Author’s Note: This is the second in a series of blogs intended to introduce a new book: The Gate of Heaven is Everywhere! Feel free to respond with how the stories affect you.
After the meditation, a sense of being less alone often arises. On the best days, there is even a distinct sense of a sacred Presence. Something in me knows I am a part of that Presence. After my meditation, I notice that my love of family and friends grows. There is a rise in the chemistry that causes compassion to flow freely in my chest. It’s visceral. Loving-kindness often floods into my heart space. I feel more connected to the people I know and love. Compassion arises for them and even strangers.
Setting aside time for my daily meditations might seem selfish, but believe me, you want me to stay in there swimming in the flow of compassion chemistry as often as I can. That helps me have more compassion to share with you.
After the meditation, my sense of being part of all things also grows. Oneness replaces the sense of being separated from the rest of the planet. There’s an inner sense that I am part of all sentient beings and even the landscape: boulders, bayous, oaks, and aspen. That sense of oneness helps to dispel the myth of separateness which brings so much divisiveness among us.
Experiencing the sacred Presence can repair any of us in many ways, depending on each person’s need. Places that have been wounded can begin their healing. Some of us contemplatives find we start liking ourselves and others better. Some just love developing a sense of intimacy with God. For some, plans we have compulsively clung to can be released, and we can find relief in the practice of letting go. The rigid places in us can become receptive to the Spirit. Our expectations that life would unfold as we wanted it to have gotten in our way, frustrated us, and made us believe we were doing things wrong. Practicing God’s presence helps some of us become gentle with ourselves in small ways. Self-compassion begins to replace hard-heartedness.
Just a word of caution here, before I go any further. This is not another self-help book. I am not implying you should meditate so that your problems will be solved in three easy steps. This practice is not a magical solution for anything. Meditating is not easy, and no results are guaranteed.
On the other hand, skipping my meditation does have predictable results. After several decades of daily contemplative practice, I can tell you this: not practicing my meditation brings a sense of hurry, a pressure to accomplish things, the drive to be productive, and invariably irritability.
When I haven’t practiced inner stillness, the chances of my finding outward stillness are slim to none. When I haven’t taken a few minutes to settle down into the source of wisdom, how can I expect to make wise decisions during the day?
After the meditation, (and sometimes even during the meditation), is when stillness and wisdom tend to find me. They seem to want to guide me, if I will just let them.
I have come to believe that wisdom is a by-product of my meditation. There are no money-back guarantees of this. The meditation is simply increasing the odds that the wisdom I need will arise from my deep places and meet me, thanks to God’s presence. Here is an example.
I wondered for several years if my wife and I should move to live near our son and grandson. I met with numerous people to explore job possibilities and potential friendships. I prayed about this and had conversations with my wife and friends about this. All the while I held the question as I meditated.
Despite several years of trying to make something happen, no clear path emerged. No plan formed. No one called to say, “Boy have I got the right job for you.” We even came very close to accepting a terrible job offer to pastor a little country church. But thankfully the group got wind of the fact that I welcome ALL people into spiritual community, including people of color and the LGBTQ community, and they cancelled that job offer before we could even meet them.
The urge to just get up and move came and went many times. The anxiety became strong and my mind created a hundred scenarios and plans that pummeled me during the meditation. My practice did not protect me from the hard realities, or offer easy answers.
After the meditation, I found ways to cope with the lack of clarity. I resisted the urges to jump without a plan or to push for something to just happen, even if it was wrong. I came through the anxious thoughts and found a momentary peace with waiting. After the meditation, an unspoken message repeatedly whispered, “No,” and so I resisted the urge to move anyway. How can I hear or follow that kind of hard-won wisdom if I never become still enough to listen?
A Higher Wisdom tries to return each day to guide me toward patience, openness, and surrender, but I must make the space for that wise counsel to fall on my ears, or I will miss it every time. If I want more wisdom in my life, I must follow this contemplative path of listening for the Wise Voice.
The meditation times are my way of holding space for the sacred to appear. I can’t make sacredness come. I can only make room in my heart-center for the appearing. The open space brings me closer to all that I seek: a sense of plenitude, gratitude, wonder, wisdom, and compassion. When I hold space for the divine, sometimes a gate of heaven opens.
Each day I must choose to make the space for encountering the Wild Divinity, to wade through the hard parts of this broken world, and to open my mind and heart to experience a gate of heaven. That is my decision. That is my work.
The meditation opens me to that other dimension, like reaching out to touch a parallel reality. It helps me draw near an inner diamond in my messy life. Sometimes it opens a gate of heaven. But it never protects me from the hurts that life always brings. It is not magic, but it is a passageway.