Do you really believe that Jesus—after having been put on the cross, and put in the tomb—after three days, rose and again walked among men? It might seem to be a fantastic story. But I’ve got an even more fantastic story: We are alive. Do you believe that? It doesn’t take years of spiritual or religious training to believe it. It is our experience. The reality is that there is a power that emerges from we know not quite where. Prepositions are interesting. We could say it comes from someplace “above.” Some people object to that preposition, so we could say that it comes from within. If you operated on me, I don’t know that you’d find it. You can use whatever preposition you want, but through us and through all creation there is a universal power at work. And it is at work whether we classify the form as animate or inanimate.
If you are scientifically minded, you could call it energy. If you are religiously minded, you may call it God. But whatever you call it, the Roman Empire wasn’t going to put it down. Whatever you call it, it can’t be stopped. No matter what we do, every spring we look out and it’s bursting out all over. It’s bursting out within us. Once you get over the fact that our physical forms don’t live forever, you can appreciate that the universal power does. This is what the Easter story is all about.
It is said that Jesus came to save humanity. There is truth to that statement. But exactly what part of humanity was he out to save? Do you want him saving your bad habits for eternity? I certainly wouldn’t want the warlike tendency of humanity to be saved forever. Or hatred or jealousy. What was he saving?
For the most part, the Christian world has salvation all wrong. There are parts of the human experience that people hang on to that are inevitably passing away, and they should. As in so many things, the person is often unconscious that what they are doing is creating their negative experience. Their belief is that their experience is happening to them. And then they want Christ to save them and all humanity, or at least the good people. For the more scientifically minded, science may be seen as the salvation of humanity. For people of religious faiths around the world, perhaps it is a God by another name who will come to the rescue, or preserve the good people in a state of eternal bliss somewhere else. Some even believe that extra-terrestrials will intervene. So often it is believed that it is us, as humanity, that needs saving.
Is it possible that, as in so many other things, the common understanding of salvation, by whatever means, is exactly opposite to what is true? That the world needs to be saved from humanity, and not the other way around? Is it possible that the power and intelligence of the universe that we are designed to bring to Planet Earth is being methodically excluded from the human world through the machinations of people manipulating the world to meet their own ends?
If God is universal power and intelligence, then maybe God needs saving; saving, first of all, from the limited beliefs, ideas and images humanity has of God. Saved from the impact of human beings on this planet, created by the universal power and intelligence. Then saved from imprisonment in heaven—in the realm of unseen potential. Despite the apparent brilliance of some of our inventions, the real potential of humanity to live in peace and abundance, and in harmony with the natural world, has been largely locked up within us.
It is easy to see the political, financial and industrial manipulation at work that is attempting to claim the world for itself. I know that for me, seeing such things was an important part of my path in life. Yet seeing what other people are doing, and contending with it, doesn’t fix the problem. The problem begins to be addressed when a person realizes that the world they inhabit is not theirs alone, to do with as they will. It is addressed when the individual sees what he or she is doing to lock up the universal intelligence and wisdom inside themselves, and then performs an act of salvation by letting it out.
Practical spirituality is all about this process. It is about changing our relationship with the life force within us, which changes our relationship with the world around us. It is a shift in polarity so that a person finds their own ability to yield and to open, and offers that openness to the universal power and intelligence within them. And having done that, there is life-giving understanding and kindness that they share with their world and the people in it.
Opening your thinking plays a part in this process. But in the end, it is a matter of the heart. So I believe that any true spiritual practice involves our ability to yield and open and respond, and realizing that our capacity to do so has been pointed in the wrong direction, that we have yielded to something that does not deserve to be our god. I don’t think that just because we may go to church, or meditate or undertake some kind of spiritual practice, we are necessarily undertaking this work. Because this is a matter of the heart. It’s not a matter of who you associate with, either. You could be with all the right people, go to all the right seminars or meetings, or go to all the right Web pages. You could go through the motions, and it may not change your underlying dynamic.
The key factor in whether or not we set free the universal power to come through us is, in the end, a matter of the heart, and what the heart opens to. True spiritual practice is about letting the heart open to what empowers a person, instead of knocking them down.
So how is it going for you? How is your heart doing? What is it opening to? What is exercising your feelings these days? What’s growing large in your awareness, because you are open to it and responding to it? We all have the opportunity to open to the universal power within us that gives life. We can open to the intelligence within that inspires our thinking and actions. When we do, we have a natural urge to be generous, and a natural tendency to radiate a sense of well-being and blessing to the people around us.
It is a matter of the heart when it comes to facing the hard things in life. It is a matter of the heart whether we face challenges and refuse to acquiesce to them. Because acquiescence is a kind of response. It is a kind of opening of the heart. And you can’t worship your challenges and worship the universal power within you at the same time.
This is what the Easter story is all about. You can read Jesus’ prayer in John, Chapter 17, as he opened his heart. It tells the story of a man yielding to what was within him in a time of challenge. When he faced his largest challenge, he wasn’t worshipping Pilate or the Sanhedrin; he wasn’t worshipping the disciples who fell asleep and who were, for the most part, too scared to show up on the day of his crucifixion. He wasn’t worshipping the cross or the tomb. He wasn’t acquiescing to those things. He was too busy surrendering to something else. He was surrendering to that reality within him that he spoke of as his Father; that universal power, that universal Being that is the most real thing about anyone. We can’t be opening to that and yielding to our challenges, all at the same time.
Life has a way of giving us opportunities to realign, reorient and start anew. I had a funny thought on Easter morning. It was about my Mini Cooper. I’m not a big car guy. I have friends who love cars, but I didn’t grow up wanting a Ferrari or Corvette. But several years ago my friend Greg Bullock was selling cars in Denver, and one day he drove a Mini Cooper to where I live at Sunrise Ranch. He let me take the car out around the reservoir in the valley, and it was thrilling. Because of the size and the way a Mini Cooper handles, they call it a go-cart on rails.
Sometime later, when we needed another car, I found a used Mini Cooper, sunroof and all. I have to confess that there have been a few times when I put it through its paces, going around the reservoir and beyond. I didn’t take it to its limit. That wouldn’t have been safe for me or the elk that live in this valley. There are tracks where you can take a car to its limit, but it wouldn’t be safe here.
Why am I telling this story? Because our basic orientation in life is a matter of the heart, and sometimes you have to put that to the test, and that’s what I was pondering on Easter morning. Sometimes you have to stop dabbling with your spirituality, and stop alternating between self-preoccupation and half-hearted attempts to be spiritual. Sometimes you have to put the pedal to the metal.
So how about opening to that reality that is within us and taking it to the max? Do we use our spirituality as a pleasant relief from our usual preoccupation with the people and events of our life? Or do we actually take our own spiritual experience out for a test drive and ask ourselves, so just how much am I willing to open, spiritually? Just how much of my own potential am I willing to welcome into this mind and heart? Am I willing to have my heart cracked open by the sacredness of what is within me and within everyone? If we are willing to let our emotional realm be cracked open, the reality of who we are can be set free. We can share that reality with somebody else. The power and intelligence within can inspire and bless others when we let it out.
If that’s going to happen for us, we have to be able to take our spirituality out for a test drive. If we are not going to settle for a small stream of the universal energy coming through us, we have to be willing to open it up.
So do you have a safe space for opening it up? Someplace where you won’t be embarrassed to take it to the max with the people in front of you? You may not want to do it over breakfast. You probably don’t want to do it on the job. But do you have someplace in your life where you can get down on your knees, however you do it? Where you can pray the most full-hearted prayer that you’ve ever spoken, and allow yourself to be split open, so that any of the small things that you’ve been worshipping about yourself, any of the challenges you’ve been acquiescing to, can be cast off and let go?
We are alive. The reality that animates us is mystical, powerful and intelligent. Let’s let it out. That is the powerful message of the Easter story.