I’ve been reading a fascinating book recently about extreme athletes who’ve experienced high spiritual states when pushing beyond their physical and mental limits. In Explorers of the Infinite, by Maria Coffey, I came across a particular phrase that both surprised and intrigued me.
The author says that many extreme athletes—skiers, mountaineers, free divers—were raised by religious parents, but as teenagers turned away from spiritual beliefs. This leaves in them (and here she quotes the surprising phrase by Jean-Paul Sartre) a “God-shaped hole” which they fill with the transcendent experiences of extreme sports. What took me by surprise is that Sartre, an existentialist philosopher and atheist, would refer to God at all, and that he would even echo the thoughts expressed by saints throughout the world.
This “God-shaped hole” keeps us forever seeking to fill a void within us and satisfy the hunger of our soul. Whether through pushing the body beyond its limits, through absorption in the arts, or through deep meditation, we are compelled from within to experience our oneness with a greater reality.
Centuries earlier St. Augustine put it this way, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” No matter how we try to arrange the pieces of our life, we are left dissatisfied and restless. At last we find our way to the spiritual path, and begin the journey that ends in peace.
A disciple once asked Yoganandaji, “Will I ever leave the spiritual path?”
The Master replied, “How could you? Everyone in the world is on the spiritual path.”
Is everyone consciously seeking God? Clearly not. But everyone in his or her own way is striving to fill the “God-shaped hole” that completes the puzzle of why we exist, and makes us whole once more.
In divine friendship,