 2020

In times of Disorder and deconstruction, we long for Reorder on a personal level—to be made new and whole again. But the Scriptures tell us that restoration will also happen on a communal, planetary, and even universal level! Jim Antal, a climate justice leader with the United Church of Christ, reminds us of our ability and responsibility to participate with God in the renewal and reordering of the earth.

“How can you know all these facts [about climate change] and still have hope?” For me, faith and hope are rooted in the conviction that, regardless of how bad things may be, a new story is waiting to take hold—something we have not yet seen or felt or experienced. . . . God is calling us—as individuals and congregations—to work with God and others to champion that new story.

For the vast majority in our society, that new story remains unseen. Wresting our future from the grip of fossil fuel seems impossible—our addiction is too strong, affordable options are too few, and the powers that defend the status quo are mighty, indeed. . . . We cannot be freed by chipping away at this millstone. We must begin to live into a new story by changing the human prospect [of destruction] and restoring creation’s viability.

That’s what the Water Protectors of Standing Rock have done. Their courageous, unflinching discipline inspired thousands to join them and millions to imagine with them the new world that is waiting to be born. They prepared themselves through prayer and ritual to face down sheriffs, paramilitary contractors, attack dogs, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and high-pressure water cannons in subzero temperatures. They were fueled by hope, hope for a revolution rooted in love—love for God’s great gift of creation. . . .

We can’t accept God’s invitation to help create a new story unless we are willing to take action. We become partners with God when we act in unfamiliar, untested ways. Those new actions will be guided by a preferred future that embraces:

  • resilience in place of growth
  • collaboration in place of consumption
  • wisdom in place of progress
  • balance in place of addiction
  • moderation in place of excess
  • vision in place of convenience
  • accountability in place of disregard
  • self-giving love in place of self-centered fear . . .

As broken-hearted as God must be over what we have done to the gift of creation, God still has a dream. . . . God dreams that humans seek spiritual rather than material progress. God’s dream envisions a just world at peace because gratitude has dissolved anxiety and generosity has eclipsed greed. God dreams of a time when love and mutual respect will bind humanity together, and the profound beauty of creation will be treasured. Let us embrace God’s dream as our own. Suddenly, the horizon of our hope comes nearer. As we live into God’s dream, we will rediscover who we truly are and all of creation will be singing.

Order, Disorder, Reorder: Part Three

August 25th, 2020 by Dave No comments »


The Wisdom Within
Tuesday,  August 25, 2020

Author Valarie Kaur is a Sikh activist and civil rights lawyer who writes about social change through the metaphor of childbirth—both acts of “revolutionary love.” In her words I find a powerful description of contemplation and action, of how we endure the pain of Disorder until we find the courage and grace to enter Reorder. We listen and act, rest and respond, until our work is informed by deeper wisdom.

The final stage of birthing labor is the most dangerous stage, and the most painful. . . . The medical term is “transition.” Transition feels like dying but it is the stage that precedes the birth of new life. After my labor, I began to think about transition as a metaphor for the most difficult fiery moments in our lives. In all our various creative labors—making a living, raising a family, building a nation—there are moments that are so painful, we want to give up. But inside searing pain and encroaching numbness, we might also find the depths of our courage, hear our deepest wisdom, and transition to the other side. . . .

“We can learn to mother ourselves!” Audre Lorde [1934–1992] once declared. [1] So I decided to practice listening to the Wise Woman in me. I got a simple blank journal, carried it with me, and wrote in it every day . . . and simply let her speak. . . . Listening to her voice, literally every few hours, is how I began to practice loving myself. Here’s what I discovered about Wise Woman: Her voice is quiet. . . . I have to get really quiet in order to hear her. How do I know when I am hearing her voice? She is tender and truthful. She is not afraid of anything or anyone. She does not give me all the answers, but she does know what I need to do in this moment—to wonder, grieve, fight, rage, listen, reimagine, breathe, or push. She helps me show up to the labor as my best self.

I believe that deep wisdom resides within each of us. Some call this voice by different sacred names—Spirit, God, Jesus, Allah, Om, Buddha-nature, Waheguru. Others think of this voice as the intuition one hears when in a calm state of mind. . . . Whatever name we choose, listening to our deepest wisdom requires disciplined practice. The loudest voices in the world right now are ones running on the energy of fear, criticism, and cruelty. The voices we spend the most time listening to, in the world and inside our own minds, shape the way we see, how we feel, and what we do. When I spend time listening to people who are speaking from their deepest wisdom, I can feel understanding, inspiration, and energy nourish the root of my own wisdom. But I must not lose myself at the feet of others. My most vigilant spiritual practice is finding the seconds of solitude to get quiet enough to hear the Wise Woman in me.