Getting real is the hardest task a spiritual seeker ever sets out to accomplish.

In the worldly sense alone, getting real is hard enough. Our culture encourages artifice. We women adjust our looks by means of cosmetics. As a woman who seldom uses cosmetics in daily life, I once had the experience of dating a man who was used to seeing women in makeup and who tended to consider me a bit plain, although he appreciated other things about me enough to forgive me that. One day at the swimming pool, he exclaimed, "Gosh, Carla, when all the other women have their makeup off too, you look really good."

Men, too, seek to sustain the appearance of youth through hair transplants and the growing use of facial lotions and masks. And both sexes in our culture find it not only acceptable but desirable to use surgery to trim off a bit here and enhance a bit there. We as a cultural group do not rest easily within our skins. I consider coming to an appreciative acceptance of the changes in our looks as we age a first-class accomplishment.

Still in the world, still trying to get real, look what confronts us!

  • We come from different places and tend to identify ourselves with the racial group of which we are a part.
  • We live in different circumstances and tend to identify ourselves by the class from which we spring, even though we have no official castes in the United States.
  • We worship — or our families have worshiped in the past — in different sacred temples, churches and synagogues and tend to identify ourselves by our family religion, or by the path we have chosen for ourselves.
  • We espouse different political and social belief systems and tend to identify ourselves with the political group of which we are a part.
  • We root for different athletic teams and tend, sometimes strenuously, to identify ourselves with our home team.
  • We are born into bodies with tags of male and female, and tend to identify ourselves with our biological sexuality.

There is more, of course, for we have endless ways of telling ourselves who we are. I do not think we mean to identify ourselves in such shallow ways. However, it is what our egoistic personality structure does for a living.

Today I would like to put the ego out of work. Not just my ego or your ego, but the forces of ego. For the forces of ego are the bastion against which faith and truth break in vain, without conscious help from us.

Let us move together below the surface of the waters in our ocean of life. Let us move now into the deep waters where we share consciousness with every being in the universe. Paramahansa Yogananda once wrote a little chant which I often sing. Its refrain is "I am the bubble. Make me the sea." Let us allow the bubble of surface self to pop. Let us sink deeply, now, into the waters of life.

Our souls swim easily and joyously in those deep waters. They are natives of the deep. There they may rest, far from manifestation, encompassed in the mystery.

Yet our souls do not simply rest there. They also take nourishment in the dark yet sacred caves of pure being. There, they can at last shrug off all of the identifying tags with which we have limited our understanding of who we are.

And, left to be "self," our souls come into their own at last. Freed from surface "shoulds," our souls can experience the natural impulses and flow of spiritual evolution and higher guidance. Deep in the caving waters, our souls naturally turn to the light within that darkness, that light which the forces of darkness cannot extinguish.

We have tried in so many ways to identify that light that comes into the darkness. Many, including myself, call that light Jesus the Christ. Others may call it Christ-consciousness, realization or Samadhi. What all our souls sense without any hesitation, in the deep sea of true self, is that the coming of that light is inevitable.

I write these words on the day before the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. This is our perfect opportunity to enter into that darkness to make our hearts full of readiness to participate in the lightening of our soul's burden.

Are you ready to let go of those darknesses within your personality which you perceive within yourself? Please forget here what others may say about you! Only you can know the work you have to do in order to be ready for the light.

I will offer my Advent confession tomorrow. That is my chief instrument, within my own Rule of Life, for getting real. I will figuratively get down on my knees and own up to every shortcoming I can perceive; every deed I have mis-done and every act of omission which would better have been a deed well done. I will tell it all out and wait in silent humility for the saving words, "The Lord has put away all your sins."

The straw is rough under my knees in the stable of my mind. Far above me, so far I can barely see it, shines the star of promise and hope, the symbol of the light in the outer world, even in the depths of winter's sleep. And just beside me, in a manger laid in my mind's eye, lies the baby whose shining countenance is for me the symbol of the light in the inner world.

Am I ready to admit to myself that we all are the Christ? Am I ready to crawl into my own crude cradle and allow myself to be reinvented, refreshed, and renewed by becoming utterly ready for the Spirit's reinvention?

Christ comes into the manifested world as a radical, a rebel and a transforming energy. Look at the beginning of Christ's ministry. It is harshly drawn in the Bible. It starts with John, Jesus' cousin, who himself is a prophet, calling all to repent and return unto the Creator. He is not gentle as he calls sinners to the Baptism of new life. He calls them a nest of vipers. He is not fooled by any outer appearance of face or form. He is not a respecter of rank, creed or color. To John the message of salvation is simple and etched clearly: "Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance."

Jesus comes to him to be baptized. John is horrified, for he feels strongly that his cousin Yeshua is the Messiah. He tries to cry off, claiming unworthiness, but Jesus refuses and John baptizes him. At that moment, the Gospel of Matthew reports, "the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove." And a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."

The ministry of Jesus the Christ, then, begins with his submitting himself to the rough ministrations of a man immersing him in the chilly waters of repentance and return. Yeshua the man cannot become Jesus the Christ, at least in his own mind, until he has emptied himself of all that has gone before.

Now it is our turn. Now, in this blessed season of darkness, we may walk the wilderness of our own human nature and make straight in that desert a highway for our Creator. I ask you to loosen the words I use from their Christian stricture if you are not Christian, for the energy and movement in the deep waters of the sea of consciousness are the same for all of us, whatever faith or lack of faith we profess. Everything else may change. The ways of spirit remain the same forever.

It is time to get real, in the spiritual sense. It is time to strip away all of our pretensions and self-identifying features. It is time to become one who kneels in the stable of our own hearts and to become empty. It is time to retire the old "me." It is time to become ready, as the bridegroom for the bride; as the match for the light.

One of my favorite Advent hymns is this one, written by Laurentius Laurenti in 1700. Here is its first verse:

[lyrics start] Rejoice, rejoice, believers and let your lights appear! The evening is advancing and darker night is near. The Bridegroom is arising, and soon he will draw nigh. Up! Watch in expectation! At midnight comes the cry! [lyrics end]

Listen to the voice of one crying in the wilderness now! "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" Watch! Pray! Repent! Let pride be dust! This is the greatest nature-aided chance we will have this year to lay it all down, to drench ourselves in our hopes and our faith in the light, and to arise ready to rejoice.

I open my arms and embrace your spirit. May you become aware today of who you really are. May the Spirit descend! And may your soul rejoice!