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If I was creating my own reality, it was a crappy one. Things looked good from the outside, but inside it was depressing as a bologna sandwich. Even though I couldn’t afford the luxury of negative thoughts, they kept multiplying. It was like playing Whack-a-Mole.

There are many very good reasons for temporary spiritual depression. One is that the spiritual quest puts us on a collision course with a vast and mysterious unconscious that lies far outside the ego’s control. It can be just plain scary and overwhelming. Ancient spiritual traditions barred entry to those who were not carefully prepared and guided, but today we lack these support systems and are left to wander through a house of mirrors on our own.

Even though the spiritual quest can put us in touch with ecstasy, this temporary transcendence can be painfully at odds with everyday life, causing feelings of abandonment and grief. Though challenging, this is a normal and very real stage of spiritual growth that is designed to prod us into searching even deeper within for what is missing.

Encountering the unknown also means risking the demise of our old self without any guarantees as to the nature of the new. Because the truly novel lies beyond our present understanding and experience, moving toward mystery inevitably leads through the chaos of not knowing – a very uncomfortable place to hang out.

There is an aspect of our being that is in direct contact with the unconscious – the soul. Lacking words, the soul often uses emotion, even depression, to alert us that something of infinite importance is brewing.

There are many more reasons for spiritual depression, but they don’t need to be the last word. There is a way out of the thistles and thorns….

It is through the heart.

The brain is inherently dualistic. It has two halves that are forever in a push-me-pull-you tug of war. That’s depressing and exhausting in itself, especially since we live in a brain-obsessed culture.

But the heart is the great unifier. To move attention from the surging tempest of the brain into the stillness of the heart is to enter serenity. It is a calm where all things are included, for the heart is in direct communion with all that is.

This discovery was stunning to me because I had failed so miserably in trying to control my thoughts. Now for the first time it was easy, precisely because I was no longer operating at the level of thinking.

As I combined this focus on the heart with relaxation just before falling asleep, my dreams took on a new vibrancy. Characters came forth as guides, dream interpreters, and mentors and my nighttime activity became interwoven with waking life to form a whole.

The heart, in concert with the soul, provided direct access to the unconscious and I was given a front row seat to a really fascinating show. As I’ve discovered, dreams are an invaluable resource available to virtually everyone, and a lot more fun than Whack-a-Mole.

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Paul Rademacher is Editor of Inner Story Magazine and CEO of Lucid Greening – a crowdfunding platform for projects based in spirituality and consciousness development. He is a former Executive Director of The Monroe Institute, known for its pioneering work in the exploration of human consciousness.

He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree in 1985 and served as a Presbyterian pastor from 1985 to 2000. He is a former building contractor, designer, and journeyman carpenter. Paul is an acclaimed public speaker, seminar leader, artist, closet musician, husband, and father of three.

His book, A Spiritual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe: Travel Tips for the Spiritually Perplexed, was published in 2009.

Paul’s blog can be found at

For more information, please visit and

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Paul always manages to inspire from the heart with quiet words of wisdom. Dreams are so easily discarded, unincorporated into our sense of spirtuality and physical reality. It does make one wonder why they are so often overlooked and ignored. Our unconscious speaks to us so often at night, likely never silent, yet so easily forgotten come the light of day. I’m eagerly looking forward to Paul’s next book about it as his first book “The Spiritual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” was amazing in such a subtle way. I still remember clearly the day I picked up that book to read and was so drawn to story of synchronicity in Paul’s life, that I was able to then see them in my own life. The book made me more aware of how often both synchronicities and opportunities present themselves in our lives, sometimes changing our paths forever if we pay attention to the subtleness of our unconscious and the whole of consciousness at play in our lives if we only give it attention and allow it. Afterall, where DOES it come from? Who or What does speak to us or through us, in our dreams? And why? Trusting our own inner knowledge, following our dreams, seems to be severly lacking in modern society and religion. Very much looking forward to your next book Paul!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind remarks and for your insights about dreams, consciousness and the inner path. The questions you pose are some of the most important we can entertain and can make for a very interesting life! The very things we so easily overlook can connect us to essential and life changing wisdom.

  2. Paul, your words, both spoken in the interview posted and written above, are inspiring. You present a calm wisdom that screams of an experience through honest reflection. As I listened to your interview, I found myself nodding in agreement and recalling many of my own experiences. You manage to capture the awe and beauty of an event and lend understanding to your readers that tends to be elusive when using words to describe it. I am making my way through your book, and find it to be an amazing journey. You are an inspiration, and I thank you for sharing your personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences so people like myself can find not only new wisdom, but also comfort during those dark moments when we reach those low points of depression on our spiritual journey. This was a nice reminder that some of our most difficult times can be the seeds of our most beautiful rewards.

    1. Thanks, Dennis. I am pleased you found this helpful. It has become increasingly apparent to me that we desperately need to recover the spiritual dimension of being if we are to grasp wholeness in any sense as individuals and communities. Depression can often be a part of that journey and, as you note, can provide crucial learning as we move from one level of awareness to the next. It is helpful to remember that every aspect of our experience is useful and nothing is ever lost. I wish you many blessings on your path of awakening.

  3. Hello Paul! I’ve only just discovered you through this article, which was reproduced on Care2. What you wrote sounded exactly like what I’ve been going through. In the article you wrote, “As I combined this focus on the heart with relaxation just before falling asleep”. Can you elaborate on that please? What do you mean by “focus on the heart”? How did you do that?

    1. Hi Kathy,

      The way I focus on the heart is to first pay attention to where you habitually maintain your awareness within your body. For me it is as if I am sitting directly behind my eyes looking through them as if my eyes are windows. You may have a different point of reference within your body.

      But that point of reference can change very quickly – when I stub my toe, for instance. Then all of my attention goes immediately to that spot and awareness of the rest of my body goes away. But it is also possible to also shift our awareness intentionally and not rely on pain to do it for us.

      Practice this intentional shifting of your attention to different body parts before you go to bed each night. You can also play around with sensing the different energy centers in your body so they become more distinct.

      When you get the hang of moving your attention, notice the energy center in your heart area – it’s not necessarily the same as the physical heart. See if you can perceive its characteristics and qualities. When you sense that energy center then pretend you are moving from your habitual place of awareness to an area behind your spine and at the level of the heart center. Move forward into the heart center until you sense a stopping place. This is the outer heart space that is quite lovely in itself. Notice its characteristics and qualities.

      When you are ready move to a second place that is more inward, you will find a second stopping place. This is the inner heart. You don’t need to do anything more. Just hang out there until you fall asleep. Then do the same thing when you wake up in the morning before getting out of bed. Practice this as much as you can – which isn’t hard because it is a really pleasant experience.

      This is a great space to enter to remember your dreams in the morning and to begin to interact with the people who emerge out of the dream state. Allow yourself to pretend you are having a conversation with them. You may be very surprised what will happen.

      Anyway, That”s how I do it. I will be putting a home study course that goes more in depth soon.

      Thanks for your question!


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