“The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you?”Genesis 3:9
“Where are you?” In Thomas Keating’s book “The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation,” he writes that this question is the start of the spiritual journey.
Original sin was the defining moment of mankind’s separation from God. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God they hid when they heard Him approaching. God calls out to them, just as He calls out to each of us – “Where are you?” Each of us is hidden behind or underneath something that has been part of our lives.
Imagine you are an onion. You have many layers before you reach the core of you. From infancy throughout your life, many events contribute to your emotional field. These emotions are layered around the core and drive your decisions and your reactions to situations.
We are each on different points in our journey and where we are in our relationship with God, ourselves, and others varies. By asking ourselves where we are we begin a deep search for God. Through prayerful seeking, we allow our unconscious to awaken, identifying the layers, peeling them away from the core and freeing ourselves.
Peeling the layers of the onion!
The more we dig, the closer we become to God and are fully aware of His presence in everything, including ourselves. Keating refers to this as a return to the “state of intimacy” Adam and Eve had with God before original sin.
The more we pull back the layers, the things that we identify ourselves with begin to disappear and the next question is “who am I”?
Each layer contains feelings and emotions that surface when certain things trigger them. We may tell others and ourselves – I’m sad, I’m anxious… Identifying with the emotions as if we were the feeling. In reality, it’s what we feel and not who we are. So, who are we when these layers are stripped away?
What about the roles we have in our lives. We identify with them as well. We are a mother, a father, a doctor, a teacher, a director, an engineer… What happens when we let these go, surrender them?
Who are we?
Keating writes that if we practice centering prayer moving into contemplative prayer we can begin to uncover where we are and who we are. This process allows our defenses to fall and the unconscious battle of our identification to surface, so we can surrender them to God. Finding ourselves “in a space that is both empty of self and full of God” (The Human Condition, Thomas Keating).
Over the course of my own spiritual journey, I have found some of the most fruitful indwelling of the Spirit in moments of rest in nature. These moments produced great emotional purification or revelation of affects my past plays in my present. Uncovering the unconscious feelings from events in my early life continues to heal wounds, peeling back layers, allowing me to empty myself and be filled with God’s presence. Often I feel the onion has infinite layers. Even if it’s infinite, I know each layer brings me closer to God.
What about you? Have you been peeling the layers back?