The wisdom that prophets have shared has been interpreted in so many different ways and today it seems everyone has their own unique view of what religion is all about. In the religious country I was brought up in, the fear of hell and the promise of heaven ruled our education system. My idea of God initially was of a punitive father who showed no mercy and the idea that if I do or think ‘this’, hell awaits and if I do or think ‘that’ I’ll be rewarded, echoed in my mind.
The story of Adam and Eve being exiled from heaven for having given in to temptation and eaten the forbidden apple, is a story that whether we know it or not, has had a deep impact on our psyche. There are things we have to stay away from or else…
Stories like this can either be taken literally or their deeper meaning can be unveiled by paying close attention to our life as it is today. Was this story meant to help us in our life, was it a warning of dangers here? Is there a way out of suffering? Is there a path back to heaven?
What I have come to understand is this:
Life is neither heaven nor hell and yet it can be hell or heaven depending on how ‘we’ see it. A friend of mine recently committed suicide. I remember thinking, the last time I saw her, that this was the hell we had been warned against. She was suffering the most horrific pain, as if literally being burned in fire. The more she spoke, the deeper her pain became. As I was filled with compassion and love for her, I couldn’t help but notice this great suffering was the result of a repetitive story – a horrific interpretation of events she had identified with so much, that she was unable to see she, was not her story. Not realizing that her self-worth is independent from her story, she was losing hers the more she identified with her role.
True self worth, self esteem, self love cannot be found within a story and our endeavours to find it there is as futile as trying to grasp air.
My friend helped me to realise that the journey ‘out of our story’ which can sometimes be hell, into heaven, is a journey we have to make ‘alone’ even in the presence of our fellow travellers, helpers and guides along the way.
You must have experienced this yourself or witnesses it with a friend: One minute everything is perfect, everything is running smoothly and then a trigger pulls and it all turns sour. Everything that was previously wonderful turns ‘wrong’ in a matter of seconds. Most of the time without anything changing on the outside, everything goes back to normal again and we find a way to blame the sudden turn to sourness on our tiredness, hormones, hunger etc. Without denying their effect, finding them as the ‘only’ trigger stops us from seeing another cause that we’re often reluctant to face: The power of ‘a thought’.
Between heaven and hell
Lies only one thought
One can help us jump back to heaven, yet another forces us down in hell. Perhaps it is time to take the story of Adam and Eve seriously and stop the temptation of biting on the apple. Today, I see the apple as that one thought that can send me into exile away from myself and everything that I love and cherish. That one thought is different for all of us, some call it a pattern, some call it karma, it is as far as I understand the one thing that has a deep hold on our psyche to the point that when it comes, we lose our strength and joie de vivre. The good news is we have a choice, we can choose to take the bite, or not, regardless of how tempting the apple and its promise. We can still choose not to give in to temptation. We have a choice to follow the thought into its full story – which we may already know by heart – OR let it pass through our awareness like clouds in the sky.
Many of us, can identify and recognize the tempting thought and feel it coming in every cell of our body. The temptation to follow it into a story is caused by the excitement, the emotions, the stirrups of energy and everything BUT stillness. As I sit and meditate, I see how the mind loves stories and how it hates stillness. How it resists being home at ease, at peace and how many a time it will chose movement over stillness. Whether this movement has a negative effect on our being or not, the mind doesn’t seem to take notice as long as there is movement. Movement is great – movement is life but the ability to stop, the ability to choose between movement and rest is a power many of us have yet to tap into. It is this power that will give us the inner strength not to indulge in a dramatic story.
Our responsibility, once the thought is identified, is to question its validity. In the same way that we must question the one that hands us the apple, “is what you’re saying true? Are you trustworthy?”
In our innocence – being trusting as we are – we live life believing
every thought that comes in to our mind.
It is perhaps time to put our investigating cap on and discover which is a lie, which is true – for us.
Self love, is the key ingredient of making this practice a success. Without self love, there is no reason to avoid hell or to help ourselves out of it. So if you keep on biting the apple, keep on loving yourself even more. One way to learn how to resist is to remain conscious at all times. The more aware we become of what happens when we take the bite, the sooner we learn that the promise of excitement is just not worth it.
Once we recognize there is nothing to be tempted for, our job is done. Remain vigilant, very vigilant, not trusting and believing every thought that passes through. Slowly, slowly your mind will fall back to the purity that allows and lets all thoughts to pass without being wiped away by the avalanche of horror stories that some contain.
Heaven and hell exist within us.
The universal soul is not punitive, it is we, that in our innocence have not learnt true self love.
It is us, our will, our choice that moves us away from heaven.
The power is in our hands. Let’s take the warnings and the signs seriously and become truly responsible for our life.