Mystic Mondays November 7, 2016
“They (psychology, philosophy and religion) concern themselves with the outer meaning of the world, the inner meaning of the soul, and the threshold where the two meet.” John O’ Donohue in Eternal Echoes
I read that line yesterday morning in the middle of my daily practice of meditation and opening myself to some stream-of-consciousness journaling. I immediately sat straight up as I recognized it. It mirrored both in intention and in words the tagline that I use at the bottom of my PedalPilgrim emails and on my website: Exploring the World, Discovering the Soul.
I remember when my business coach and I came up with this line after weeks of brainstorming, trying on words, and exploring the chords they struck. We had circled around it a number of times as I found myself repeating over and over that this work, this call, this inner prodding that I feel has something to do with “going out and coming back” and finding the right balance between the two. Too much emphasis on one or the other left me feeling uneasy. As much as I love adventures it wasn’t satisfying to just flit from one adventure to another like a travel writer. On the other hand, a life of just responding to the often narrow parochial concerns of church life left me feeling claustrophobic.
It wasn’t either life on the road that I wanted or life in the local parish. It was something about living on the bridge between the two, something about the threshold between the outer world and the inner world that seems to be driving this restless passionate pursuit that I have.
I have come to believe that these callings that nag at us persistently are often rooted in our own personal stories. Our soul has a way of pushing us into landscapes that heal old wounds and invite unresolved issues to rise to the surface.
This language of outer and inner is important to me. I grew up in a home that looked pretty normal from the street. To the outside observer we were the typical American family–two parents and two children in a small three-bedroom house in a growing Front Range town in Northern Colorado. But divorce and depression had invaded our home early in my childhood. We kept it well-hidden or so we thought. The picture perfect family of four hid the soullessness and emotional deadness that reigned deep inside of us. Still to this day I can remember the walls, the rooms, and the placement of furniture. But I cannot access any feelings associated with that house except a long drawn-out emotionless existence.
What does this have to do with John O’Donohue’s quote and my website tagline, you rightly ask? My work and calling have been shaped by this deep distrust of anything that looks pretty on the outside, but lacks a vitality, a spirit, a soulfulness, and life on the inside. Some say that I have developed a pretty sophisticated bullshit detector. I think there is some truth to that. I prefer to think of it not so much as being able to recognize bullshit when it’s hidden away, but simply to recognize the deeper truth, the deeper reality, and the unsaid things that we often can feel, but can’t put words to.
It is no surprise really that I was attracted to the world of religion early in college. Religion connects our outer reality with the deeper, inner realities. Religion (“religio”– to bind or integrate) is interested in the threshold, the bridge, and the connection between our inner impulses and the outer world that we create.
Like many of us in the helping professions my immersion in the world of religion emerged out of my need to heal the great disparity between my inner and outer worlds. But this is not just my issue. We Americans are a very schizophrenic people. We are experts at presenting picture perfect fronts while experiencing spiritual poverty. We trick ourselves into believing that we have it all together while suffering from addictions, deadening our souls with medications, and ignoring symptoms of personal and societal disorders.
John O’Donahue says that religion is concerned with the outer meaning of the world and the inner meaning of the soul and the threshold where the two meet. Three years I came up with that tagline to define this nagging call and work that I do. There is something about this threshold between the world and the soul that keeps me on this journey of discovery.
I wonder if this threshold between the outer and the inner is where God is found. I wonder if where the world and the soul kiss is where Life is conceived.