I want you to imagine that you live in a 12-story building on the first floor. You can’t leave that floor or go outside the building, but you can hear all the noise of the city outside. Your world is small and tight, loud, earthbound. The person who lives in the penthouse has a totally different experience. They would look out their picture window and say, “What a gorgeous world we have! I can see mountains, water, and sky. It is silent and beautiful. How blessed are we?” You would never know that you on the first floor with all the street noise and grit share the same address as that person in the penthouse.
Let’s say that each of the floors in that building represents a level of consciousness. Just as in a high-end condo building in New York, it costs more to live on the higher floors. However, in this analogy, the cost of going up a floor isn’t in dollars but rather in the willingness to see the world more accurately, more authentically. Living on a higher floor is more expensive emotionally and psychologically.
The first floor for everyone is our survival floor, the world our visceral senses share. It’s the base level of our nature. The first thing we do here is organize power, and we do it through ritual. As a group, we organize what we believe about how God will respond to us—that’s what religions do. We say, “God needs this ritual, and if we do this or that, God will answer our prayers.”
This is what every human being around the world is doing on the first floor of consciousness. This is what people do on the first floors of everything: military, tribes, corporations, sports teams. The nature of God is consistency, and so we organize that into some system. How many of you have rituals that you have to do because that’s the way it is? How many of you have superstitions, or wear talismans or good luck charms, or have beliefs based on what they say runs in your family? That’s what I’m talking about here.
Eventually, you’ll sense there has to be something else, something more. You’ll be drawn to start looking for that staircase up to the next floor. That’s not ritual: It’s how you manage the nature of your power. You’ll wonder, Why did certain things happen to me? They happened because they did. So now what? Do you think someone’s going to undo it or repair it? There’s no one who can make what happened not happen. But that’s where you begin your spiritual life, starting a dialogue between you, your soul, and God.
The second floor is the spiritual path. There, you start asking yourself, Why don’t I want to let this go? Why do I hold on to all this? Years ago, when I wrote Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can (Three Rivers Press, 1997), I cracked through a question people would never have asked. There’s an assumption that we always want to heal, that we always want to be whole and healthy and honest. But that’s nonsense. People don’t want to heal—they want to hold on to what they have.
The true spiritual path is taking on everything about you that you know is nonsense. Healing, massage, and yoga are not spiritual paths. Healing is healing. Massage is massage. Yoga is yoga. Truth is the spiritual path. It’s a tough inner journey of looking at yourself and holding yourself accountable for who you are. It’s going after yourself day after day, saying, I have to deal with this. What fantasies have you told yourself? What fictions have you laid out for yourself? Do you think you’re entitled to happiness? Do you feel like you’re entitled to avoid things like sickness or difficult relationships?
Picture somebody who loves you a lot. Someone who thinks when they get up in the morning that their world would be absolutely lonely if you weren’t in it. They love you that much. How did that happen? You had nothing to do with that. You couldn’t make someone love you that much no matter what bag of tricks you have up your sleeve. When someone loves you that much, that is God in the details of your life—there’s nothing you did that made that happen. That’s how carefully you’re watched, that heaven would make sure you find someone who cares that deeply, whether it’s a spouse or friends or children or someone else. The spiritual path is about taking the dust out of your eyes and beginning to look at the expression of God on planet Earth.
This is an extraordinary moment to be alive. We are at the greatest turning point in the history of civilization, in between understanding ourselves as a small creature of the earth who is limited to five senses (a groundhog, so to speak), and discovering our true, cosmic-size nature. We’re just beginning to understand that the soul (not as a religious subject but as a cosmic force) commands matter. That’s the power that’s emerging now.
With that power, we have to carve out this next world. A lot of people find this an incomprehensible journey and won’t make it. But while these illnesses of the soul are developing, there’s also a potential rising within us that we’ve never seen before.
It’s natural to want to turn back because that feels safe. But you are not allowed to look backward for guidance because you’ve been there, and it’s over. If it was still supposed to serve you, you would still be there. No, you stay in present time. That marriage you left or that job where you got laid off doesn’t exist anymore. You have to find a new creativity, a solar occupation because the fossil fuel ones are going away.
The chaos we’re experiencing psychically and spiritually is all part of a huge evolution. A new kind of spirituality is emerging, and it’s dismantling all the global religions because they’re no longer working. Their disintegration is inevitable.
This world’s on fire, and it needs every one of you. Each of you is a huge resource of human creativity. You’re here not to take, but to give and to discover your endless, unbelievable capacity to heal and to have compassion. You have no idea what you can do for others. Look at how often you hesitate to love somebody. Look at how often you punish people by withholding love. Stop that. Everything you do matters. You have to get up every day and say, “Lord, this day of my life will never come again. I stand here as your servant, and I am listening.” That’s how you work your way up the floors of consciousness and get to that gorgeous penthouse view.