Although it’s a popular notion that some people lead a double-life, I’m tending towards three. We have a public life: what we do when anyone and everyone can see us. We have a personal life: interactions and relationships with our close circle of friends. And finally we have a private life: behaviours behind closed doors when nobody else is watching. Community, camaraderie, and a strong inner life are essential components in the achievement of anything. Our spirituality is also nourished and developed in these three arenas.
Imagine we played a movie showing our public, personal and private life side-by-side. Would everything match up? Would it look like the same person? Maybe not. Some may call it hypocrisy, duplicity and pretence, but there could be more to the story. Often times it’s not deliberate or devious, but simply the result of human weakness. Social pressures, the weight of expectation and the fear of judgement can force us to present an image which is not entirely accurate. The external façade helps to deal with the internal lacking. To find somebody who embodies complete purity and integrity on all three levels is rare. Yet that spiritual consistency is our cherished goal. It’s a struggle, but we have to look for perfect alignment in all aspects of our life.
Strengthening the spirituality in our private life may help; the inside-out approach is what we see in the lives of great saints. Slipping away into solitary surroundings, with nobody to impress and nothing to achieve, these great personalities would focus on making a deep spiritual connection. Their living quarters were temporary arrangements like the hollow of a tree, a clearing under a thorny thicket, or an underground cave. Here they would slide into spiritual fixation and have their deepest exchanges with God, often continuing for hours on end. Their spiritual practice wasn’t casual or ritualistic. It wasn’t simply a discipline – it was full of emotion and feeling. An earnest call from the core of the heart. The spiritual conviction generated pervaded every iota of their being. It effortlessly oozed into every aspect of their life. They were illuminated from within, and were thus exemplary in thought, word and action. Truly amazing.