The Good Retreat Guide Online

Mountains and lake graphic.

Your Spiritual Journey

Sing out my soul.
Arise incense of prayer.
Make these none other
Than gates to Heaven.

9th century hymn

Entering the secret garden of the soul

The soul is like a secret garden hidden deep within us. The flowers of love bloom there, fragrant with our sweetest hopes. Mysterious and beckoning, it is the place of myths and dreams, the home of our spirit. We cannot define it. We often forget it. Yet we long to dwell there. It gives birth to our senses of wonder and belonging. It is where we seek the truths and meanings about ourselves which science cannot give us. Like the wind that stirs the stilled leaf, the soul awakens in us a movement towards the eternal. This garden of the soul knows no time or space. It is as intimate and immediate as your fingers touching your lips and as vast as the cosmos which has no beginning or ending.

To neglect the soul denies the spiritual dimension of life. It means we are restricted by the limitations of our bodies and minds - no matter how wonderful these may be. Without the leadership of the spirit to give us a moral basis for living and a deeper vision of self than the ego can provide, we become ruled by our ever changing desires and notoriously unreliable senses. These are great hindrances to knowing God.

In seeking the garden of our soul, in searching for the sacred, we free our spirit and begin to unite ours body, mind and spirit. In this way we can begin to be one with all Creation. We put an end to our useless sense of possession and become aware that we belong to the myriad creatures that share this planet, to the moon and stars and to the very stones at our feet. We realise that our life is not separate but a continuous part of all visible and invisible nature.

The ancient gateways to God

Imagine for a moment this garden of your soul. It is surrounded by a great wall built up by your sense of self-importance. Your ego stands guard, hoping to bar your way. But here and there are ancient gateways into the garden. They have existed perhaps since humans first gazed up at the heavens and they are to be found in one form or another in all the great spiritual traditions of the world. When you go through one of them, you begin to live a sacred life.

The Gateway of Stillness

There is the Gateway of Stillness, a direct step into inner space where you may find rest in that silence and solitude which gives repose to your spirit and health to your body.

The Gateway of Mindfulness

When worries fill you up and relationships fail, the Gateway of Mindfulness leads you back to being present in the moment so you can regain perspective and grasp true realities. It helps you recognise illusion, the source of human suffering.

The Gateway of Listening

If you would hear with your heart, then you must enter the Gateway of Listening, where there are voices which speak of your true self.

The Gateway of Meditation

The Gateway of Meditation frees the spirit, refuses entry to worldly desires and concerns and calms the mind.

The Gateway of Loving

The Gateway of Loving leads to a life of compassion which makes you desire only the will of God. Then the soul cries out: 'Oh, God, I am yours! Come, Beloved!'

The Gateway of Affirmation

The Gateway of Affirmation is decorated with the blessings in your life and lets you take stock of the way you are presently living.

The Gateway of Celebration

The moments when we are consciousness of the splendour of the world around us are manifold. When you watch an ant or when your eye catches the shining colour of a dragonfly, you may feel awe at such marvellous works of efficiency and beauty. When you hear lightning and thunder, you may become a child afraid of the overwhelming unknown. When you wake in the arms of your beloved, you may feel blissful peace. When the colours of autumn fill you with awe, your heart fills with joy. In such moments you are fully alive in life and this is the mark of your awareness of Creation itself. This fosters a unity with the eternal and the Gateway of Celebration opens wide and raises the soul up in songs of praise for this divine union.

The Gateway of Dreaming

The Gateway of Dreaming leads to a rediscovery of innocence that restores hope. Without dreams, hope fades and the vision of the soul grows faint. The Gateway of Creativity brings into existence your hidden gifts and helps you live a life of spiritual values.

The Gateway of Prayer

If you would talk with God, then the Gateway of Prayer is the way of the pure heart.

The Holy Realm of Wisdom

The holy realm of Wisdom is to be found when you pass through these ancient and holy gateways to the soul. Here hidden realities become visible and the self is grounded in truth. Wisdom is the Crown of God and she will bring you an understanding of the meaning of your life.

Read more about Gateways

If you would like to read more about these gateways to God and find out what exercises and meditations will help you, then read

Living the Sacred: Ten Gateways to Open Your Heart

by Stafford Whiteaker, author of The Good Retreat Guide