Establishing some heaven on earth.
Linda: Long ago, there lived a fierce warrior who had gone bad and turned to thievery and destruction. He was the terror of the land. Strong men quaked in fear at the mention of his name. Whole villages would be evacuated when he and his men rode into town. All who dared challenge him were soundly defeated. Over the years, he amassed great wealth resulting form his plundering and looting. Yet, despite his massive accumulation of wealth, he was unhappy.
One day he confided to one of the outlaws of his gang, "I have everything a man could imagine possessing and more, but I feel something is missing. Could it be that there is more to the world than what can be seen, what can be possessed, what can be touched? I have heard that there may be other realms of existence that offer experiences more wondrous and fulfilling than anything that can be imagined by mortal beings. Can this be true?
The outlaw replied, "I myself cannot say what is true or possible, but there lives a man in a neighboring land who, it is said, is wise beyond words and knows of the great truths of Heaven and Hell."
Instantly, the great warrior decided that he must meet this man and set out on a pilgrimage to find him. He and his comrade traveled for may days over high mountains and through pounding rainstorms until they finally came to the village in which the old man was said to live. At last, they located his home, a small, humble one-room cottage. The warrior took out his sword and banged on the door. "Come in." said a soft but clear voice from within. The warrior pushed open the door and strode in to see a small old man sitting on a straw mat on the dirt floor of the cottage. "I'm here to learn about Heaven and Hell," said the warrior, "Will you teach me?"
"Me teach you about Heaven and Hell?" exclaimed the old man, his voice now rising. "You must be insane. Why should I teach you about anything? Look at you; you're disgraceful. Your clothes are filthy, you smell, and you've got no manners. Even your sword is rusty. Get out of my home before I throw you out!"
The warrior couldn't believe his ears. No one had ever dared speak to him in this way. He flew into a mad rage and lifted his word about to strike down the old man. Then, just as the warrior was about to bring down his sword, the old man very quietly looked him straight in the eye and said, "That's Hell."
The warrior gasped with shock, recognizing the power of the truth that he had just heard. Realizing that the old man had literally risked his life to give him this extraordinary teaching, the warrior's knees buckled under him and he collapsed on the floor in tears of gratitude. Then, with eyes filled with compassion, the old man looked a the warrior and said, "That's Heaven."
The story of the warrior and the old man redefines our traditional concepts of Heaven and Hell. We have been taught that Heaven and Hell are places in another time, place, or dimension that we will one day experience, depending upon how good or bad we are in this lifetime. In truth, none of us can know what it is that awaits us at the time of our death or thereafter.
As we try to live up to our internalized expectations of how we need to be in order to gain some final, ultimate reward or avoid some future punishment, we can miss the very essence of life. In our compulsive quests to achieve, succeed, or accomplish what we desire, or to avoid what we fear, we are not open to the moment-to-moment experience that life is. We are never where life is happening but always just a step or two in front of life or behind it. Only when we are in the direct presence of our life experiences, whatever they may be can we embrace the fullness and the joy that life is.
Only when we are unconditionally open to this moment, the here and now, can we be open to the joy of full-bodied aliveness that is our birthright. Only when we drop our internalized defenses can we touch the possibility of finding Heaven on earth. Heaven is the open heart of full acceptance. It takes us beyond fear, beyond anxiety, beyond the pain of unquenchable desires that can make our lives feel at times so Hellish.
What is perhaps most painful about living in the hell of anger, fear and desire, is that these states keep our hearts closed and there is not possibility in them for real connection with anyone, even ourselves.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.