I’ve always been fascinated with Jacques Cousteau’s underwater adventures because he visits places where I will, no doubt, never go and that hold infinite and fascinating treasures of the animal and historical kind. Although I don’t deep-sea dive and don’t particularly like the pressure of being underwater in deep places, I am an explorer who is willing to dive deep into the human psyche and journey to places that hold precious treasures of the mind and soul.
While we certainly reward the most accolades in our society to those who make the most money and perpetuate the success of capitalism, the system is beginning to crack at the seams. The race to make money and be successful has become an obsession, not a pursuit. The lifestyle of most Americans excludes any time to contemplate the deeper meaning of their choices and actions. The inner development of the American psyche hasn’t kept pace with the technology and power we have to wield, and we have become a danger to others and ourselves.
Growing up, neither of my parents were particularly deep thinkers, but they did teach me there were consequences to my actions and that it paid to think before I acted. They also gave me access to experiences that developed an awareness of the value of silence and contemplation – reading, thinking, hiking, observing nature, and prayer. While I eventually rejected most organized religion, I developed spiritual practices that developed a life-long connection to Spirit and contemplation. With that came a confidence that no matter what happened in life, there was something greater to which I could turn for guidance. In this way, diving deep took me to a place of deeper spiritual understanding where the meaning of my everyday existence grew richer.
It takes courage to dive into the deep. It’s often dark there where our shadow lives, and when we live in luxury and comfort, we have little motivation to take the plunge unless some tragedy shakes our security or some nagging dissatisfaction rises from within. Unfortunately, those with the least motivation are those with the most money and the most power; they are the ones who most need to have a conscience and be aware. Too often in our capitalistic society, we equate material success with spiritual enlightenment. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with capitalism, for at its best, it encourages innovation and entrepreneurship, but while financial success and spiritual awareness aren’t mutually exclusive, they also aren’t necessarily connected. The pursuit of material success is often achieved by focusing solely on that.
We cannot change what we are unaware of. Lessons taught early in life can bind us to ideas that later in life no longer serve us in a positive way. If we are unable to move out of these limiting circumstances, we are doomed to repeat the same patterns indefinitely. Those who practice greed on a grand scale, ruining thousands of lives, have only recently begun to pay the price, but in the meantime have served as negative role models for those who wish to justify extreme selfishness. Unable to reflect upon their lives with conscience and feel a responsibility to those who helped created their wealth, they became stuck in a mindset that blinded them to their impending destruction. There is a price to be paid for not looking beneath the surface.
Each of us needs to examine our own lives periodically, question our motives and take time to reflect on the choices we make. Are we making responsible choices for ourselves and in relation to those around us? We need to shift from the arrogance of thinking that we are somehow superior because we have money and power or that that is the cure to our every need. It is often just the substitute we use to fill the hole inside that only a connection to Spirit can fill.
Choosing to be kind, to have integrity, to be generous with what we have expands our personal self-worth. Our worth becomes an internal acceptance, not a dependence on externals that can be taken away. Feelings of self-worth give us the courage to act from the deepest and best part of our souls. Through a spiritual practice, we have more access to our inner world. Through meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, prayer, chakra balancing or fishing, we find the balance and solitude to quiet the chattering inner critic. With it still, we can hear the voice of Spirit, inspiration or intuition providing guidance and warnings to show us the path we need to follow or to open our minds to a deeper perspective on our life experiences.
In addition to spiritual practices, learning about dreams, symbols, and transpersonal psychology, reading literature and experiencing the fine arts as a spectator or participant feeds our souls. The exposure to these takes us deeper into the human soul. Carl Jung’s idea of archetypes imbues not only our own soul experience with meaning but connects us with the meaning inherent in other cultures. Learning to understand the symbols in our dreams can offer invaluable guidance toward understanding major issues and identifying guideposts in life. What may feel externally like our life is falling apart may, in fact, be a graduation to a higher level of consciousness. Reading a classic like Macbeth may reveal how heroes become tyrants and in the end, sacrifice their goodness for meaningless power.
It is true that a life of diving deep doesn’t guarantee happiness. It often stirs up the muck at the bottom as much as it leads to buried treasure, but once the muck settles, we can see what was obscured more clearly. Sometimes when we have cleaned off the mud, we find a spiritual gem of startling beauty, and we are reminded that the rational cannot give us all the answers we need. Whatever we find diving deep will illumine our understanding whether we welcome it or not. It’s always wise to pay attention to what shows up because everything shows up for a reason.