This is a column about matters of the spirit. It will not be promoting any particular religion or political point of view. Those are up to you.
What will be promoted, explained, and applied to life situations is awareness. By "awareness" is meant a state of consciousness in which one is decreasingly centered in one's own ego and increasingly centered in what is beyond the ego. Some call this "god", some "the other", some the "big picture", some the "universe", and some simply say the metaphysical dimension meaning that which is "meta" (beyond) the physical.
Picture a fish swimming in the water of an ocean and asking, "Where's the ocean?" Since the fish can never step back and look at the whole ocean, it must first become aware of the fact that it is swimming in an ocean, and then, through the imagination, grasp a picture of vastness. Fish are not considered self-aware but a human being in this process at first perceives only what is evident to the five senses and rooted in one's cultural conditioning but then begins to make connections, based on experience, with the inner self and the broader dimensions of outer reality.
Sometimes in the process of reflecting on experience, a certain leap of consciousness takes place and the person feels more expansive, more inclusive of others, more compassionate and simply more aware.
When the Buddha was asked if he were a saint or a prophet, he responded, "No." When they asked, "Well, what are you then?" He answered, "I am awake."
The process of becoming aware or awake is greatly accelerated by meditation, by reading in the field, and by companioning with those who are on this path. Pursuing the path tends to draw into your life those who can benefit you from their experience. Many find that the practice of a religion is helpful; others find that their religion itself, or its officials, seem to lack awareness and they go looking beyond it.
Regardless of how you arrive at this journey, you will find what you seek within you. You may need the help of others to locate it or you might not.
At its heart becoming aware means relating in one way or another with your True Self which is the full range of our human capacity. Picture an iceberg. The True Self is the much larger part under the water. When you tell somebody "I said to myself" you are reflecting the experience of all humans (at least those who reflect on their lives) that there seem to be two selves, the one I call "I" and the one that "I" talks to. These are the Ego Self and the True Self. As we engage in spiritual practice the True Self reveals itself more and more to the Ego Self so that it comes into conscious awareness. The integration of the True Self makes us increasingly whole (the same root as "holy"). This column will be dedicated to that integration.
(Bill O'Brien, a spiritual development practitioner and meditation teacher, has lived, with his wife Linda, in Shepherdstown since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )