Stepping into the Heart of God
Tony (not his real name) is a 50-year-old Asian man who is going through tough times. He is divorced with two children and little money. He’s tried different things, but not with much success. He struggles with trying to find his personal passion and purpose in life and has lost confidence in his ability to make money. Although he used to feel close to God, for the last two years, he has felt separated. Tony wrote, asking for suggestions:
In one of your articles you wrote about Mother Teresa and how we can step into the heart of God.
I have been distracted by my personal problems and have felt separated from God for about 2 years now. I feel so bad about staying away from God for so long. Now, I am eager to learn more about God and how I can step into His heart and learn what He wants of me in this life. I don’t how to prayer or speak to God. Can you please help me with that?
Thank you for writing, Tony. The journey back to God begins with preparation. Let’s begin by considering how people may react or respond to problems they have no control over and cannot change:
1. They may complain, resist and fight against it.
2. They may grit their teeth and bear it, tolerate it, reluctantly accept it.
3. They may accept it without complaint.
4. They may embrace it, welcome it, rejoice in it.
Why would they rejoice in their difficulties? Because they realize that everything is the creation of the Divine. Everything is as it is meant to be NOW. When we love everything that is, we love God because God is everything that is. As you progress from step #1 to step #4 of the above table, you will get closer and closer to God. Also, you connect to God by opening your heart and connecting to others, for everyone is an expression of God. When you love everyone, you are stepping into the heart of God.
Now, let’s reflect on our nature. Although it is common to think of us as being composed of mind, body, and spirit, another way of looking at us would be as our Conditioned Self, True Self, and Spiritual Self. Our Conditioned Self is also called our False Self or Limited Self. It is the person we think we are.
We were born courageous, loving, and trusting. That is our true nature or our True Self. But as we were reared by our caregivers, we were exposed to negative comments and told that we have flaws and weaknesses. Young children (5 and under) do not yet possess rational thinking and cannot dispute the negative comments they hear from others; instead they blindly accept them. This becomes their False Self. They then grow into adults plagued with self-doubt, low self-esteem, and self-limiting beliefs.
Finally, we have our Spiritual Self or Higher Self, usually called our Soul. What is our soul? It is the fingerprint of God. Like finger prints, each and every soul is unique. Our soul, like God, is immaterial and connected to Him.
Tony, do you see the irony here? You want to establish a connection with God, not realizing you already have one, which is your soul. It’s similar to someone who wants to see the baseball game on TV, but cannot; not because they don’t have a TV, but because it isn’t on and tuned in to the right channel. How do you turn on your soul and tune in to God? A very simple and effective way is by keeping a journal that you use to have a dialogue with your soul.
Imagine having a wise person always at your side, so you could turn to him or her for advice whenever something was troubling you. Sadly, many are unaware of the help that is available. Perhaps it is because if they look around they won’t see anyone at their side. But that’s because the words of wisdom they seek are not by their side, but INSIDE. We can harness our soul’s power by entering into a dialogue with it. So, if you feel the need for guidance, describe your problem and write your questions. Then be still and allow your Inner Voice or soul to speak to you. Write down the answer you get. The answer may lead to another question, which in turn leads to another answer. Just continue the dialogue, back and forth, until everything becomes clear to you. This is a powerful technique that is worth practicing. As you regularly connect to God through your soul, you will find you lead a life free of dependency on anyone else.
Beginning Your Dialogue-with-God Journaling
1. Get a paper journal or journaling software.
2. Set a schedule, 10~15 minutes or more, every day at the same time, same place.
3. Don’t think you’ll write when you have time; make time by sticking to your schedule.
4. Treat your journal, writing place, and even pen or pencil with reverence. Whether you realize it or not, you’re engaging in a sacred exercise; treat it as such.
5. Start with a clear intention to connect to your soul (and through it to God).
6. Write with purpose todiscover your spiritual self, gain guidance, receive answers to questions, and awaken to your power.
7. Follow a process (the steps given here and elsewhere).
8. Make a commitment to be patient, journaling daily whether you get results or not.
I like how the author of Writing down Your Soul (see references), Janet Conner, summarizes the process with these four steps:
Be there, same time and place every day and treat it as a sacred place.
Start with what’s on your mind right now. What are your thoughts and feelings? Be completely honest. Create a ritual and begin your journal with a salutation such as Dear God, Guide, Soul, or Friend.
Listen as intently as your soul or God listens to you. Be patient; create the space for your soul’s answer. Be mindful; capture your insights; be grateful.
Ask for amplification and clarification of the answers you have received; follow your guidance; ask for additional help.
Let’s look at an illustration. Here is how Tony could open up and begin his written dialogue:
I feel sad and lost. I have financial problems and don’t know how to solve them. I would like to reconnect with God, but don’t know how or where to begin. I don’t even know how to pray. I don’t know what my purpose is. I feel like I have no direction in life. I seem to have many problems and am not sure what caused them and how to solve them. They say with God anything is possible, but how should I ask for help? What should I ask for? Is it wrong for me to ask for help? Do I deserve help? Dear Friend, are you willing to help me?
Just the act of writing this or a similar journal entry will bring relief to Tony. Even though he may not get an immediate response, the fact that “his letter” is “in the mail” will bring comfort. Continuing with our example, Tony may be opening up for ten days, always ending with, “Dear Friend, will you help me?” and remaining silent and calm to create space for an answer to come through. Then one day an answer appears, “Yes, I will.” In what form did the answer appear? It’s hard to say since we are all unique. But it may have come merely as a feeling. But a feeling with a difference; this is no ordinary feeling; for just as surely as Tony wants help, he senses help is surely on the way.
The first thing Tony does after the answer is to thank Dear Friend. The next thing he does is continue the dialogue by asking another question, such as “What would you like me to do?” If he gets an answer he continues the dialogue; if not, he ends the session and continues with the same or a different question the next day.
Adding Power to Your Dialogues
Exploit the power of questions by asking lots of them. For instance, “What should I do next? How can I accomplish that? When is the right time to start on this project? Who should I team up with? Where is the best place to begin?”
Don’t ask one-sided questions, but try to cover all the bases. For example, “What should I be doing now?” What should I not be doing now? What should I be doing to reconnect with God? What should I avoid doing if I wish to reconnect with God? How should I pray? How should I not pray? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?”
Tony has asked about how to pray, so here are some tips.
1. There is nothing wrong with asking for favors. On the contrary, sacred scriptures encourage us to do so by teaching, “Ask and you shall receive.” So, asking for God’s help is a form of prayer.
2. But when you ask for favors, always end by saying, “Grant me what I wish or something better.” God is the one who decides what is better, not me or you. For example, if I am in pain or suffering, I may pray, “Please relieve my pain/suffering or grant me something better.” Although I wish relief from pain or suffering, more of it may be what is actually best for me, so that’s what I get. And if that happens, I should thank God for granting what is best for me (even though I may not understand at this time how or why it is best for me).
3. All forms of communication, including prayer, consist of three components: speaking, listening, and acting (behavior). When comparing speaking to listening, listening is by far the more important of the two, so spend more time listening to God than speaking to him. Acting (our behavior) is as important, if not more important, than listening. If, Tony, you a leading a good life, always doing the right thing rather than the easy thing, if you are kind, compassionate, and forgiving, your life is a prayer! In fact, good actions are the highest form of prayer.
4. When teaching the apostles how to pray, Christ taught them to say, “…Forgive us our trespasses and we forgive the trespasses of others.” In all spiritual traditions, forgiveness plays an important role. Those who don’t hold grudges and are quick to forgive are holy men and women. Christ thought forgiveness was so important that he taught, “If someone hits you on the cheek, turn to them the other one.” If you wish to step into the heart of God, Tony, pray that your life will be an example of forgiveness. And learn to forgive yourself for any wrongs you may have done.
5. Pray for guidance. For instance, “Dear Friend, how can I better use the power God has given to me? How can I best contribute to the world? What can I do to relieve the suffering of others?”
6. Pray that you may awaken to the grandeur and splendor of life, rejoicing in every moment of it, for when you are joyful you will bring joy wherever you go, lessening the burdens of others.
7. One of the highest forms of pray is gratitude. “Thank you God for life so that I may get to know You. Thank you for problems so I can learn how to solve them. Thank you for suffering so I may better understand the suffering of others. Thank you God for all the blessings you bestow that I am unaware of. And grant that someday I may become worthy of all your blessings.”
Distinguishing between Our Ego and Our Soul
When discussing dialoguing with one’s soul or God, the question is sometimes raised, “How can I be sure the answer I receive is from my soul and not from my Ego (mind)? Have you ever listened to the chatter in your mind? Are the thoughts you ‘hear’ positive or negative? Encouraging or condemning? Uplifting or belittling? Helpful or hurtful? Useful or painful?
Do I need to say anything more? Aren’t all the negative attacks coming from our inner critic and not our soul? On the other hand, positive comments are somewhat uncommon and most likely coming from our soul. You may not be sure when these positive thoughts spontaneously appear, but whether they are or not, they are helpful, so welcome them.
But when you are actually engaged in an inner dialogue and a positive or helpful message from your soul appears, you will feel that it ‘clicks’ in place. That is, you will have a strong feeling that you soul is responding to you. Minor doubts are to be expected in the beginning, but as you grow in experience, you will know with certainty whenever you soul speaks.
By John Paul Khoury
3 Seconds to Being Your Higher Selfby Arielle Hecht
The Unfolding Self: Varieties of Transformative Experienceby Ralph Metzner
The Seat of the Soulby Gary Zukav
Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead by Tosha Silver