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Intimacy moves through three phases of relationship. First, we experience prepersonal relationships - and to say "relationships" is somewhat impossible at this point. Innate, survival needs drive the baby, for example, to relate with others as objects. This is thoroughly transactional. No, the baby is not in paradisical bliss, soon to be cast from that heaven. The baby is in a robotic, instinct-driven state. The baby has as little capacity to transcend its self-centeredness as a rock, so to speak. The baby is not bad; it just has not developed into the next developmental phase: personal.
Out of the self developed in childhood and youth, one can experience the postpersonal, or transpersonal. This transpersonal is not un-personal, as though one becomes a feelingless robot. Instead, the personal is included within spirit, or Spirit. In contrast, before, the individual was at best the experiencer of moments of self-transcendence, possibly never having even one moment of self-transcendence, or transpersonal presence.
As evident below, heart-with-heart is transpersonal. Heart-with-heart is when two or more together experience this self-transcendence. Individualism, in such sharing, vanishes back into pristine consciousness - some might say "God." Individuals do not have holy intimacy; they can only witness it happening, as the self-sense, like sparks, arises inside the union. This intimacy is a raw, immediate experience. Self-defenses drop. At least for a time, it is a knockout blow to the ego and its claim to separation, independence, self-determination, and individuality.
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I moved to a new town. Someone I knew from a Chaplain team we both were on lived there. I did not know that, and it was good news when she told me, especially seeing I knew no one else there. Beyond that, we shared a history of pastoral ministry and interest in serving persons through chaplaincy. I saw this person lively and joyful in virtual team meetings and was glad to meet her in person.
We met on a lovely day beside the beach, sitting opposite each other at a table. Afterward, she commented how she felt we had shared some "holy moments." "Holy moments" resonated with me. My reply was, "It was all a holy moment." Both were true. I later wrote her of my appreciation for our "heart-with-heart" sharing.
I have often written of heart-with-heart as spiritual intimacy - some might prefer soul-with-soul. In this intimacy, the heart is the center of sharing. Hence, the person is a relative appearance for Presence to manifest in the dialogue. All that happens becomes anointed with sacamentalness when arising from Presence - presence, words, laughter, smiling, ...
Words are the surface of the silent dialogue when two meet in Presence. In fact, words can disrupt the dialogue, even as they can express it. Accordingly, in heart-with-heart, words, and all gestures, arise out of the Quiet. The spaces between words are an essential part of the exchange, for the spaces represent the Silence in which other sharings appear and return. Theistically, this is God dancing God.
In Sufism, the "heart" is the gateway between the person and Spirit. So, heart-with-heart is not the emotional aspect, as is often meant in the West. Emotions can accompany heart-with-heart. Yet, such intimacy cannot be reduced to affect. Still, again, such sharing can elicit strong emotions.
A paradox arises in this spiritual intimacy. There is a quality of the intensely personal with the depersonalizing. Yet, the personal is so personal it is not egoic - the ego cannot produce or contain it. So, one does not just go absent - you are there, so there it is unlike any there you know otherwise. You are so there, it might be a challenge not to escape back into the sense of self. There are no words for this powerful, cleansing union. And, when experiencing it, it is best to meet it on straightforward, not seeking to understand what is happening. You invite the whole environment of the happening. If you try to fathom what is happening, you disrupt the union. You can reflect on it later - just go in with your whole being, like you would run out into the rain and welcome all the wetness around and upon you, not thinking, just giving yourself to the rainfall, the earth, and the sky.
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Why are such meetings so holy - powerfully so? One reason is there is present in such meetings one Self. Heart-with-heart means Self is sharing with Self, but it is the same one Self. So, here, there is no individual diluting the intimacy. Self is Self-communicating through two selves. Many contemplative Christians refer to this Self as our True Self. Other spiritual paths use other words, but all major spiritual traditions speak of this one Self. Yet, it is important not to think we each have this Self. It has us. There is one Self, not many selves with a True Self, or a soul, hidden inside. That we have some individual soul lurking inside us is another illusion arising from faith in our separateness.
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We all need these holy meetings filled with holy moments, or even with the sense that the entire time shared was one continuity of sacredness. While it is true that holiness is all-pervasive, the felt-manifestation of heart-with-heart is vital to our well-being, for we are human, and feelings are essential in our spiritual awareness and growth.
How do these holy meetings occur? Certainly not just by meeting together or with a person-to-person sharing. Also, we cannot manufacture such intimacy. We cannot strategize holy intimacy. We cannot put it on our calendar, "Tuesday, Mary and I are going to enter holy intimacy." The ego cannot create what is non-egoic. It has to come from somewhere else.
Our efforts to create this heart-with-heart block the spontaneity of Love. Yet, our entire spiritual practice transforms us to experience these holy times and be able to contain them, not sabotage them. We will push it away until we can be the container for this intimacy, even if we are faking that we are not. And the ego can act out an appearance of spiritual connection - it is well-trained in that, its normal mode of operations. With time, however, we can grow in the capacity to hold, so not push away, the intimacy.
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When we leave such heart-with-heart holy meetings, we go with an afterglow of it clothing us, surrounding us. This is the sense of the True Self, our heart that has come forth from the veil of the ego. We feel renewed, even physically, possibly challenged, maybe even in awe or daunted by the power of it. We wish other such meetings to happen. We want to increase our capacity to be a container for such connections. We see how we need heart-with-heart sharing, that there is no substitute. We trust more will come. We aspire to be more intimate with ourselves; being more intimate with ourselves, we can be more intimate with others.
For a time, we may avoid more superficial sharing. This avoidance can pass when we grow more to integrate all sharing as a sacrament within our totality. Due to knowing spiritual intimacy, some of that can flavor all our interactions.
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This need for spiritual intimacy is a reason for time alone in Silence - Silence is a space for us to become more comfortable with intimacy. When sitting in meditation, we welcome the arising of the one Self and the diminishment of the ego. We do this, not because the ego is bad but because we are not the ego and want to experience heartful intimacy. This time alone challenges our defense mechanisms against intimacy. We befriend our discomfort with intimacy. In fact, we may be surprised at how afraid we are of spiritual closeness or how we feel unworthy to be seen in such truth. We may discover we have never been truly close to ourselves, avoiding the power and beauty of that we are.
We can be like someone rushing to put clothes back on, afraid her lover will not accept her nudeness. This, when she is the one not accepting her nakedness, and when her nudity is that of her lover. And we can cover up with various coverings. Our religion or spirituality can be our cover-up. Our service to others can be our hide-out. Our being a good, moral person can be the closet we hide in.
The protection is an invitation to grow; it can, also, be wise when not ready to welcome the extent of intimacy offered to us. We do not need to fight against it or feel ashamed of it. Love the resistance in self-compassion. Befriend the fear of exposure. As we accept the part of ourselves that resists holy intimacy, the ego defense is transformed, and the True Self shines out more. We become more real, for Love is the most real. We become more comfortable with this sacred naturalness. We find we like being naked more than clothed, for that is who we are. In this, we will find some of our attachments, used before to hide, drop away. This dropping away can extend to our religious and spiritual life and practices.
This letting go of "spiritual" attachments can be very challenging to one who has attached to them. And, actually, the need to let go is just the other side of their dropping away. When you feel a loss of interest, that can be a sign of the dropping away. Letting go is getting out of the way of the dropping away.
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When this realness - this spirit - manifests through our person... some will flee it, some will come toward it and then exit, and some will meet it and welcome it as what they are seeking. If they accept or not, you recall it is not about you as a person but about what is more than a person within you. When one runs, they are running away from the realness, being unclothed, seeing herself naked, and being seen naked.
Deeply spiritual beings can experience a profound aloneness, and I think most do. One reason is that they have a robust capacity for spiritual closeness - their world is not the world of superficiality. To live as they do, one is on another consciousness planet. This aloneness can be addressed in diverse ways in different spiritual paths. Yet, nothing can take away the aloneness - it is a sign of how one has fallen in Love with Love. The opposite side of the fulness of presence in solitude is the sense of absence. The more deeply you enter the Holy, the more you experience undiluted suffering and pleasure.
The spiritual being will face the apparent contrast between sacredness everywhere and the lack of it. Ironically, as one is drawn more into the heart of Life, one feels more the Sacred everywhere and the sense of desire for it to manifest. The best wisdom I can offer on living with this tension is to relax in awareness of the present connection with the Sacred. Yet, do not turn this release into a spiritual bypass, a denial of being subject to times of the ache of aloneness. If you ache for heart-with-heart, you are not accomplishing anything acting like you are free of such a need - that is just another ploy of the ego. The Self can enter fully into the ache of aloneness. The Self would never say, "Oh! I have God, so who else would I need?" If God has you, you do need others, persons whom you meet in God, just just in yourselves as selves.
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Five concluding points on spiritual intimacy.
First, one is wise to remember when enjoying spiritual intimacy with another, the other as a person is only a means of it. Even in spiritually intimate relationships, the other self is still in form a human being. We each are a crossroads of formless Self and a self. However, this is part of the joy! The one with you is both a person like you and more than a person. We each are embodied revelations of Spirit.
Second, a relationship with one's God can be a spiritual bypass from holy intimacy with others. Intimacy with God can be a safe space for healing, for a time and apart from others, as it was for me. I spent years healing through an accented inward journey and apartness in readings, prayer, and meditation alone. Yet, if one clings to this refuge in her God, hugging the solitude as a personal experience, one derails her spiritual growth. One must, to keep evolving, face the challenge of holding holy intimacy within herself in connection with others. Finally, she learns, her intimacy with her God and that with others becomes - so is - one intimacy filled with the flow of holy moments.
Third, one grows never to leave the holy moment, even apart from changing feelings and apart from others. One has learned to trust the Holy, not feelings of the Holy or emotions associated with being near the Sacred. Hence, this stability allows holy feelings and holy meetings to arise spontaneously and more frequently.
Fourth, if you are holy-intimacy-assessable, some persons will be drawn to you quickly and from you quickly; they can sabotage future sharing with you. Excuses are veiled as reasons. A prominent hiding place is a version of the busy excuse... "I'm really busy, maybe later." You who have developed a robust capacity for spiritual intimacy will see these excuses for what they are: excuses. What do you do? Do not try to coerce holy intimacy. Possibly you were with someone for a time - one time or more times - to invite them to this closeness or give them a taste of it but not for it to continue between you two. The last thing you need is for someone not ready for that closeness to fain that she is. It is better for you to be patient for a stable spiritual connection with someone who can hold it with you, you two being a single container for its circulation.
Last, when you do enjoy a short-term or long-term spiritual relationship with anyone, it comes not as something you got but as a gift given to receive. You cannot get gifts, but you can wait for them, trusting they will arise in time and preparing yourself to receive them.
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*© Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book consists of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.