Don’t Play Small

I was raised in the Christian faith & a passage from the book of Luke made a big impact on me. It stood out to me as far back as the age of seven, and has always stuck as a significant message that I didn’t understand fully back then & am still trying to fully grasp and live now:

Jesus was asked when “the kingdom of God” would come.

The kingdom of God, Jesus replied, is not something people will be able to see and point to. Then came these striking words: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

Those words… it is within you… God, who is THE ULTIMATE in what I was learning, is within us… the omnipotent, the everything, the creative force behind life… ALL THAT IS WITHIN ME??!

I meeaannn…

That blew my little second-grader brain right out of my skull. It still gives me chills as an adult, knowing all the other belief systems’ explanations of the same concept and having practiced transcendental meditation and, frankly, appreciating the beauty and connectedness of life the way I do.

The notion that we all contain “God” is universal and timeless. Look into every popular religious, spiritual, and wisdom tradition, and you’ll find the same concept: that life’s ultimate truth, its ultimate treasure, lies within us.

We can experience this valuable inner treasure as a plane of consciousness that, then, manifests. By reaching this internal plane, we can gain all that is necessary.

This “inner treasure of life” has been given many names.

Plato called it the Good, the Beautiful.

Aristotle: Being.

In Buddhism, the state of being is referred to as reaching Nirvana.

Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the Oversoul.

In Taoism, the Tao is the absolute principle underlying the universe, combining within itself the principles of yin and yang and signifying the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order.

Among Australian aborigines it is called the dreamtime, and in tribes of southern Africa: Hunhu or Ubuntu.

The names may differ, but the inner reality they point to is the same: the transcendental forces of life can be directly experienced. It is a universal teaching based on a universal reality and a universal experience… it’s just all explained differently.

Over the centuries, leading Christian figures have written extensively on this inner “kingdom of God” and their personal experiences of it. Some of them are rather beautiful, and I find a lot of spiritual and personal inspiration in them, and would like to share:

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–394 • Turkey)

Gregory of Nyssa, an early Christian theologian, was one of the four great fathers of the Eastern Church and served as Bishop of Nyssa, in the center of modern-day Turkey.

[The soul] leaves all surface appearances, not only those that can be grasped by the senses but also those which the mind itself seems to see, and it keeps on going deeper until by the operation of the spirit it penetrates the invisible and incomprehensible, and it is there that it sees God. The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge. . . .

St. Augustine, regarded as one of the towering intellectual geniuses in history, wrote more than a thousand works on philosophy, psychology, theology, history, political theory, and other subjects. His Confessions, from which the following passage is taken, has remained a popular and influential work for almost 1,600 years.

I entered into the innermost part of myself. . . . I entered and I saw with my soul’s eye (such as it was) an unchangeable light shining above this eye of my soul and above my mind. . . . He who knows truth knows that light, and he who knows that light knows eternity. Love knows it. O eternal truth and true love and beloved eternity!

And I often do this. I find a delight in it, and whenever I can relax from my necessary duties I have recourse to this pleasure. {I experience] a state of feeling which is quite unlike anything to which I am used — a kind of sweet delight which, if I could only remain permanently in that state, would be something not of this world, not of this life. But my sad weight makes me fall back again; I am swallowed up by normality.

St. Gregory the Great (540–604 • Italy)

Born into an eminent Roman family and heir to a large fortune, Gregory decided to become a monk. After he became Pope at the age of 50, he devoted himself to social causes, the first pope especially known for doing so. He reformed the mass and introduced the ritual plainsong known today as the Gregorian chant. He was also a noted theologian. His book, Morals on Job, from which the following passage is taken, influenced religious thought for centuries.

The mind of the elect . . . is frequently carried away into the sweetness of heavenly contemplation; already it sees something of the inmost realities as it were through the mist . . . it feeds on the taste of the unencompassed Light, and being carried beyond self, disdains to sink back again into self. . . .

Sometimes the soul is admitted to some unwonted sweetness of interior relish, and is suddenly in some way refreshed when breathed on by the glowing spirit. . . .

When this is in any way seen, the mind is absorbed in a sort of rapturous security; and carried beyond itself, as though the present life had ceased to be, it is in a way remade in a certain newness [it is refreshed in a manner by a kind of new being . . . ]. There the mind is besprinkled with the infusion of heavenly dew from an inexhaustible fountain.

I always think about what the next step is… First, know that the ultimate power is within us. And then…

What do you do with that power?

Even as a kid, I was told we all have “spiritual gifts” that are our most-prominent and natural traits and skills. Those gifts, as I’ve come to think of them, are how we best express the goodness of life… and they’re the tools to create goodness in life… which will allow us to experience the goodness of life.