I can think of no greater encouragement in this life than the self-evident truth that within each of us dwells something Extraordinary. By "Extraordinary" I don't mean any one condition or sensation born of a particularly exciting experience or even the long-awaited realization of some special achievement. The meaning of Extraordinary I wish to convey goes far beyond all such isolated crowning moments. It points not to these individual gifts of life, but to their immutable and inexhaustible source that is the secret center of each of us: a timeless resource open and available to anyone who would seek this Life that sits behind life as we know it. Surely it is the realization of this Extraordinary Life that St. Paul is referring to when he tells the people of Athens: "For in Him do we live, and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:28) Now, with these last ideas in mind, let's approach this whole idea of an Extraordinary Life from a slightly different angle.
All of us, in one way or another, have either touched or been touched by some form of passing greatness. In those grand moments of life -- where we are suddenly given a glimpse of something so inspired, loving, strong, timeless, or beautiful that it quiets the mind -- we know we stand in the presence of something that represents the potential for us to know a new and higher order of ourselves. But, what we have yet to learn about each of these bright and vital forces active in us, is that our experience of them represents only a brief interlude between that momentarily receptive part of ourselves and the Extraordinary Life from which they radiate.
If you have ever walked through a deep wood on a sunlit day and stood in the silent shafts of light that stream down onto the shaded forest floor, then you know, even though these bright beams appear randomly and seem to stand alone, each ray of light comes from a common source: the sun. So it is with these wonderfully timeless qualities we sometimes see shining through our hearts and minds.
All of these celestial characteristics are the too-fleeting expression of our own yet-to-be-realized True Nature, an eternal essence whose secret home is the very center of our own soul. The problem is that our realization of this self-liberating truth still exceeds our grasp, which is why we have yet to claim our place in the sun. But if this potential relationship with Real Life is true, and we are meant not only to be aware of all things under the sun, but also to know ourselves as a part of the very light that illuminates this kingdom, then we must ask ourselves this question: why are we missing the mark?
The answer we will find is surprising. The only reason we don't see the entrance to the Extraordinary Life is because we don't know where to look. Perhaps this idea could be better stated this way: we are always looking in all the wrong places. This unseen limitation in the way we see our lives is built right into the fabric of our present nature! Let's see if this is true.
The way our present nature looks at life around us -- as well as everything appearing to move within it -- is through our five senses. This means that as we are, the sum of our relationship with the world is determined by how we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste our surroundings. And this is an important consideration, for through it we can realize something unseen. These natural faculties report to us -- in a ceaseless stream of corresponding sensations -- that we live apart from the reality they register -- so much so that virtually everything we experience about ourselves tells us that we live in a reality that is happening outside of, or exterior to us. The unfortunate result of this obviously incomplete view of life is that instead of realizing the peace and grace inherent in being aware of our undivided relationship with the Extraordinary Life, we are reduced to frantically searching for what must be only the smallest and most temporary fragments of it.
Unseeing as we are at present -- meaning that we have yet to realize that our perception of reality is partial at best -- we are unable to comprehend that this limited level of consciousness is itself the actual cause of our unhappiness. And so it goes; we continue to chase after what amounts to little more than shadows of Real Life. To live like this is like someone who -- seeing a priceless pearl in the sand -- tries to convince himself that he should be content with just stealing glimpses of its luster instead of walking over, picking up, and possessing the pearl for himself.
How do we regain our relationship with what is real and Now? What must we do to develop a conscious relationship with the Extraordinary Life that lives within us? All you need is an earnest wish to awaken, coupled with a willingness to go to work on yourself. Should you feel yourself starting to sink just thinking about how far removed you are from the Extraordinary Life -- that the distance to go is too great to cover -- never mind all that nonsense. Listen instead to what St. Francis of Assisi would have you know about why your spiritual success is already spoken for: "I never think upon Eternity without receiving great comfort, for I say to myself: How could my soul grasp the idea of the Everlastingness, if the two were not related in some way?"
It is up to us whether or not we fulfill the promise of this extraordinary vision, of this can there can be no doubt. Will we spend our lives in mere dreams of winning a limitless life, only to be shaken awake time and time again by what is seen as a rude reality? Or, will we do the inner work of awakening ourselves from this dream? Choosing the Extraordinary Life begins with our conscious work to realize it. [See pages 182-185 for Seven Simple Exercises to Invite the Extraordinary Life]