Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
Eden and I
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Do you know the way back to peace, beauty, health, and happiness?
Today is Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, which I discovered is
the day before Good Friday when Jesus made the symbolic gesture
of washing the feet of his disciples. Tomorrow commemorates the
day that He was arrested, tried, and nailed to the cross. On Sunday,
millions around the world will celebrate the ascension.
When I Googled Maundy Thursday there was a litany (forgive the
pun) on which Christian denomination named the day. Where the
root derived through the cultural shifts of history, which nation said it
first, and—for goodness sake—which calendar you might be following.
And here you go: Getting distracted by the detail.
I got a card in the mail yesterday from a local church, featuring a very
beautiful drawing of Jesus. His eyes are deep and lovely, personifying
kindness itself. His left hand is raised gently in front of his heart in
the “mudra” of peace. The headline reads, “He’d love to see you at
Easter. Of course, after you’ve risen from the dead, you’re happy to see
anyone.” Of a similar nature, on a huge billboard facing the highway
by an enormous round evangelical church is the sign: “When Jesus
returns—will you be ready?” And here you go: Getting distracted by
The detail and the drama all keep us focused on something outside
of ourselves. Something from ancient history. Something experienced
by another people at another time. And somehow we are supposed to
go “out there” and prepare for IT, conjure the ecstasy of IT, just find
IT—by being in the right place at the right time, IT will find us! Many
even feel that they must suffer emotionally, spiritually, or physically in
emulation of the Crucifixion before they are worthy of IT.
Sadly, as long as we look outside of ourselves we will never, may I
repeat, never find the peace beyond understanding, nor coax the gentle
dove of pure and simple goodness to rest in our hearts. It truly is not
seeing the forest for the trees. The meaning behind the detail and the
drama. The Crucifixion isn’t about the end, of course, it is about the
beginning. For us: Now. But what we seem to be missing is that the
Crucifixion isn’t about Jesus—it is about you and me.
Looking at this face in the photo beside me as I write, I don’t see
someone who would look for the spectacular. The big finish. What I see
are eyes so deep and incisive that they penetrate my every illusion and
barrier to that promised peace. They are the eyes of pure compassion.
Eyes that know that it is through painful and startling experiences that
we come to know ourselves. In the “dying” of a personal Crucifixion,
we die to the judgment of others; we die to the lies we may have begun
to believe about our own worth and divinity; we die to the material
world as a passage to bliss; we die to the identification with our physical
selves and know that our bodies will one day be cast aside like a robe
in the dirt.
The morning George died, I called our sons, then 17 and 20, to the
hospital where my husband and I had spent our last night together.
Shortly after, his three daughters arrived and we spent several hours
with him. We cried and hugged and stroked his face, sat on the bed
and ate oranges, told stories. We were with him, but he had clearly
“left” us. My younger son commented that, looking at the body—even
of one so loved and familiar—it was clear to see that what animated it
had departed and that all that remained was the husk.
I tell you this because while we may “know” we are spiritual beings
having a physical experience, we don’t realize or live as if we know that.
We can set our own spirits free while in our physical bodies. We can
experience bliss, peace, health, happiness. Right here. Right now. We
don’t achieve this by picking through the slim volumes of historical
accounts for words to tell us what to do. We don’t achieve it by debating
the “real” meaning of simple words and seeking complexity.
How do we achieve peace beyond understanding? By choosing it. By
choosing peace over and over again until peace becomes our default when
thoughts of worry or self-judgment crowd our peace. By letting go of
absolutely everything that does not define our true nature. And what
did Jesus teach us about our true nature? That we are divine—sparks of
creation from the flame of all creation in all worlds in all times—unto
eternity. I’m cool with that; I just keep forgetting to remember.
You can believe me when I say I wonder at the candor of my recent
writing. Why, I ask myself, am I so willing to expose my fears, my
flaws, my abundant lack of poise and perfection? Sometimes I wonder
if I am the only one. I write after working through a riddle of my own
and feel slightly embarrassed in sharing it. After all, I am known to
put stock in propriety, manners, appearances, and social etiquette. I
like the idea of being in firm control of my destiny, but the world is
slightly askew and I can’t plan for tsunamis—personal or global. Living
Life barefaced like this is more than a little untidy. But today, Maundy
Thursday, I think I understand.
In my mind, if we embrace the meaning—the symbol—of the
Crucifixion, we realize we are to follow the example of trust and
surrender to perfect freedom. Here. Now. Do we have to die on a
cross of our own construction to make that choice? Absolutely not!
Is the path narrow? Yes, but not to make it difficult; to make it easy!
The path leads to peace, beauty, health, and happiness. It is a path, not
to Christ but through Christ—or Christ Consciousness—to our own
divine self. Christ is not the destination, but the means to our own
destiny of our highest Self. It is a path, not exclusive to Christians, of
clear discernment and acts of love. What serves you and what does not.
Embrace what nourishes you and discard the rest.
When we follow our heart’s deepest desires we are led irrevocably to
our highest Self—the fulfillment of all we have potential to offer this
physical world. Are you a doctor? Teacher? Mother? Artist? Banker?
Executive? Being anything but what you truly are is to wander off the
path. And that leads you into the murky places of worldly judgment or
the influence of unconscious sorrows. Forgive them (release them from
your own judgment), because if they speak in critical judgment of others
then they are out of alignment with themselves and know neither you
nor themselves well enough to pass comment or to be helpful.
It is not my intention to debate religions or opine on theology. Heaven
knows that there have been many historic instances—myth and fact—
of virgin births, resurrection from the dead, and ascension. Why get
caught in the debate? Does it matter? Don’t you just want to be happy
and at peace? Don’t you want to know that no matter how difficult the
circumstances you face, maybe they are just worldly conditions that in
our surmounting them become our greatest liberators? Don’t you just
want to be free?
Well, you already are. Choose it. Jesus left us with the words, “Thy will
be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” What do you think that means?
Are we not the instruments of that Will? Is this Heaven yet? If we look
for it, we will find it right where we are.
Our own minds—our analytical thoughts, our memories of pain and
suffering—are our personal crosses. You can hang there pinioned until
you die and are freed, or you can drop into your heart and be free
now. Living through the heart is to surrender to the infinite depth of
love. Love for yourself as you are now; Love for this crazy world just
the way it is. It’s the only one we’ve got. And Love for this gorgeous
planet Earth. An Eden if only we would see her. Tropical beaches,
rainforests, snowy mountains, golden prairies, surging oceans, flawless
skies. Animals, fruits, and flowers. Butterflies. We were never cast from
Eden—we looked away.
Focus on the pollution and know we live in a flawed world. Focus on the
beauty and know we can expand it through gentle and simple loving acts
of our own divine nature.
I believe spiritual practices of any denomination can either strengthen
our spiritual freedom or strangle it. Any symbolic story that takes us
to the heart of our own hearts sets us free. I have found my way on
In this story, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. An act of equality.
All are children of divinity—none less or more. The story continues as
Jesus surrendered in trust and illuminated a way to peace on Earth—
seeds in our own hearts. If we choose, we can find the true meaning
and begin to live Heaven on Earth and reclaim our own patch of Eden
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