Mathew Fox said there are three ways to enter the heart. Through:
At some point, often many points in our lives, we are called to enter our hearts -- to discover our true selves. When we're asked to meet the creator within us we can try to avoid it (which will result in suffering) or we can face it with joy or true silence and contemplation. But one way or another, we will have to go within and discover who we really are. It's our soul purpose for being here. Amidst the chaos of earth, the callings and yearnings of friends, family and colleagues, among the noise of your own insecurity, who are you? Why are you here?
In St. Teresa of Avila's book The Interior Castle, she says the first inner dwelling on the journey to discovering God is discovering yourself. Without this knowledge, our searching is fruitless. We are like a baker without flour. "Enter the room of self-knowledge first. This is the path" (St. Teresa 46). She says that in this First Dwelling, the things that will keep us from self-discovery are continued attachment to materialism, personal glory and ambitions. People who seek perfection in themselves, in others and find fault in themselves and others are also far from self-discovery.
How, then, do we really get to know ourselves? Well, let's look again to Mathew Fox's advice.
When you're truly happy, what is it that makes you so happy? Is it being with your family and friends? Is it creating from your place of joy -- whether through painting, writing, acting, singing, woodworking or knitting? Is it through setting a difficult goal and achieving it? Where do you find your joy? Write down on a piece of paper, "I am happiest when" . . . and fill in as many examples as you can come up with. What was your happiest moment today? This past weekend? This year?
When you're suffering, what is it that make you feel so sad? Is it a feeling of disconnect from your family and friends? Is it loneliness or not knowing how to connect with others? Do you feel as though you're suffering the most when your health is compromised or your finances? Think back over the last five years of your life and write down three memories in which you felt as though you were suffering. Most of us suffer when we feel we're losing something. Remember, Christ said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
And lastly silence. When was the last time you were truly silent? When have you allowed yourself to sit among a group of people and just listen? When have you spent an hour, an evening, a day in silence with no phone, no TV, no friends to speak to, no music, no book to read? This is a hard one for me and sometimes I will force myself to take long walks in silence. Often, I will buy a cup of tea at a coffee shop and just sit and observe the people around me. And most importantly, I will walk the beach by myself in perfect silence letting the absence of noise wash over me. I always try to fall asleep in silence and just let my thoughts drift where they will. Meditation is a perfect exercise in silence. I love to surround myself in a circle of crystals and just sit in silence for as long as I can endure it. If you're uncomfortable with any of this, at the very least take a yoga class and enjoy the five minutes of near silent shavasana at the end of class.
True joy can only be found within through the seeker's journey. "Those who pursue visible vanities end up in nothing but misfortune" (St. Teresa of Avila 59).
Along this journey, seek out a prayerful life. Find prayers that are meaningful to you and pray them often. Ask for a teacher and await for one to appear. He or she may materialize in the form of an actual teacher or as a book, a powerful song or even a really good friend. Accept the inevitable distractions of chaos, worry and fear that will come at you and persevere on, for the journey inward is the only one rich with reward, sanity and meaning. You will have distractions. The mind will always be scattered even while the soul is centered.
But when you begin to discover who you are, you will embark on a love affair greater than any written about. It's the journey, the seeking, that's almost as important as the discovery. Don't give up. "Living without knowing yourself is nothing but dying over and over again" (St. Teresa of Avila 68).