Hell & Heaven (suffering & bliss) are essentially woven from the same fabric, or at a fundamental level there is no distinction whatever to be made between the two. Psalm 139 says, “I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” So every moment of Life is impregnated with sparks of natural intelligence- Divinity. The recognition & conscious acceptance of this organic intelligence seems to me to be freedom, and the self-centered programs that look to produce personal happiness are no less than a style of imprisonment.
I personally swing back and forth between these two apparent realms of existence. In fact, pain seems to wake me up to the self existing sparks of divinity that constitute the magical essence of Life. Albeit, over time the amount of pain required to lift my mind from the self-created hell I occasionally reside in has lessened, as sensitivity has increased. Nevertheless, it seems as though pain, in all of its textures (fear, anger, jealousy, anxiety, stress, etc.), is itself a fundamental form of intelligence, a great instigator of awakening.
Pain in all of it’s forms seems to serve as a kind of indicator or biological alarm system, which points out the sharp contrast between ego’s delusional interpretation of events, and the absolute beauty that is constantly being revealed in Reality. However, in order to heed this extremely precise warning the heart has to be well prepared, or the intelligent message will just fall on deaf ears. In other words, the mind must be capable of seeing through ego’s commentary on the emotions and the events that surround these sensational messages, and be prepared to rest in the world as it is. Otherwise, the message is ignored, ego’s neurotic commentary is consumed, and I find myself a prisoner of my own creation.
A life of slavery is the inevitable consequence of separating heaven and hell. With the formation of heaven & hell comes the obsessive pursuit of heaven and fear of hell. I become a slave to pursuit when I make such distinctions as good & evil. This was the fate of Adam & Eve as told in the book of Genesis. Like them, I become a slave whose sole purpose is to shamefully hide from my own self proclaimed imperfections, by constantly seeking my contrived ideas of perfection. Out of embarrassment I try to become something else. Since my ideals of perfection are shaped by my own shortcomings any attempt to materialize this psychotic form of perfection does little more than end in failure, and reveal yet another shortcoming, namely perfectionism. The unfortunate side effect of defining perfection is that I will always fall short of the desired goal because, it is cast in the mold of ego’s defects. In short, I cannot overcome my shortcomings by attempting to achieve an ideal of perfection, which itself was shaped by my shortcomings. This sort of thing can only be achieved by non-achievement or Grace.
The only way I can move beyond my apparent insufficiency or my fallen status is through Grace. Grace is the only remedy for “original sin”, and since original sin is the belief in the establishment of duality, Grace is the gift of insight or wisdom, which reveals the unity of the two worlds. Through Grace a discovery is made that destroys sin or misunderstanding. Wisdom here does not mean education or something we learn. Wisdom is uncreated. “Wisdom is, as it always was, and shall be forever.” I do not achieve Grace or produce insight. I cannot earn grace no more than I can earn sunlight. It is absolutely, 100% a gift. More specifically it is the gift of myself, it is the gift of who I am, so to speak. Bliss is the natural state of being when I am recognized as this gift.
The only way to fully accept this gift is to be who and what I actually am. Being my self is the deepest expression of gratitude, as there can be no greater purpose or meaning to life than fulfilling my true nature. The only condition that comes with this gift is that I do not get to determine who & what I am. I must be willing to rest in perfection without defining what perfection is. So, I have to simply move forward without knowing where I am going, free of any self imposed reference point or defining characteristics, and discover my true identity through valid experimentation.
In order to participate in this experiment I must let go of all the preconceived ideas I hold about myself, and be willing to see directly into the nature of the situation. The condition implies that the experiment must be effortless because, I cannot try to be myself, and having a foregone conclusion about my identity means that I am trying to become myself. The acceptance of Grace is made in being not trying, or as Yoda says, “Try not. Do or do not. That is all.” Simply being is not difficult; in fact it is natural. It just happens when we let go of all our preconceived ideas about our nature, and allow a natural form of open-mindedness to emerge.
Just being naturally takes place in a spacious or loving mind, where every action is not checked against the ego’s opinions about how we should be. In love we quit second guessing ourselves. In other words, being is not self-conscious. In fact, it is discovered that this open or spacious state of mind is Love, and furthermore that this Love is the very fabric of our existence. As St. Paul says, “Love is kind, patient, and considerate.” Love is not demanding, harsh, or haste. Love in this context is not referring to the frothy emotional sentiment that is so often associated with the word; rather it points toward the spacious, forgiving, or open state of mind, which emerges when the solid & conceptual state of affairs is transcended. Love is pure experience, and can only be discovered through experimentation, or by being completely willing to test the waters of Life without allowing any preconceived ideas to censor the experience.
Such an experiment is in the Christian tradition known as centering prayer. In centering prayer I can allow Life to reveal itself, instead of ego defining the nature of Reality in it’s own neurotic self-image. Love is not produced through the experiment, rather it is discovered. Love is the single substance or ground of being of all that is. Love has been forgotten in all of my selfish & self-centered pursuits, because in pursuit what I am is forgotten in the hope of becoming something else- Love is who I am.
Going deeper into this pure experience we discover that Love is eternal. It is not conditioned by space or time. In other words, it was my interpretation of events that chopped them up into beginning, middle, and end. In truth, Life is fluid & spacious. It does not begin here and end there. Life flows ceaselessly. Since it is without beginning or end, it should follow that it is devoid of a center. Saying that it is devoid of a center is the same as saying that it is without a self. Love is pure experience; Experience without the censorship of an experiencer!
Grace belongs to no one. It is the endless revelation of Nature, which continuously reveals itself as center-less experience or Pure Love. It is the wisdom of Life. The acceptance or rejection of Grace is my only choice. However, once grace has recognized me any notion of choice falls to the wayside. Since Life is intrinsically endowed with this remarkable Wisdom I have the opportunity to awaken at any moment, even in the most painful of moments. In this sense Life is a fresh start without an expiration date. It is only a matter of settling into the selfless nature of being and discovering the inherent qualities of Life, Love, and Freedom. The practice of meditation or centering prayer is nothing more than preparing the heart-mind for the rapture of Grace.