In the South Pacific, there is a chain of 176 islands belonging to the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga. One of these tropical islands, Nuapapu, is renowned for its interior, domed-cavern known as Mariner’s Cave.

From the outside, the island looks unpretentiously normal, a coarse, rocky surface, lushly overgrown with countless varieties of trees and plants. But, on the north end of the island about six feet under the water is a dark hole.

That hole is the entrance into Mariner’s Cave. Those who are brave enough to conquer their fears and plunge into the unknown darkness are well rewarded once they surface inside the pristine cave.

The magnificent dome is radiant with a shimmering turquoise light that comes from the afternoon sun, igniting the crystal waters of the South Pacific into a fiery blue light show that dances on the walls and ceiling. The salty air condenses into a thick fog each time a surging wave plows into the cave. Each of the five senses are tantalized by this amazing cavern.

Ironically, there’s no telling how many adventurers have sailed right by the unimpressive island wall, unaware that just beneath the plain exterior was a magical interior world waiting to be discovered. Or, who knows how many may have known of the cave but dared not jump into the mysterious opening, unsure of the swim through the dark passage or what they might find on the inside.

But, for those who are willing to risk the plunge — well, it is the experience of a lifetime.

Like the island of Nuapapu with its Mariner’s Cave, human beings also have an exterior and an interior.

Our exterior selves are the impressive personas we build to draw the attention and, hopefully, the admiration of others. We construct these exterior lives out of tangible achievements like a 4.0 GPA, accomplishments we can list in our resume, a flattering selfie we post on Instagram, promotion to a high-profile job or anything else that makes us look important. An exterior life, lavishly decorated with impressive achievements, can create a well-earned identity of success. Of course, the opposite is also painfully true. 

The interior life is different. It is not visible to others; only we have access to it. It has nothing to do with what we have done, how we look or what we own. This interior self is our truest self, the core of our being. It isn’t anything we can build or earn; it’s a gift. It’s the you that your parents held in loving arms under their admiring gaze, even before you could do anything to deserve it. There is no new achievement that could improve your true self and no failure that could diminish it.

The interior life is where your true self lives in pure and primal belovedness. 

If belovedness is our deepest and innermost reality, then why do we often feel unloved, unappreciated and unnoticed? I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with our obsessive preoccupation with our exterior life — our image, our reputation — on the one hand and our increasing estrangement from our interior life — our truest and beloved self — on the other.

We struggle heroically to build ourselves into somebody of value and importance when the deepest truth is that we already are and always have been. 

What if you risked the plunge into the Mariner’s Cave of your own interior life and began exploring the belovedness that has been waiting there for you?

It just might be the experience of a lifetime. 


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