02/02/2012 08:54 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2012

'Unbinding The Heart: A Dose Of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, And Unconditional Love' (EXCERPT)

The following is an excerpt from 'Unbinding The Heart' by Agapi Stassinopoulos.

There was a game I used to play when I was four years old, with one of my favorite sitters, an older girl, around 15. I would hide someplace and I would ask her if God could see me there. I'd hide under the table, under the bed, in the closet, behind a tree in the garden, and I'd ask her, "Can God see me here? What about here? Can he see me here?" as I ran from hiding place to hiding place with all the innocence of that precious age.

And my sitter would say, "Yes, God can see you everywhere. This is because he is everywhere. You can't hide from him."

I don't know how this topic came up when I was four, or what put the question in my mind. But it made perfect sense to me then that the presence of God was everywhere. It wasn't until later that I lost touch with that essential truth.

As we grow up, it's as if a veil drops between us and the pure, essential awareness with which we came into the world. We begin our education, we adapt to our environment, and we conform to the ways of our family, community, and society; gradually, all these things put layers between us and the presence of God, or Spirit, or whatever name we choose to give it. We develop the drive to achieve -– we earn degrees, we go after success, we enter relationships, we build a life for ourselves -– and the hurts and disappointments that come from living can start to affect us. We develop an idea of who and what we are supposed to become that moves us away from simply being who we are. And as we step more and more fully into this worldly identity, we can get hooked into it, at the expense of our soul.

That's what happened to me. At a tender age, I was all innocence and openness; love was what I was all about. Then, as I grew into my teenage years, a deep desire to become a star took hold of me. I think it was born out of the hurt of my parents' separation, which left me feeling unsure of my place. I had formed the belief that I wasn't lovable unless I was recognized by the world. On my to-do list, there was "Study for math test" and "Make birthday card for Daddy" and "Go to dance class," and at the bottom was always "Be famous," lest I forget. As time went on, I got more and more convinced that I had to become a star in order to be seen and known –- that my very existence depended on it. I got so hooked into the worldly identity I'd fashioned for myself that if God himself had come and sat at my feet and said, "I am here," I would have replied, "I can’t see you right now. I am too busy becoming somebody. I'll have to get back to you."

It was only later in my life, when I had forgotten what I knew so well when I was four years old -– and when the fame thing wasn't happening –- that I would want to see God as much as the four-year-old wanted to be seen and the 14-year-old wanted to be famous. That's when I started to knock on doors, giving my spiritual search my whole mind, body, and soul. I wanted to lift that veil as much as I wanted my next breath. And I wanted to be happy. I didn't like the pain I was in; I didn’t think it fit for my nature. I was determined to get free.

We crave connection to Spirit, but our society doesn't exactly support us in this quest. There are plenty of signposts along our path directing us to work hard, look good, make money, get married, and on and on, but there are no signs reminding us to stay connected to the essence of who we are. We see placards that say, Please remember to take your personal belongings, but there are none to tell us, Please be sure not to leave your soul behind. You don’t get an Oscar for keeping an open heart, and you'll never see a resume with the bullet point "Have preserved my original innocence." Can you imagine? You'd never got it in the door for the interview!

I believe that no matter how hooked on our worldly personas we get, deep down in our human hearts we're still asking that same four-year-old's question: Can I be seen here? Can God see me here? But we're so focused on looking for the answer outside ourselves -– thinking that God is “out there” somewhere -– that we forget to look inward. Instead, we look to the next book, teacher, seminar, or religious service to give us back when we think we're missing, that original connection we were born with. Sometimes we imagine that we can regain it through other people –- our families, children, spouses, lovers, and friends. We fall in love and we think that will do it, and sometimes it does for a bit. Then we fall out of love and we're back in the search again. And there's nothing wrong with seeking connection that is available to us -– yes, just for us, exactly as we are!

We know the truth when we are just four years old: when we ask, "Can God see me here?" the answer is always yes. The warm and loving presence of Spirit is everywhere. There is no place we can go where that presence is not; no place we can hide. We don’t need to prove ourselves or manipulate our circumstances in any way in order to regain that essential connection. What we can do, however, what we need to do, is peel away the layers and come back to the truth we’ve always known, that Spirit never leaves our lives. The wonderful thing about veils is that they are there to be lifted.

Where do you find your portable paradise? Share with us in the comments

"Unbinding The Heart" is the latest book by Agapi Stassinopoulos and can be purchased at this website.