Richard Harvey—Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
Follow my work on TwitterFollow my work on LinkedInFollow my work on Facebook

Follow me on:

The True Nature of Human Beings: Awareness and Self-Realization

Human beings are raised to identify themselves in opposition to everything around them. Instead of seeing ourselves as confluent and continuous with life, we learn to pit ourselves, our strength, our energy, our emotionality against life. It is a battle that we are condemned to lose. How could we be against the very same forces that gave birth to us? The same principles of procreation that gave rise to us have created the manifold universe of a multitude of forms. We may like some of them more than others, but ultimately what is the difference?

We human beings are the same composition, the same cake so to speak of material, physical, psychical, mental, intellectual, rational, emotional, energetic, spiritual, soulful transcendence, earth-bound and divine. Furthermore, we are the same as a tree, a mountain, a flower or an animal, and yet we are much more than that in essence.

As human beings, we are exceptional because we have the ability to self-reflect and therefore potentially know ourselves. This distinguishing blessing should be taken seriously, and the history of humanity clearly shows that it has – hence the enormous richness of spiritual philosophies and methods: organized religion is 11,000 years old and recorded religion is as old as writing, about 5000 years old.

So there is this one difference between you and a rock, you and a wave in the ocean, you and a tree. You are capable of self-reflection through the practice of awareness and by means of awareness you may realize the true Self and attain the truth of your authentic nature.

To understand what your real nature is, you must penetrate inside yourself. It sounds like a male word, a male term: penetrate, but in fact it is more female because it implies surrender, yielding, letting go and entering into the mystery of the Self and through that into the mystery of life.

Real nature, the essence, the soul or the heart of something, is what the Buddhists call thing-ness; what would be translated as Richard-ness in my case or George-ness or Jane-ness in yours. Like all deep truths and wisdom that is hard to come to grips with, a story illustrates it best.

When I was young I would take odd jobs. One summer a local farmer offered to pay me to take out a tree stump that was hanging on a bank over the highway. The tree had been a big one. The diameter of the stump was wide, the roots deep, but it had been dead for many years and no one could remember it being anything other than a stump.

I started at the beginning of the day. I brought tools, some lunch and water. A friend passed as I was struggling with the work and helped for a while. I pulled pieces off the stump, pushed it, trying to dislodge it. Eventually I pulled it and rocked it and hung off it with my full weight in the hope of yanking it down into the road. But by lunchtime it was barely dislodged. And I had begun to despair. If I failed not only was I likely not to get paid, but the probability was that the farmer would call someone else – someone more strong and capable – when he had jobs to do, jobs that I could do with. So over lunch I galvanized my will and threw myself back into the work with renewed vigor. I seemed to be making some headway, but it seemed unlikely that I would make it before dark. I began to get angry with the tree stump, partly 27 because I thought it would help and partly because I was beginning to anthropomorphize the tree. It stood for everyone that had opposed, ridiculed, judged, and mistreated me in my entire life.

I took a spade and began hitting it. I took a pick and swung it deep into the earth, lassoed it with my rope and pulled and tried to drag it into submission. My anger was escalating into vengeance and rage. Then I entered the reasoning stage. I began to try and talk a tree stump into submission! None of it worked, then something peculiar happened. It was as if the spirit in the tree spoke to me and said you have to find the heart, penetrate to the core, deeply understand to have power over me. From then on each of my movements was somehow directed. I had a sense of purpose and strategy, and more than this, a sense of certainty; I knew I would succeed in bettering this tree stump. It was mine to take out now.

After half an hour’s work, I saw clearly and distinctly a round stone. The source of the roots congregated around this stone and it sat in the very center of the stump about two feet below the surface of the earth. I knew this was what I had to dislodge, so I dug around and in and toward it until I pulled it out and held it in my hand. This is the heart of the tree, I heard a voice say inside me; perhaps it was the tree spirit’s voice. I dropped the stone and threw myself on that part of the tree stump that hung over the road. I pulled downward with all my might. I brought every ounce of strength to the endeavor and incredibly the stump broke away from the earth bank and we fell together into the country lane.

Almost crying with exertion and relief, I stood for a full two minutes in the center of the road with the palms of my hands together, paying honor, respect, and reverence to the tree spirit. I saw it growing from a seed into a sapling into a tree and spreading its magnificent, wondrous foliage, providing shade, sharing its beauty and standing through years of change in all weathers and circumstances, children and animals and adults congregating, playing, and sheltering in its embrace. Finally, I saw its long, slow, great decline and demise. I paid respect to the corpse of the tree and bid farewell to the tree’s spirit before I pulled and dragged the stump and broken roots off the road in a profound inner silence.

By penetrating to the very heart of your humanness, you understand the essence of what it means to be a human being. To be human is to be self-reflective, self-aware, and ultimately to realize the true heart, the essence that is pure and timeless being, boundless consciousness. There are no words to describe the true nature of a human being. Ultimately it is wordless. It is in the silence between the words, in the space between the breaths, in the mystery that pervades all things. It is the source of all arising forms, the play of consciousness. It is the inner emptiness, the matrix of creativity, restlessness and peace, which fills your core, which inhabits your soul, which waters your spirit, which gives rise to this miracle of life.

While each individual human being is worthy beyond measure, we are not all equal. Some have greater potentials, destinies, and functions than others. However, in one aspect we are the same. With rare exceptions, human beings lose their connection with their true nature while growing up, under the pressure of needing to become “someone” who is acceptable or even lovable. Reconnecting, finding the treasure, the true Self buried beneath behavior patterns, masks and defense systems becomes the major, if not the sole, life task of a human being. It is thus important that you take the potential of your humanness seriously, that you become the person you truly are and realize your true nature in the form that you have been given, as an act of divine grace.

This article is an excerpt from Richard Harvey’s book Your Divine Opportunity.


Share this article

This article was published on this site in December 2023.

Related information