Lent is a time to deepen our spiritual lives and open our hearts to the refreshment of the Spirit. Here is my latest article for Integrated Catholic Life.

When teaching my personal development course called ‘Ordinary Hero’ I show the students a picture of an ancient tree and explain how our lives have three levels: the branches and leaves represent our everyday concerns — our daily worries, joys, tasks and choices. The trunk of the tree symbolizes our conscious beliefs and values. We can discuss our religious and moral principles, our political convictions and the ideas and philosophy that drive us. Our beliefs, like the tree trunk, support the branching out of our daily lives. However, the part of us which supports it all is the roots. Buried below the ground, the root system is as wide reaching and complex as the branches and leaves. Because the roots are underground we can’t reach them, and yet they are the most important part of the tree because it is from the roots that the rest of the tree is nourished. If the roots are sick, the rest of the tree will languish.

So in our lives, it is the deep unseen part of us which supports our outer life. Some people call this the ‘subconscious’. This suggests a ‘basement level’ of our lives which is somehow inferior or undeveloped. I prefer to call this the ‘root level’ of our lives for instead of being a dull, empty basement the subconscious is a rich, living and mysterious treasure house of memories, connections, emotions and longings. Here is where we connect not only with our own memories, but the echoes of ancestral voices. Here we connect with the deep yearnings and mysterious meanings of the whole human race. Here we connect with the saints and angels. Here we connect with the symbolism of dreams, the terror of the night and the unspoken joys of morning. Here we feel the hope of life, the fear of death, the delight of love and the loneliness of despair.

Like a tree with a good root system, this level of life can be healthy and life giving, or it can be diseased and cause pain and suffering in our everyday life. The root level can be diseased in many different ways. Habitual sin will seep down and poison the roots. Abuse and trauma from the past can leave a kind of festering canker in the roots which exudes poison into our lives. Violence, addiction and hatred from past generations can lurk at the root level producing a kind of ‘background poison’ which interferes with our peace and happiness.

What can be done? How can we get down to the root level of our lives to put things right?

Read the whole article over at ICL