The Timeless Spot of GraceBy Sheryl Paul
July 09, 2014
At the core of anxiety - whether relationship anxiety, social anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or fear of pursuing a dream career - is lack of self-trust. If you could restore your damaged self-trust, your life would transform, and you would experience a clarity, power, and freedom you've only dreamed possible.
Each person is born with an unencumbered spot, free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry; an umbilical spot of grace where we were each first touched by god. It is this spot of grace that issues peace. Psychologists call this spot the Psyche, Theologians call it the Soul, Jung calls it the Seat of Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, And Jesus calls it the Center of our Love.
To know this spot of Inwardness is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the infinite and by inhabiting it. This is a hard lifelong task, for the nature of becoming is a constant filming over of where we begin, while the nature of being is a constant erosion of what is not essential. Each of us lives in the midst of this ongoing tension, growing tarnished or covered over, only to be worn back to that incorruptible spot of grace at our core.
When the film is worn through, we have moments of enlightenment, moments of wholeness, moments of Satori as the Zen sages term it, moments of clear living when inner meets outer, moments of full integrity of being, moments of complete Oneness. And whether the film is a veil of culture, of memory, of mental or religious training, of trauma or sophistication, the removal of that film and the restoration of that timeless spot of grace is the goal of all therapy and education.
Regardless of the subject matter, this is the only thing worth teaching: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored. We call the filming over a deadening of the heart, and the process of return, whether brought about through suffering or love, is how we unlearn our way back to God.”
Mark Nepo, Unlearning Back to God: Essays on Inwardness
A client read this quote to me over the phone a few weeks ago and it took my breath away. I literally sat in silence after she finished reading and allowed the beauty and truth of these poetic words to wash over me and gently rock my heart like a boat on the currents of a warm sea. Poetry can do this: it can speak to our hearts in the language of the heart, bypassing mental constructs and structures and offering us windows into what we know truly matters.
What matters is exactly what Mark Nepo writes: how to uncover that original center and how to live there once it is restored. It’s what I seek to do in my work with clients, and in my courses and programs. It’s not easy work, as anyone who has endured the dark nights of the soul that often initiates such courageous undertakings as peeling back the layers of conditioned behavior and unloving beliefs well knows. And it’s not fast work. We open when we read words such as these and our cells spark up with a song of, “YES!” but how to live in that flow of spark and yes is another task altogether.
If we’re not saying yes to our essential nature and living from that seat of self-trust and self-love, we’re saying yes to the filmed-over self, the ego, the conditioned self who places her life in other people’s hands. It’s then that we find ourselves caring desperately what others think, comparing ourselves to others, constricted by the need for approval and guided by the quest for perfection. It’s then that we realize that our core Self has gone to sleep and we’re living a life half-lived, an externalized life where we’ve lost touch with what we think, feel, and need.
Without self-trust, making decisions becomes paralyzing. Without self-trust, we fall prey to the cultural definition of worthiness that is based entirely on externals (looks, body, clothes, paycheck, degrees, spouse, house, etc) instead of knowing that true worthiness is defined by intrinsic and sustainable qualities.
My journey into uncovering that original center began in high school. My filming over largely occurred through an educational system that taught me to become addicted to approval. Even without grades (my elementary school gave written summaries of each student’s progress), I learned very early that the “good” students received more praise, and oh, how delicious that praise felt to my tender brain. My natural love of learning was supplanted by a desire to be “the best”. This continued into my high school years until my psyche finally broke through and set my life down a more authentic course. I tell the full story of how I broke free from perfectionism and caring what others think in Trust Yourself, but for now I’d like to share that I understand first hand what is it to stray from the original center and then find one’s way back, which is probably why Mark Nepo’s words struck me so deeply.
I think, perhaps, that we all know what is it to abdicate Self and come back again, for whether the film is a veil of culture, of memory, of mental or religious training, of trauma or sophistication, the removal of that film and the restoration of that timeless spot of grace is the goal of all therapy and education. In other words, while understanding your story of why and how you filmed over is an essential first component to healing, the work cannot stop there. Healing begins with insight and continues with daily actions that ultimately result in change.
This is what I will be offering in my inaugural round of Trust Yourself: A 30-day program to help you overcome your fear of failure, caring what others think, perfectionism, addiction to approval, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt. I will offer pathways to insight and a roadmap for change.
There are many pathways and roadmaps, of course, and what I will be sharing is the culmination of my decades of work peeling away the film and arriving at the center of oneself. When we uncover that original center and learn how to live there, we recover self-love, self-knowledge and self-trust. We live with purpose, and nothing stands in the way of delivering the gifts of that purpose to the world. In this sense, we do this work not only for ourselves but also for the world.
Are you ready? Take my hand and let’s begin.
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