Times seem tough during these spring days. There’s oil running from an undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening beaches of Florida, even the Gulf Stream to Europe, wreaking havoc on thousands of species of wildlife along with humanity. There are economies failing in the richest countries of the world. There are earthquakes being reported so frequently this year we can hardly keep track of them. There are children and teachers being killed in colleges and lower schools around the world by upset and angry people. How can there be a message of peace for people who listen or read about these events?
To begin with, most spiritual teachers begin with the assumption that there is loneliness, fear, anger and tragedy in this world. A short reading of major sacred writings reveals an attempt to bring peace and hope in a world of pain, injustice, and death. Christian scriptures are no different. The last book in the Christian writings, “The Revelation of John”, depicts an awful world in the present and yet to come. It can be a confusing and frightening book to read and many have tried to take it literally, making it more confusing. Yet amidst this unique book of “last things,” there is hope for peace shared.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock;
if any let me in, I will come in to them
and sup with them and they with me.”
And then this,
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’,
and let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes to take the water of life as a gift, come!”
These are messages for the mind and heart, urging surrender to a higher power to show peace and share in its experience.
The so-gospel of John is another favorite writing, not to be taken literally, but certainly full of urgings to heart and mind to surrender to Oneness with God and each other. We read of Jesus saying:
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you,
May they also be in us, so that the world may believe
That you and sent me.”
How do we experience such relief in our troubled world and times? How can we know such peace? How?
I believe what is being said in metaphor and poetic symbol is that in our deepest being, we are all one with God, Jesus, and all in Spirit. Our essence is not these mortal, trouble filled minds and bodies, but the same Spirit as our Creator and all on earth. To have peace is to awaken to this reality, a reality indestructible, eternal, and available to enjoy by all.
But how do you think of yourself? For most, we define ourselves as bodies, as male and female, with all sorts of characteristics describing who we are and what we have done. But which are you? We are told that every seven years we have a completely new body of cellular matter. Which model year are you? Bodies come and go, change in age, disease and accident. But You remain, in waking hours and in sleep. Spirit is this You!
Do you realize how you always see your body as the observer? You never identify yourself as a body, or any parts of it such as arm, let, face, or hair. It’s always “my body, my arm, my leg, my face or hair.” We never talk about ourselves saying “I body, I arm, I leg, or I face or hair.” A teacher once said, “find out who this observer is and you will find the true ‘I’.” And so it is.
If we identify ourselves as Spirit and part of the Universal Spirit which is in all people and life, then our attempts to find and live peace will become more stable. Yes, body aches, pains, wars, oil spills will continue on but they won’t have the same constant depressing effect upon us. We will recognize this planet and universe is time and space bound; it’s mortal and has an end as it had a beginning. Our Spirit Self is eternal, without beginning and end; it just is. And our pain, sadness and loneliness come from our attachment to what is seen, the mortal and passing world and life about us.
In ancient Buddhism, the first so-called “noble truth” goes something like this: “All humanity is miserable, sad and lonely.” The second noble truth goes; “This sadness and misery is called from attachments to the transient world we live within.” And the third truth is; “Freedom and release is found and experienced in giving up these attachments and living in Spirit awareness, in the Now.” The remaining “truths” continue teaching the practice of living so that one can attain a deeper realization of the Now, Spirit, our true Self.
Christianity teaches the same in its simplest, more direct form. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death.” Sin is simply defined as “missing the mark,” being mistaken in our understanding of who we and Creator Father are. “Death” is the loneliness and despair of living in error, in attachment to structure, form, rituals and methods rather than in awareness of our oneness, our Spirit Self.
How does this awareness and perception become experienced then in our daily lives? By meditation or prayer in its deepest understanding through silence and listening in quiet. “Be still and know I am God” the ancient Hebrew reading goes. Meditation is what it means to “come to Spirit, come to Jesus, come to God.” It is an attitude supported by stopping to listen and be still.
Often we have little idea of how thirsty we are, or how lonely our existence truly is, especially when the noise shuts off, the toys are laid away, and the friends and company go. Then people can feel as though they are shut in a prison of insanity rather than as an opportunity to experience the bliss and peace of Oneness.
My wife shared an article the other day by a Kathryn Parker in the Buffalo News. She wrote of a NPR reporter, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who became part of an experiment in mediation. Going to Arizona, she joined a Native American peyote ceremony along with members from the Buddhist, Muslin Sufi, Hindu Sikh, and Christian tradition. Fitted with special helmets created by the University of Wisconsin, their brains were monitored as they were led into a deep meditation of prayer. What happened? In deep meditation, they all felt a very similar experience of connection and their brains reacted in identical ways. Parts of each one’s brain darkened while other parts became light and radiant. For Barbara, it showed deep peace and tranquility is universal, un-owned by any group or organized religion, despite the millions who have been slain or imprisoned for teaching otherwise. This peace from the same Spirit is universal, just as the teachings of Jesus revealed, and all the higher teachings of sacred scriptures.
In the ancient East, a great king once developed very sore feet. Each time he tried to walk around his kingdom, he became irritated by pain and soreness. Finally he decreed that if anyone could find a way to pave all the kingdom’s roads with leather, he would pay them whatever it cost. One man said he could do it but the cost would be over two million rupees. Another man came saying he could do it but it would cost one million rupees. And then a little woman approached him and said, “I could pave all the roads of the kingdom for just ten rupees.” “How could you ever do that?” the king asked. And the woman said, “Easy. I will take the softest, most endurable leather I can find, cut out pieces to wrap around each of your feet as a sandal.” And of course, she won the “contract!”
Do you want a deeper level and measure of peace wherever you walk in life? Surround yourself with the awareness of Spirit’s abiding peace and comfort. Practice listening and being the It each day.
Shalom, Shanti, Amen, and Namaste to you all.