A Timeless, Life-Changing Quest
Know thyself, and thou shalt know all the mysteries of the gods and of the universe.
– inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi
As George Saunders’ passionate statement makes clear, the benefits of coming to know our radiant center of awareness, love and strength are substantial, both to ourselves and to advancing the cause of humanity’s flourishing. Connecting to our inner core is not a panacea – it will not make life trouble-free or eradicate its difficulties and tragedies. Nor is it easy to accomplish. But if we embrace the challenge and do the work, the connection to our inner core will progressively get stronger. And as it does, the following statements become increasingly true and operative in one’s life:
- I become less driven by habits, compulsions and distractions. My awareness of alternative choices opens up and I can direct my attention where I choose. This empowers me think to more clearly and imaginatively and act more skillfully and appropriately.
- I recognize and honor the corresponding inner core in my fellow human beings and more readily understand their perspectives, needs, and aspirations.
- I access my deeper sources of knowing, making me less susceptible to emotion-triggering speech and all forms of disinformation.
- I maintain my poise in the midst of turbulence and adversity.
- My senses become more enlivened and the world around and within me becomes more vivid. I enjoy life’s pleasures more deeply.
- I realize that my personal agency exists within a complex web of interdependent relationships, and I am strengthened and enriched by that realization.
- Less caught up in and identified with my thoughts, feelings and actions, I can deal more effectively with difficult emotions, both in myself and others.
- I engage people more confidently and compassionately, including strangers and even antagonists. I become more capable of participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
I realize I am making rather bold claims about the benefits of being connected to our common inner core. But I am hardly alone in making them. The rich benefits of knowing our core, by whatever name or no name at all, have been known for millennia. Teachings about the center of being – and how to grow closer to it and honor the same core of goodness in others – are a principal element of virtually all wisdom traditions, whether religious, spiritual, mystical or metaphysical in nature. Many philosophical and psychological schools of thought also posit a core self and commend pausing, slowing down, and relaxing into a more attentive, centered, expansive state.
The ability to rest in and act from one’s innermost depths in any situation and under all conditions – and recognize the same depth in others even if they do not – has always been the mark of authentic saints, mystics and all highly evolved human beings. And while reaching such lofty heights may be impractical and unlikely for the great majority of us, we can awaken to the existence of our common inner core, know it more deeply, and connect to it more frequently in ourself and others.
I have been striving for decades to know my core and become more adept at connecting to it. Am I claiming to have mastered the skill? Absolutely not, far from it. But I know beyond any doubt that my inner core exists and I experience the value of making steady if halting progress in a lifelong endeavor to know it better.
Choosing to test this hypothesis launches the journey. Then the real work begins: developing the ability to connect to the attentive, loving, courageous center of our being in an ever-widening range of circumstances, to the benefit of all concerned. This work is unavoidably difficult at times, but we make it more endurable, productive and meaningful by holding in mind that our inner core is real – in myself and in everybody else.