maciel-wide
The problem with the word within is that it refers to a direction in space. Whenever we discuss spiritual realities, we leave the domain of time and space and enter into the eternal. This presents us with a problem: if we can’t “go” anywhere, but we don’t like where we are now, how do we get to the “place” we want to be?

Well, we go within. So where is this place we can’t get to?

Some forms of plants, like the palm, are endogenous, which means that they unfold from within themselves. Spiritually speaking, we are endogenous, in that our infinite potential unfolds from within us. There is no place that we can go, and nothing that we can get, that can add to the divinity of our being. Within, therefore, is not a place, but a happening — a transformation of being from one state to another.

Awakening to the spiritual nature of our being happens when we let go of our concepts of who we are and allow the outer illusion of our personal identity to dissolve, revealing that which was there all the time.

Letting go
There is a way to energize the process of letting go, so that “within” is easier to find. Usually, this happens by accident, literally, as when we are faced with some catastrophe, or when our life is threatened by illness.

We often hear stories about people finding God at the end of their rope. We don’t have to wait for a disaster, however, if we approach the process willingly and with a little knowledge.

Ins and outs of awareness
But first, we need to talk briefly about awareness and what constitutes inner and outer experience. We tend to think that when we look at the world around us that we are having an outer experience, and when we look into our heart or mind, we are having an inner experience. This is not the case. Both experiences are actually outer experiences.

Here is an easy example that will show why this is: while driving, look out at the road in front of your car. Then, look at the person sitting in the seat next to you. One is “out there,” and the other is “in here.” But aren’t both of these things external objects of your awareness, even though one is outside your vehicle and the other inside?

Like a computer, we take the input from our senses and make a copy of it. Our minds literally replicate the world that our senses report. But when the world changes, we are still looking at the image we made of it, which is frozen in time. In other words, we are living in the past, looking at an artificial reality and not the eternal present. This artificial reality becomes our reality, which explains why we never quite know what’s going on.

Energizing the process of letting go, and thereby making within easier to find, is accomplished by detaching awareness from that which it is aware of and turning it back upon itself. This is what advanced yogis practice and have practiced for thousands of years. It is an arduous task, however, that takes many years (if not lifetimes) to master. It is a direct frontal attack on the ego, which can be harrowing. Most of us are not willing to walk into that kind of fiery furnace –we need an easier method. How do we do it?

Becoming the Source
Hindus make pilgrimages to the headwaters of the sacred Ganges River. Sacred rivers symbolize the flow of divine life into the world, so going to the source, for a Hindu, is like returning to God. Of course, these pilgrims don’t really believe that God lives in the mountains where the river begins — they don’t literalize their symbols as we tend to do in the West. The outer action of walking to the headwaters is a ritual, a living meditation on the inward journey toward the Source of All.

When one reaches the source of the river, she can then turn around and look downstream, as though she herself were the source of it. This is a way to lose oneself — by becoming one with It. The only thing that the one who does this will be aware of is the endless flow of the eternal Life of God. Jesus said of such a one that “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters.”

Axis Mundi
What does this tell us about our relationship to the flow of the eternal Life of God when we are in this state of consciousness? It tells us that we are not the flow itself, neither are we “in the flow,” but that we are the sourceof the flow. This is what it is to be alive. This is what it means to be spiritually endogenous, to unfold from within the infinite part of ourselves, the deep tissues of our soul. This is being at one with Being, where the Infinite says through us, “I am that I am.”

When awareness is turned back upon itself, it comes face-to-face with Being, which is the source of awareness. Therefore, Being is WITHIN awareness. Coming to this realization is called “standing in the holy place,” the immovable spot, the axis mundi of Buddhism. Isn’t this what we’re really seeking when we “go within?”

An exercise
Try this: imagine that you are a Hindu pilgrim standing at the headwaters of the Ganges. Now, stretch your arm out in front of you and pretend that the river is flowing out through it. Feel the River of Life flowing through your arm, as though your arm were a conduit. You are feeding the world with the never-ending grace of God.

Next, move your arm, and feel the strength, the vitality, and the tingling in your muscles. Feel the sensation of this and ask yourself, “What is the higher octave of this vibratory sensation in my arm?” If the sensation were a sound — middle C on a piano keyboard, for instance — what would the sensation feel like if it were one octave higher? In other words, what is the sensation a projection of, or a result of? If you could see this higher sensation, what would it look like?

You will discover that the sensation in your arm is the effect of the life force that is moving through the nerves. The higher octave of the sensation is the energy of the life force itself, which is light. This light cannot be felt, but it can be seen. This unfelt, unfeelable energy is within the sensation.

Of course, the energy within the nerves of your muscles is not the only type of energy that you can experience. You can also feel the love radiating outward from your heart. You can ask, “What is at the center of this feeling? From where is this feeling radiating?” Is the muscle of your heart tingling with the feeling of love the way the muscles of your arm are tingling with the exertion of movement? There’s something else in there, isn’t there–some invisible organ.

Isn’t it wonderful? Some part of you that cannot be dissected or removed is vibrating with the distinctive sensation called love. By placing your attention on it, you have moved one level of consciousness above your physical body. The energy moving through your invisible heart is producing the sensation called love. You feel the sensation in your invisible heart, but not the energy. The energy is within the sensation. Put all of your attention on that energy. You are now two levels of consciousness above your physical body, and you have entered into the Grand Heart Chakra.

See how easy this is?

The questions you ask about the source of these energies might not produce intellectual answers, but they will take you even farther within. Relax, and lean back into the openings that your questions will provide. Don’t worry if you find it hard to put what happens into words. These things cannot be described — they can only be experienced.

Our awareness is like a spotlight projecting either outwardly upon the world of things or inwardly onto memories and ideas. From the standpoint of awareness, these contents of the mind are just as much “out there” as the objective world of things. I see my house in front of me. In the memories of my mind, I see my dear, departed grandmother. Both are objects of my awareness.

In actuality, we see nothing out there. All of our experiences, both inner and outer, are reproduced onto the holographic screen of our consciousness in much the same way that computer programs are reproduced onto our computer’s monitor. Just as it’s easy to think that our edits are occurring directly on the monitor, instead of in the computer’s micro-circuitry, so do we think that we’re interacting with the world out there. Does this mean that the screen of the monitor is unreal or that the world doesn’t exist? Of course not. It just means that the real action is taking place somewhere other than where it seems to be. It also means that there is much more going on than meets the eye.

Therefore, no matter which direction we project the spotlight of our awareness, either out there or in here, it is always shining on an object that is external to awareness. Being is the source of our awareness. After all, there has to be someone who is being aware. Being, therefore, is within awareness.

In order to go within, we must become Being.

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Michael Maciel
Michael Maciel is the author of the website The Mystical Christ (mysticalchrist.org) and two books on contemporary Christian mysticism--The Five Vows and World Priest. Michael lives and writes in Redwood City, California. Contact Michael at michaelmaciel@me.com.

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