I’m sitting in front of my laptop thinking of the girls and women in my life—five generations of girls and women—and also of all those I don’t know personally but feel connected with nonetheless. I think of all the layers of happiness and sadness and achievement and disappointment that we all undergo and of the countless threads of experience that weave our individual lives. I think of us all and I believe that there’s one outstanding essential insight from every spiritual tradition that can enrich our lives if we know how to take advantage of it:
In every circumstance, whatever we may experience or encounter, we are foremost divine.
This is a dazzling and inspiring pronouncement, a truth that has been expounded from time immemorial. But it’s not satisfying enough to just hear about it. What’s important to all of us is this: how can this rather amazing statement be verified, be experienced by each of us in our everyday lives? Reading and hearing these words can make our hearts yearn to experience this truth personally for ourselves rather than to just enjoy it as a concept or as some ancient saint’s personal realization. Thinking about this many years ago, I started inquiring into traditions of knowledge to learn more about how to experience my divine nature, to fathom if possible who I really am.
Do we know who we are?
Really, do we know ourselves? We know our names—but those can easily be changed. We already know that we’re a student or a professional, and we know if we’re funny or wise or sad or living in a city or small town or the desert. We know how old we are, what entertainment we enjoy, whether we’re calm or wild or hopeful or high spirited. We know a lot about our self. And all that perception is valid. But it’s not our whole story—our true identity. There’s an essential aspect of each of us that has gone unexperienced for far too long—yet is actually the hidden foundation for all the tangible things we know about our self.
Imagine waking up one morning and finding that your room has been redecorated, your hair is a new color, you’re wearing strange pajamas. You don’t ask yourself “Uh-oh, who am I?” but instead you ask, “What happened to me?” We don’t ask who we are because we are the same as before—it’s our circumstances that have changed. Even though our perceptions of life have changed from the time we were an infant until the present (“the crib and mom’s face are my world” to “the planet is my world”), even though our desires have changed (“I want a new doll” to “I want a better job”), and even though our bodies have changed drastically, we are the same person that we’ve always been. We don’t look in our wallet to check our ID card every time we lose or gain weight or start a new career or our moods fluctuate. So, we can go through life experiencing constant change, including our deepest convictions, and yet remain the same person within. The changing aspects of our life are riding upon something within us that is non-changing, ongoing, infinite. It is our essential nature—connected to the nature of everything—our ultimate identity. This is our divinity.
I’d like to explain more of what I mean by the word “divinity.” Recently a friend said my new shoes were divine. I know they didn’t spontaneously appear in my closet as a miraculous gift from a Goddess because I’d bought them myself. But my friend thought that they were so cool compared to the style of rows of mundane shoes found in 99% of shoe shopping. They surpassed her ordinary expectations and the only word in her vocabulary that came close enough to depict their standing in the shoe universe was “divine.”
We commonly use the word “divine” to depict something extraordinary in the world, but it really gives a name to something sublime outside the range of normal experience. Divine means wholly spiritual—not of this world, but its essence. Whether we consider our self to be brilliant, personable, funny, pretty, in good shape, prosperous, successful, wise, helpful, popular—or have not even a single one of these traits—each of us is always, absolutely, without a doubt, divine.
What does being divine mean in daily life?
Let’s consider divinity and its relationship to our daily experience a little more carefully. One analogy that reveals the relationship between our divine self and our “everyday” self is to consider H20—whether it takes the form of water, ice, mist, or vapor, it remains H20. That is its identity, it’s essence. It remains H20 no matter what form it takes or how it changes—H20 is the never-changing foundation of its many interchangeable potential forms. In the same way, though we may be many different things at different times—be sad, be happy, be alert, be sleepy, be dynamic, be tired, be productive, be lazy—to be any of those things, Being is a prerequisite. Within the multiple facets of our personality and individuality, there’s an ongoing foundation of non-changing pure Being.
Why don’t you feel that you’re divine?
Whether we are aware of our inner infinite divine nature or not, it is still real. It’s like when we swim on the surface of the ocean, enjoying the splashing and the rolling waves, but don’t directly experience the depth below us even though we know intellectually that it’s there. We would have to learn to scuba dive to really experience what lies beneath the surface. In the same way, whether we clearly experience our inner nature or not, most people intuit that there is something more and deeper to themselves—more whole, more sublime, more of life… something missing from everyday perception. Instead, it’s one’s everyday tangible experience—including all sensory perceptions and thoughts and emotions—that fill the mind and overshadow the subtlety of inner Being. So, the practical next question is: what does it take to find and experience this inner reality? How do we “scuba dive” into our self?
At 19 years of age, I was fortunate to have a friend who was also seeking this knowledge and she had come upon a teaching that fulfilled our search—she had learned to dive within. She encouraged me, as I encourage you now, to experience it for myself. The method she learned, and I chose to learn, is the Transcendental Meditation technique. Its very name expresses its mechanics and purpose: Transcendental Meditation. To transcend means to go beyond and meditation means thinking—going beyond during meditation means to go beyond the usual activity that fills our minds to softer, more subtle levels of thinking, and even to go beyond the thinking process itself. Does that mean becoming unconscious or falling asleep? Actually, it means falling awake—awake to our inner nature—simple, innocent, direct perception of the silent, undivided, uncluttered, pure, settled state of our Self.
The TM technique is effortless. The charming quality of pure awareness is so magnetic to the mind that our attention is automatically drawn to it and the process happens almost by itself, like a ball rolling downhill. There’s no effort, no concentration. We start it up and it just works spontaneously. With repeated experience, meditating regularly, we become increasingly familiar with the finer levels of our minds, our hearts, and our divinity, as regular diving and growing awareness allow our divine nature to blossom in our day to day life. The reward will be a life that does justice to who we really are.
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA