The Pearl of Great Price

by Richard Lang

Deep down inside I am spirit. Deep down inside you are spirit. It is what and who we all really are, behind the masks we wear, beyond the roles we play. Spirit is indivisible—mysteriously, each of us is all of it. It is our native condition, what we have always been and always will be. We cannot do anything with this inner core of ourselves, cannot change it or bend it to our will, but we can acknowledge its presence and surrender to its will. This makes a difference in our lives. Slowly we come to realize that it takes care of us. Like a backbone it is an inner support and strength—a backbone that never hurts or ages, never lets us down.

Being awake to spirit is a never-ending journey. Step by step we meet the steadiness within. Of course from time to time we overlook it. This is to be expected. It is part of the natural cycle of things. Going away may feel like losing touch with something important, but returning home we find we have lost nothing. The immense Depth within us is still present in its fullness, its freshness, its glory. Yet something is different—as if we have never seen it before.

The spirit within is freedom, inner freedom, the freedom of soul, of being. Consciousness of this freedom does not mean, however, that outwardly we are free. Life is full of restrictions which we have no choice but to accept. Yet in the midst of these restrictions inner freedom is always present. Like Janus the Roman god of doorways, we can look two ways at once—outwards to the world’s limitations, and inwards to spirit, to freedom.

This inner state of freedom is unshakeable and invincible, even in the face of death. How can I say this since I’m not yet dead? Because right now I am seeing that spirit is beyond any kind of dying. All the time life changes, incessantly things come and go, but spirit doesn’t. Spirit remains—more stable than the ground beneath our feet. I don’t know how I will react when my death comes, but I hope I will be conscious of spirit. Hopefully this will help me face death, help me surrender and let go peacefully when the time arrives. And what happens if I am not conscious of my innermost being when I die? Deep down I will not be harmed in any way.

What difference does being conscious of spirit make in my daily life? Yesterday I drove to an appointment and on the way took a route different from my usual one. It landed me in one traffic jam after another. When finally I reached the motorway, I chose a lane through road works, which meant I couldn’t get back to the slow lane and take my exit when it arrived. I had to go on to the next exit, turn around and make my way back. The whole journey took twice as long as usual. A mistake on my part. During this experience I was from time to time awake to my inner identity. The journey was taking a lot longer than usual, I was feeling frustrated, yet at the same time I saw that deep down I was fine. In these moments I was in touch with the peace and steadiness of the spirit within, and this helped me cope with my bad decisions on the road. I was calmer at the end of this experience than I would have been without this awareness, and could even laugh at myself a bit. (And who knows what would have happened if I had taken my normal route!)

This story is not meant as an excuse for making mistakes, for not taking care. Being conscious of my spiritual identity is not in fact a way out of my human responsibilities, though sometimes I might try and twist it into this! Rather it is a resource that enables me to live life more consciously, not less. Hopefully this includes having a sense of humor, and trusting the way life unfolds out of spirit, mysterious and strange though it seems at times.

Spiritual consciousness is appropriate anywhere. A few days ago I was out dancing with friends. At one point, finding myself dancing alone, I felt lonely and self-conscious. Then, awakening to my innermost being, I found myself no longer separate and lonely—I was the Alone that embraced all. Visible to others, I was for myself invisible, free to move freely, creating the dance whilst being swept along by it. A mixture of joy and peace flooded the room.

Whether we recognize it or not, spirit is always present within us, whatever our mood or situation. We may choose to ignore it, and the loss will be ours. On the other hand, if we attend to it, day by day rediscovering its presence, we will find its value growing and deepening in our lives. Like the North Star it will guide us on our journey through the world. Diving within we have found an inexhaustible treasure, a pearl of great price.

Richard Lang is Coordinator of The Shollond Trust, a registered charity making more available the work of Douglas Harding with the aim of communicating the core teaching of the great religions. For more information, contact Richard Lang at:

www.headless.org