When I speak of "Christ-consciousness" I am referring to the degree of your awareness along three lines. One is your awareness of yourself. I sometimes ask people, "Who are you when no one is looking?" It's an important question but, unfortunately, most people live as I lived for much of my adult life-completely out-of-touch or uncertain as to who they really are.

All of us wear a social mask, what psychologists often refer to as an ego. It is the image you have of yourself or the self-image you present to the world. What most people do not yet know, however, is that your ego, this image of yourself you display before the world, is not who you really are at all.

The real you is beneath and beyond the image you carry around in your head as to who you are, the image you want everyone to see and believe is you. The Christian theologian, Teilhard de Chardin put it like this: "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are really spiritual beings having a temporary human experience." Until you know this, or know who you really are in the deepest place within you, you will live an "unconscious," or out-of-touch, existence. Or, to state it another way, the path to real happiness and wholeness in life starts with knowing who you are, as well as who you're not.

So, this is part of what I mean by "Christ-consciousness" or what Easterners call your "Buddha-nature." You could think of this in Biblical terms as the "soul," provided you don't get too Platonic about it and think of your soul as a separate entity captured temporarily in your body. I am referring only to your essential nature-who you really are beneath the facades-and there can be many of these. The ego in us is always changing and eventually dissolving.

People will often ask me, "How will I know when I know who I really am?"

And, the answer is, "When you no longer have to ask the question."

There's another aspect to "Christ-consciousness." The genuinely aware, or conscious, person, not only knows who she/he is beyond the social masks but, as a consequence, why he/she is here-that is, why he/she showed up on planet earth. One of the biggest mistakes made in recent Christian history has been this notion that we all showed up for a special "purpose." Christians know this as God's perfect and permissive wills. It's a whole lot of bunk, if you ask me.

Easterners are taught something similar in the teaching of dharma. It is this erroneous idea that you were created with a special purpose to fulfill on planet earth. So, what we've done, not only in Christianity but in other religions too, is create this insane expectation in people that their task in life is to figure out what they showed up to do.

You can guess the consequences of that nonsense. The overwhelming majority of people live a frustrating existence because they go through life never certain they've figured out why they really showed or what they're here to do. It's madness.

You really only showed up for one reason-to know God and to walk with her, or him, or whatever you'd like to call it. It really doesn't matter, does it? My children usually call me Dad. But, there are other times they call me Daddy, or Pop, and, when they're mad at me, it's Stephen. Do you think I care what they call me. I would only care if they did not.

With God, everything is pretty simple. It is religion, and religious people, and the ego in us all that complicates things. What could be less complicated than knowing God? Why would God, if it is true she wants to know and walk with us, make it difficult or complicated for us to do so? And, when it comes to your life and mine, what could you ever do or accomplish that could mark your life as more significant than walking in the Eternal bliss of God's ineffable presence? I can think of nothing, can you?

I've put up an entire post on my blog about this (and written a whole book about this and other matters related to the spiritual life), and I'd love to share some of the things I've learned with you. To get started, visit my blog at http://www.stevemcswain.com.

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Author's Bio: 

For more than a decade, community leaders, corporate executives, politicians, priests, pastors, and other religious leaders, have heard Dr. McSwain’s passionate call to philanthropy, generosity, and a spirituality that reaches beyond the customary divides, one respectful of all religious traditions. Whether a congregational setting or a corporate event, Dr. McSwain connects with audiences everywhere. His message is candid, but respectful, humorous and always uplifting. Each year, he speaks in Roman Catholic parishes, mainline Protestant churches, and Evangelical congregations all over America. In workshops, seminars, conferences, and corporate events, Dr. McSwain inspires people to achieve their highest purpose and to enjoy the spiritually-connected life. His public speaking covers a broad range of topics including generosity, inter-faith dialogue, spirituality and spiritual formation, ethics, ecology, and social justice.