Spiritual Resources > Spiritual Disciplines > the Voice Within < translated
We live in an era where a lot of people are chattering endlessly about getting in touch with the 'inner self' and hearing the 'inner voice', the voice of the spirit deepest inside of you. Bookshelves are jammed with books and videos on meditative techniques, transcendent spiritual experiences, and ways to build self-identity, self-esteem and inner confidence. The Internet's many voices image the same message, almost in unison. Talk-radio and lifestyle magazines pimp the message without ceasing, even as their commercials try to make you depend on someone else to supply sex-appeal-in-a-bottle. It's the obsession of seemingly every spiritually-interested writer, and a steady stream of self-help and motivational speakers and 'gurus'. Most of today's spirituality is like Peer Gynt's onion: peel off the top layers, and you find an empty core. Because of that, I think that eventually, and unfortunately, the generation after X will flee from that sort of 'spirituality' as if it were a parlor trick of wishful thinkers, entrepreneurs, and crackpots. If spirituality is to stick, people need to grasp onto the real stuff, not the PR hype, the best-selling authors, or the magical glow.
It's said that there's nothing new under the sun, and the same is true with today's self-ish trend. The pendulum of history swings on how life guides you, from following the outside structure to following the inner voice. Where there's a swinging pendulum, there's a 'paradoxical tension', where the different approaches correct each other. On one hand, you find yourself through the inner voice - that is, through exploring yourself. On the other hand, you find yourself through order, place, work, authority - in short, through dealing with other people. We usually don't find God around us or within in unless we are paying attention. Sometimes, God breaks in when we're not looking -- but brace yourself when that happens, for God is about to shake you.
In the times we live in today, we strain to hear the inner voice amidst all the noise of living.
It's a worthwhile goal, to hear this inner voice. It is where God's whispers are to be found : sweet nothings about God's love, hints about where to turn, the quiet early warnings that become shouts if you don't pay attention to them. It's where your prayers ramble without stumbling over words, where ideas begin, images dance and imagination flies, where emotions find root and spiritual longings spring forth. The inner journey is a way past your masks, a way to get at what actually makes yourself do what you do. That can be scary. On the one hand, it is where you find the stuff that makes you human, the same stuff all other humans have. On the other hand, it's the home of the differences which define each of us as a person. The experiences you can find within you may bring you great joy or peace, and are there to be cherished and drawn upon all life long.
As you journey to hear the inner voice, there are some things you need to keep in mind afterward, no matter how overpowering your discoveries are, no matter what anyone claims -- and no matter how much it seems otherwise.
1. You won't get so deep that you're beyond yourself. You will always be there no matter how far in you go. There are some things that follow from this:
2. You won't get in so deep that you're too deep for the Devil. The Un-Spirit operates quite well at any depth of spirit. You are not safe from temptation or torment. Within our life as we know it right now, there's no protected place to hide; the whispers will go with you. Yet, God can harness those temptations to lead you to further understanding. The Accuser is not bested by fleeing, hiding, denying, or fighting, but by trusting in God.
3. You won't get into God. Perhaps when the noise of existence is quieted down enough to clearly hear the Spirit, you might get an awesome experience, reported to be as if your spirit was being burned away and being transformed into light just like that of the Source. That's about as well as one can interpret the spiritual experience of 'being with' God. But the 'oneness' that you get is a 'oneness' of the kind that is echoed to some degree in your relationships with those you most love. But it's even more, or more completely, close: you would be drawn into the pure type of relationship that only God has, operating like God's own inner relationship. It is not, nor will it ever be, absorption into God or 'Being' or 'Nothingness'. It may seem that way from your angle, because the experience is so clear and strong, the relationship so close. But that's because your own awareness and perceptions, even at deep places of spirit, are just too overpowered by it all to know what's really going on. Your inner voice remains yours. God will abide by your yesses and nos, because they're yours, not God's. You will always be you. God will always be God.
4. You won't go far enough 'in' (or 'out') to get past God. God is an Other who is with you at all points of all spiritual journeys. This fact turns relative all talk of 'inner' or 'outer', surface or gut, person or society, creature or creation. God is 'in', deeper than your self can go, beyond even the brightest of enlightenment, the deepest and emptiest of the inner voids, and the darkest nights of the soul. In the burning light, God is its Source. In the tunnel of death, God is in it and is calling you from its bright end. In the swirl of post-consciousness, God is at the hub, powering its churning. In every mystery of matters of existence, God is both the question and the answer, the key inner voice alongside your own, the key outer voice in a world of other voices that aren't yours. Go to the 'outer realm', and God is there too, busily at work in people, in nature, in gatherings, traditions, celebrations, cultures, and events, and through the words of the Scriptures. God is not left behind nor limited by time, even when choosing to live and act within time for the sake of those God loves. God isn't pulled apart by the forces within a black hole, nor burned away by giant blue-white stars, nor blown away by supernovae. Go to the edge of existence, and God's waving hello at you from the other side of the edge - and then comes up right beside you. This fact has one very important corollary that is cause for great hope:
Do not fear the spiritual journey, wherever it takes you,
for God is with you.
Certain practices, attitudes, and disciplines have helped millions of people in their inner search. Check these out:
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|ver.: 04 February 2012.
The inner voice. Copyright © 1997-2012 by Robert Longman.