“Spiritual traditions have coined a whole lexicon of terms trying to label the inner teacher – the wisdom at our center, the essence of what we actually, intrinsically are. In this book I’ve referred to your inner teacher primarily as your integrity, but I’ve also used the terms true self, true nature and essential self. In another book I called it the meta self which means beyond self, as opposed to your meat self, your body and brain. Labels from other writers include the know self, absolute awareness, Buddha nature, Christ consciousness, enlightened mind, God consciousness, non being, the I am, the absolute, the Universe, fundamental consciousness and many more.
The real essence of your inner teacher lies beyond all labels, you can’t experience it by thinking about it, only by being it. Now, of course having just told you that your inner teacher is indescribable, I am going to try to describe it.
When we think, hear or understand something that is deeply true for us, our inner teachers rise in us as a delicious, lucid resonance. When we grasp truth, any truth, from the correct solution to a math problem, to the capacity for love, all of our ways of knowing align. We recognise this alignment as our ideal stated being. It feels calm, clear, still, open. That feeling is the inner teacher saying yes! The way of integrity is simply to listen to this voice, to sustain this feeling, not just occasionally but often, even continuously. Individuals who can do this are venerated as spiritual masters.
If you despair of ever becoming so enlightened, remember that you’ve already done it once: you were a baby for a while and babies who are too young to have any beliefs simply align with what they truly perceive. That is why spiritual teachers often point to little children as role models for enlightened living. But even we grown-ups, lost in the dark wood of error, feel at one with our true selves again every time we brush away a cobweb of false beliefs and perceive something real. At these moments, when the inner teacher makes its presence known, we sometimes say we are experiencing the ring of truth. The last time you woke up from a dream, it may have taken you a few seconds to orient yourself, but you soon figured out that what had seemed to be reality only moments before , was just a hallucination. How have you made this determination? How did you decide which experience was real and which was illusory? By checking with the inner teacher I’ve just described.
This isn’t a complicated process. Waking life is observably more resonant with truth than a dream once we’ve evaluated the two experiences. We do this with all our meaning making systems – body, mind, heart and soul. […] I am dwelling on this because listening to our inner teacher is the most important skill we need to follow the way of integrity. When we meet external soul teachers, we know to trust them only because we feel the ring of truth internally. And even when no external teacher is available, the inner teacher always is. So another characteristic of the inner teacher, the most important one, is that you can feel it in all aspects of your being – body, mind, heart and soul – at once.
The body’s reaction to recognising truth is relaxation, a literal, involuntary release of muscle tension. […] When our minds recognise truth, we experience that invisible cartoon lightbulb going on in our heads, the feeling of riddle being solved, aha!, we think or I get it or of course. All the puzzle pieces fit, the math works, everything makes logical sense. To our hearts, the ring of truth feels like a flower opening up. In total integrity we’re completely available to all emotion: overwhelming love, deep grief, terrible anger, sharp fear. This emotion may be painful but it doesn’t cause the intense suffering we feel in the dark wood of error. The emotional pain of a hard truth is eased by our souls response to aligning with reality: around and beyond mere emotion we feel a sense of freedom, a vast openness that includes all aspects of our experience. We connect with an unalterable stillness around and within us: there’s space for pain, there’s space for joy and this space, where all this sensation happens, is made of absolute wellbeing. It is, we are, a perfect fertile no-thing-ness in which everything, even pain, has a useful place. ”Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity – Finding the Path to Your True Self