When we live in a state of contraction, it’s impossible to float. We’re like a swimmer who is scrunched up into a tight little ball. The result? We sink.

In this dimension, or sphere, we call Earth, we are surrounded by things that are split. One such split is our two theories about how we came into being. Was it through evolution, as the scientific world says? That humans evolved from animals which evolved from fish which came up through amphibians and reptiles, taking billions of years to arrive where we are today? Or was it more the way some religious people claim? That God created each species, including humans, more or less separately?

When asked about this, the Pathwork Guide’s answer was clear: “The way of evolution is correct.” We are each gradually growing and developing through stages, through lifetimes and perhaps even through different life forms. And the fundamental reason for all these developmental processes? To resolve our splits and return ourselves to wholeness.

Why are we split?

Where did all these splits come from? They originated during the Fall, when created beings who were disloyal to God—including you and me—split into many fragments. For prior to the Fall, our souls were in a state of unity. It was after the Fall that a plurality came into existence. When this splitting happened, it’s not just that one being—a dual being—was split into female and male halves. But as the Fall went on, our splits multiplied and multiplied.

This wasn’t a sudden thing. In fact, the process of the Fall happened very, very slowly. Similarly, the process of evolution is slow and gradual, and so must be our process of healing and reunifying ourselves. At this point in time, we could say that the more split we are, the lower is our level of development. The more we progress in our development, the more mature—and more whole­—we become.

So our work is to reunite our fragmented souls, and restore ourselves to wholeness. And we can only do this by finding and fixing our splits.

Where does God fit in?

As we proceed on our spiritual path, doing our work of self-knowing, it can be confusing where God fits into all this. What, for example, is the difference between contacting God and connecting with the divine forces within, which we can also call our true self or Higher Self? Actually, these are one and the same thing. Here’s why:

It will help if we can appreciate that God is both personal and impersonal. That God is inspiration as well as spiritual law. Now, when we say God is personal, this does not mean that God is a personality. For God is not a person who lives at a certain address in heaven. Rather, God is highly personal, and we can experience God in a very personal way.

To have a deep inner connection with God, we must be in truth. Because God is truth.

The best place to look for and find God, then, is within. For the only way we can experience God personally is by experiencing God inside ourselves. That said, we can see evidence of God outside ourselves when we enjoy the beauty of nature or see the wisdom that science has collected. But we will only be able to see these things if we first experience God within us.

Here’s the most important thing to understand. To have a deep inner connection with God, we must be in truth. Because God is truth. This means we must remove all our inner obstacles, including our false beliefs and any unpleasant emotions that are stuck inside us. For they are always based on untruth. In other words, we must clean our inner house by facing ourselves fearlessly and with complete candor. And we must stop avoiding and escaping ourselves.

When God manifests through us as spirit, we have the option of whether we will be inspired by the truth of God, which comes through our Higher Self, or the distorted truth, which comes through our Lower Self. If we give in to our Lower Self blindness and allow our distortions to manifest, then there will be conflict and disharmony. If we follow the more difficult path of rising above our Lower Self, then we can ask for inspiration of the highest truth to help us dissolve our blind spots. For they are what cause the gaps in our awareness that create disharmonies.

So we can use our conscious thinking to mold the life force—which is God as spiritual law, and as creativity—and create life experiences that align with truth. Or not. It’s fine either way for God. After all, God has given us free will and we are able to do as we wish. Plus, we’ve been given all the time in the world to make our way home. But the journey will be far less fun for us if we keep allowing untruth to guide our days.

Having more consciousness is good

The creative spirit of God penetrates everything that is. Humans have more of this consciousness than animals, who have more of it than plants, who have more than minerals, and so on. As we expand ourselves more and more, we keep gathering more and more of this creative spirit. This allows us to think more clearly, make better decisions, use good discernment, examine, select and choose. Also, we have a conscience because our nature is the same as that of God, only to a lesser degree.

And our essential nature is not altered in the least when we behave negatively because we have become alienated from the truth of who we are. It just means we act blindly, from untruth, and mold our life in a negative way. But our very nature remains unchanged. We always have the potential for purifying our psyche and living our life in alignment with our God-shaped center.

Our splits cause self-alienation

This feeling of alienation results from our lack of awareness of what’s going on inside, in our inner reality. But we can learn to tune into ourselves and these more sensitive, deep inner layers. We do this by making a deliberate and yet relaxed effort to feel into what’s behind our difficulties in life. What’s the inner cause for our outer problems?

Whatever we are experiencing, we are somehow producing.

Because all our unhappiness and sadness, all our unfulfillment and emptiness, all our suffering and frustration—all these things—stem from the fact that we’re no longer connecting with their causes, which lie within us. Whatever we are experiencing, we are somehow producing.

It’s not just that we have errors and misconceptions, and destructive behavior patterns and feelings. For indeed, those things do exist and will lead to unpleasant experiences. But that’s not really the worst of it. The really bad thing is something we may not yet understand: That when we want something on one level, but we don’t have it, then on another level of our being we are denying it. Because we are split.

Why our splits tear us apart

When we don’t realize that we are somehow denying ourselves what we’re also consciously wishing for, we create great pain for ourselves. For we are pulling ourselves in opposite directions. Then if we happen to close in on what we want, we unconsciously shrink away from it in terror. This makes us feel very frustrated. The results are both confusing and frightening, and this makes us feel hopeless about life.

When our souls are moving in two opposite directions like this, we literally feel like we’re being torn apart. The fact that we don’t understand what’s happening adds more tension to the pot. The more hopeless it all appears to be, the more we strive and grasp for what we want.

Tension works against the smooth movement of being in the flow.

All this tense motion, even if it seems like it’s going in the right direction, defeats the goal. For tension, which comes from twisting up our hopelessness with our doubt and sense of urgency, works against the smooth movement of being in the flow. All this twisting and grasping and despairing creates real pain. Just becoming aware that there are these divided parts inside can bring a moment of blessed relief.

Let’s look at this more closely. For it’s going to be impossible to feel at home in ourselves as long as we’re not aware of this hidden layer that says no to what we’re so strenuously saying yes to on the surface.

Uncovering our tendency to blame

We can start by making room in our mind for the possibility that something inside us is pulling in the opposite direction from where we say we want to go. Go ahead and give yourself some encouragement, strengthening your will to find this part of yourself. We may even need to remind ourselves of this principle from time to time. For even after making some progress on our path, we tend to forget we have these opposing parts.

When that happens, and we find ourselves feeling unhappy, we automatically look around for something or someone else to blame. And the minute we do this, we cause further damage. Because the more we blame, the harder it is to stop this blaming pattern of behavior.

What’s more, right behind our blame comes a bunch of other destructive attitudes. These include stubbornness, blind resistance, and a desire to punish whoever we think is responsible for our unhappiness. Often, we’ll resort to some sort of deliberate self-destruction as a way to punish them. Take that!

The more we blame, the harder it is stop this blaming pattern of behavior.

This is a common pattern that most of us do, at least to some degree. And it becomes more poisonous and damaging when we’re not aware we’re doing it and we rationalize our blame.

Whenever we are feeling unhappy, the first thing we need to do is look for that side of ourselves that says “no,” for whatever reason. Then look for how we’re blaming others, even if it’s only a little, and perhaps only done in secret. We can explore our feelings and search for where we’re building a case against something or someone else. Maybe we’re even building a case against life, at large.

Then consider that no matter how wrong others might be, they can’t be responsible for our suffering. No matter how things appear on the outside, we must have matching pieces inside us. And it’s by seeing these inner pieces that things can start to shift.

Note, sometimes we don’t blame anyone else, but instead we overly blame ourselves. But self-blame is really just a disguise for violently hating and blaming others. It holds a vindictive streak that’s less direct but still destructive. So self-blame will also keep us from lifting up our head and finding a better way.

The process for moving ahead

If we really want to find the cause of our suffering, and if we truly want to remove these causes, we must start by wanting to see where we say “no” to what we want most. Admittedly, starting out, this may seem impossible. Yet this is what we must do.

The way forward involves questioning our emotions. Why do we feel what we feel? It may help to work with a coach, counselor, therapist or other trained professional to get to the bottom of what we’re feeling. And then we must look at how our feelings are playing out in our lives. How do our feelings make us act in ways that are contrary to what we imagine we want so much?

Free-flowing feelings really do exist. But we must be in harmony with the laws of life for them to affect us. We must be in truth. Often, though, we deny the truth, including the fact that we somehow say “no” to life. Then we turn around and blame others for our struggles, and then deny that we are blaming, to boot. In all these ways, we are violating the laws of life.

As a result, our feelings no longer flow freely. So when we feel into them, we’re likely to find a knot. Chances are, we can sense the tightness of this knot somewhere in our body. When we feel into this knot—by breathing into the tension in the body—we will feel the tension that prevents the free-flowing feeling of life.

The spiritual laws of life are in truth. And they ask us to search out all the causes inside us, which are all the places we’re not in keeping with divine laws. For that’s where these laws really are: inside us.

Let’s go for a swim

In doing our work of healing, we must start to pay attention to these inner soul movements. We do this by tuning into our inner atmosphere. When we become quiet and listen into ourselves, we will feel it. We must come to know what is moving in us and motivating us, even though it may be very subtle. Now realize that this is what’s emanating from us and affecting everything around us.

What we will start to notice is a complex series of chain reactions that produce contradictory feelings and thoughts. One idea will overlap another, yet they’re all mysteriously connected. Once we start connecting our own causes with their effects, we’ll start to move in harmony with life. It will be like we are swimming with life.

We can enjoy a pleasurable and secure relationship between our body and the water.

Like a swimmer, we will float on the water of life, letting it carry us. Yet we will move and we won’t be passive. For if we are totally passive, the water can’t support us for very long. At the same time, if we’re too active—thrashing around, moving tensely and anxiously—we won’t enjoy swimming, and it won’t be safe. Then the water will control us instead of supporting us.

The best way to swim is to move smoothly in a relaxed, rhythmic, confident way. We can feel confident in the power of the water to carry us, and also confident in our ability to move with purpose and grace. The more relaxed we are and the more harmonious our movements are, the easier it will be to move through the water. Then our movements will become effortless and self-perpetuating. We can enjoy a pleasurable and secure relationship between our body and the water.

When a person is swimming, there is a wonderful balance between the passive forces and the active forces. And it’s this balance that determines the harmony of the relationship between the human body and the body of water. In such a state of harmony, we feel a justified trust that the water will carry us. And yet we don’t deny that we have some responsibilities and must participate in the act of swimming. Even in the act of floating.

The way to be in life

Swimming is analogous to how we want to navigate the universe. Our ego needs to be active, in a relaxed and healthy way. We don’t want to throw away the ego or think we don’t need to participate in the act of living. But at the same time, we can allow ourselves to float on life forces, fully trusting them to be there in supporting us.

When we embark on this spiritual path, we will have the sensation that we are being carried by life. This floating movement is a byproduct that comes from facing our inner difficulties directly and discovering the true cause of our suffering. As we go along, we will develop a more firm and therefore more healthy ego, and allow the universal force to establish itself in us.

As we walk this path, we will float as though we are carried, yet we will actively participate and be self-determining. This will unfold in a way that will be both strong and relaxed. And this, friends, is a truly wonderful way of being. Really, it is the way of being.

There is nothing else like it, or that can replace it. There is no substitute solution we can search for or hope for that can equal this feeling—of our own power, our own strength—that comes from connecting with what’s inside us that’s causing our negative experiences. For only then can we resolve the problem that is causing us to have unpleasant experiences.

STEP 1: Deciding to search within

Searching for causes within is not an easy step to take. And you’re not alone in approaching this path and then resisting finding the causes inside. If things go well, this feeling will subside as you push onward. But every beginner clings to the hope that we can find the cause of our suffering outside of ourselves. What we fail to realize is that even if this were possible, nothing would be gained by it.

Because then we still couldn’t change our fate since, we can’t change others. What stops us is often a blind fear of finding out we aren’t perfect. And due to our pride, we want to overlook this. On we go, struggling to pin the fault on something or someone else.

The biggest step we can take is this: To say, “With all my heart, I want to see the cause that’s inside me.” The more we cultivate this thought with deep prayer, the more something opens up inside. This opening is the hope and the salvation we’ve been searching for. And sooner or later, the willingness to search for inner causes is the step we all have to take.

STEP 2: Tackling our pride

Once we’ve taken the first step, our work is not done. Now we must go on and take another step. At first, this one may seem harder than the first one, but really it’s not. Take a breath and consider that these struggles we’re facing are illusions. And in a similar way, any fear we have about finding the cause of our unhappiness within is an illusion.

As someone who has done this healing work for decades, I can attest that finding a cause within brings relief. It makes us feel safe and more confident in life. The only thing stopping us is our pride. Pride, in fact, is exactly what makes this next step seem so hard.

Pride is one part of a three-part constellation. The other two parts are fear and self-will. And you can confidently bet your last dollar, when you get to the basic cause of why you deny the thing you most wish for, these three basic faults will be involved. They’re the evils of humanity, if you will, and everyone must learn how to deal with them.

STEP 3: Facing our fear

Why is fear considered a fault? One, because it’s built on a lack of trust. Two, it arises from our hate. To whatever degree we are unhappy about our own self—about our character—fear will exist. Said another way, if we truly love ourselves, we have no fear. It’s our self-disliking that leads us to fear the many processes of life, including fear of death, fear of pleasure, fear of letting go, fear of change, fear of living with the unknown, and fear of being imperfect. We also fear ourselves. And yet all this fear is an illusion.

Nonetheless, we can’t overcome our fear unless and until we have gone through it. So having stared our pride in the face and decided we’re ready to see what’s really going on inside us, now we have to face our fear. Agreed, this is not easy to do. We shy away from this step even more than from the step where we decide to find the cause of suffering inside.

After all, many of us put all our energy into avoiding whatever it is we fear. And yet the results of doing this, as we stand here today, are disappointing. Because we’re following the way of error. We’re cramping up against whatever it is we fear. And the more we cramp, the more we alienate ourselves from the center of our soul. And that’s the place from which everything good flows.

When we live in such a state of contraction, it’s impossible to float. We’re like a swimmer who is scrunched up into a tight little ball. The result? We sink. Yet that’s how we’re going through life.

Fears prevent the flow of life

The constrictions caused by our fears create all sorts of knots in us, on the physical, mental and emotional levels. And these knots are what cause the disconnections in us. Most notably, they disconnect us from our Higher Self, or divine center, which is the source of all wisdom and all sense of well-being.

Our inner God-shaped center is where life flows forth from, and where we will find our ultimate happiness. But we can only uncover this inner well of life force by facing into our illusions. We must challenge them, test them, and penetrate them. For only by penetrating the illusion can we find out the truth.

And what is the truth? That we can have what we want, including pleasure, fulfillment, a meaningful life, success in whatever way we want, the realization of our potentials, love, health and companionship. In other words, we can live in connection with the real processes of life.

But none of this can happen when we are in fear. It’s impossible. And so we must meet our fears.

The real challenge is: How do we do this? How are we supposed to get past our fears? Let’s ask another question. Are we still expecting some nice authority to come along and take them away, from the outside? And if that did happen, would that really reassure us, for good? Could that really solve anything?

In a word, no. The only genuine assurance comes from knowing our own capacity to meet our fear and deal with it. That we can do so realistically and in a smart way. And we can only do this by going through our fears, never by avoiding them.

It’s important to be specific

Start by making a list of your fears. Then look at your fears. In what way are they caused by pride? To what extent do they come from having a rigid, unyielding self-will, that refuses to change and flow with life?

We need to look our fear squarely in the face.

We can’t meet a fear if we don’t yet know what the fear is. And still, we need to meet our fears. This is painstaking work, and it needs to be specific. It doesn’t work to gloss over our fears in a general way. We need to name our fears and think them through.

Once we’ve done this, the next step will be possible. We need to look our fear squarely in the face. And granted, this may require a bit of courage. But the self-respect and self-liking that come from having the integrity to look at what’s there are more important than anything. Everything, in fact, depends on this.

For when we think our fears are untouchable ghosts, we fear our fears even more. And that’s how we breed terror in ourselves.

Little by little, our life will evolve

Our goal is to unify these terribly painful splits inside us. And the way to do this is by mending the cause of the split. We must see how we fear the thing we want. Before we can face our fears squarely, we much face into our pride squarely. For we so desperately want to believe we are perfect that we fear falling off our self-made pedestal.

Good news, many fears will vanish just by giving up our pride. Because by doing so, we see how unfair it is to blame life or other people, when the real cause of our problem lies inside us. This is always the case, no matter how wrong or imperfect someone else may also be. But when we deny that that there’s any error inside us, we are the one being unfair. Meaning, we’re not in truth. That’s why pride makes it impossible to resolve our fear.

Once we start reversing our old habitual pattern of blaming and avoiding what we fear, something remarkable will begin to happen. Little by little, accompanied by quite a bit of stumbling, our soul substance will start to change. Our inner climate will shift. The old stuck way will lose its binding power. Just by seeing ourselves in the grip of it, it will loosen.

We’ll still sense this level on which we are anxious, tortured, numb, hopeless and twisted in pain. But we’ll start to feel another level of reality, underneath this current one. There is another state beyond the unpleasant one we’re on. The ego-centered level we’re on—where we alternate between twisted anxiety and hopelessness, on the one hand, and feeling numb and lifeless on the other—is not the only level of reality there is.

We’ve gotten so lost in this unpleasant back and forth that we aren’t aware there could be another inner state. At first, we’ll just get glimpses of this other state. As we keep going, it will be become more frequent. Gradually, over time, a new way of being will evolve from our current tortured state. But for a time, we’ll experience them simultaneously.

Don’t let the shift be a surprise

The feelings associated with this new level of reality are of immense safety and peacefulness. We’ll have a sense of vibrancy and well-being, and we will feel deeply alive. There will be a flowing feeling of utter confidence. Like we’re being carried along by life, while at the same time knowing we have the power to navigate life in the best way possible.

For a while, we’ll function at these two levels at the same time. The upside of this is that it brings our splits fully into focus. Eventually, the new way of being in true reality, which at first will be a vague feeling deep inside, will become our steady state. And the old feelings of hopelessness will recur more and more rarely.

Expect these states to fluctuate, to alternate. For this path is not a straight line.

This experience of two very distinct levels of reality happening simultaneously should be expected. Don’t let it come as a surprise. Let it greet you, confirming you are indeed going on the right path. You are heading the right way. Even though there is still anguish and depression, perhaps along with wracking anxiety, there will also be a feeling of deep peace and contentment. When you see the former for what it is, it will no longer have so much power over you.

Expect these states to fluctuate, to alternate. For this path is not a straight line. You’ll gain new ground, then lose what you found. Occasionally, you’ll wonder if what you experienced was real. We have to battle our way through these periods where we feel thrown back into an old state before the new one has fully taken hold.

But every battle matters. They are milestones we’re crossing that make it possible to attain a new way of living that’s secure and permanent. As we grow, we’ll get lost less and less often. Until one day, self-realization will be ours. Then happiness will be our new normal. That’s the promise of what it means to evolve and resolve our splits.

These words carry a healing force that can strengthen and enlighten us, if we open to their deep meaning. But if we close ourselves to them, we cannot feel them, and in turn, they cannot reach inside us to help us.

So the question is: Are you ready to learn how to swim with life?

–The Pathwork Guide’s wisdom in Jill Loree’s words

Adapted from Pathwork Guide Lecture #160: Conciliation of the Inner Split, and The Path to the Real Self, Chapter 3: God, Man and the Universe, by Eva Pierrakos.

Deep Prayer for healing

All essays in Get a Better Boat are available as podcasts.