Roughly 20 years of searching for answers I can distill to a simple report:
God/the divine/the transcendent dwells in our innermost being.
But our individual self can choose to focus on it, or not.
It is the summum bonum, the creator, the beginning and the end, self-existent being itself; and it is also love and joy to us.
We focus outwardly on the world, hoping to achieve and procure love and joy – happiness – for ourselves through various actions and ends.
But since the source of all things dwells already in us, looking out to “things” while neglecting the source is why we experience repeated suffering and confusion.
Turning inward and despising the outer world is a mistake. God doesn’t despise the world, so how can you turn towards God while hating his creation?
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
But this doesn’t mean pretending that evil is good.
The plumbing in our home is a bit funny. You can turn on the hot tap and it will run warm, then go cold, before becoming truly hot.
If you turn off the tap because it gets cold, you’ll never allow the really hot water to flow.
In fact you want to open the tap as much as possible, and just let the cold water go, all the sooner to enjoy the heat again.
The key is trusting and knowing that the heat will come, even if it has to first push out a whole lot of cold water sitting in the pipes.
Faith, Hope, and Love
The God who dwells in your innermost being is the creator of all that is. There is nothing higher, greater, more powerful, or more eternal than that.
Yet we experience a multiplicity of things “the world” that seem to exist on their own and obey their own rules.
If God is love, why do we suffer?
We suffer because we turn away from God in our innermost being, and try to share our attention with other ‘gods’ or idols, or simply fears and doubts.
That is why faith, hope, and love are so important, because they are how we translate God in our innermost being into the outer world of our experience.
Faith, hope, and love are what it feels like when there is no resistance in us to the divine flowing out from our innermost being into the world.
While these three have layers of meaning, in a personal spiritual context faith is the knowledge, trust or certainty that God in our innermost being is in complete and perfect control of all that is, and that only our resistance colours the perfect creation God wills for us.
Hope is desire and expectation. It is the belief – despite how the world might appear – that our desires will be fulfilled, that the love, joy and happiness we seek are being met.
Love is considered the greatest of these three because love is the nature of God. Both the nature of the divine, and His disposition toward creation, and hence when we adopt an attitude of love toward creation we are embracing God’s own attitude. We are united with God’s will.
Love is God Himself, while faith and hope are antidotes to the doubts and fears that we have created in our world. Love without faith and hope would be difficult to muster.
For me, faith and hope mean that nothing is impossible, and the fulfillment of Love can expand out into my experience, my reality.
It helps to know also that there are already people for whom this is reality. I may not have met them yet, but I know that they exist.
The path forward
Magnify the divine in my innermost being. Turn towards it continually, and cease focusing on anything that detracts from it, knowing that such detractions exist only in my own divided focus.
There is no other power, no other path, no other goal than the God in my innermost being. There is nothing and no one else to turn to. And everything else I might turn to, I do so only in search of the love and joy that is already there within me.
It is the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field, the kingdom for which all else is given up, and through which all else is gained.