A man once said to me, "I want to open my heart more. I often feel a kind of tightness in my chest, which I am sure is fear. The doctors told me there is nothing wrong with me physically."
Tightness in the chest is the somatic or physical manifestation of a heart that, at times, is still closed. It is a sign of an unresolved fear.
Fear: The Barrier to Love
Fear, the barrier to love, has its roots in beliefs and the stories about those beliefs. People believe in some things so fervently they are willing to die or kill for what they believe. In Jed McKenna's book, Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing, which is an excellent depiction of the nondual approach, he says:
It's amazing how desperately we cling to our beliefs. As history shows, the fastest way to reduce otherwise decent, caring people to a state of savagery is by tampering with their belief system. The word for someone who does so is heretic, and the punishments reserved for him are more heinous than for any other type of criminal.
He describes people who identify with their stories and beliefs, people who are not at all open to anything new or different. Awakening, on the other hand, is all about getting beyond the stories and beliefs. It is about seeing that those stories and beliefs to which we cling are not even real. They are just concepts, assumptions about truth. Yet notice how, when it comes to religion, especially, people are willing to fight, kill, and die for their beliefs.
Jesus, the Teacher of Love -- not Fundamentalism
This was the Christianity of the Crusades and the Inquisition. Under the Inquisition, a hint of heresy meant you could be tortured in a horrible way. Just imagine Jesus' reaction had he seen what the church did with his teaching of love!
However, Christianity had two thousand years in which to mature. Islam, by comparison, is a younger religion, and its fundamentalist elements display their own alarming degree of savagery when it comes to dealing with what the mullahs judge as heresy.
It is tragic and absurd when you think about it, stoning people to death because they don't agree with your story about God and creation, or because they have different sexual tendencies, or because they do something forbidden by some authority's interpretation of the rules of your religion or society.
Technologically, we live in an age of enlightenment, but there's still incredible darkness, prejudice, and bigotry in the world — all because people are caught up in believing some myth, some story about God and the meaning of life.
Bringing Hope & Meaning to Despairing Lives?
The most dangerous kind of religious fundamentalism thrives in places where there is extreme poverty, where there is both economic and social injustice. The fundamentalist religious cause becomes a rallying cry and brings meaning to otherwise hopeless, despairing lives. As the economic and social inequalities are righted, people become more interested in balance and moderation as a way of preserving and perpetuating the good they are beginning to enjoy.
But adjusting outer conditions and circumstances, while important, is just one level of freedom. At the deepest level, it comes down to making the adjustment individually — finding personal freedom.
Finding Your Own Freedom: Living Without Fear
Freedom starts right here, with each of us. Come back to your own situation, your own suffering, and inquire as to what is needed for you to free yourself. When you find freedom, you will no longer live in fear. The more of us who realize genuine inner freedom, the more this truth will spread outward in our world. Then, depending on your gifts and talents, you will make your contribution toward a more conscious world.
If you are a scientist, you will find a way through science. If you are a lawyer, you will find it through seeking justice for worthy causes. If you are a corporate CEO, you will build a corporation that values more than just the bottom line, that pays attention to the well-being of its employees, its customers, and the environment. If you are a politician, you will pursue policies that help transform our communities and our nation.
If you are a priest, a rabbi, a pastor, or a mullah, you will take what is genuinely good and true in your religion, and you will share it with your congregants. But you will not fill their heads with dogmas and threats of hell and damnation, which only make their hearts heavy and fearful.
The Path to Freedom: The Religion of the Heart
When asked about his religion, an Indian teacher of mine named Dada said, "My religion is the religion of the heart." I have always remembered those words. When you practice presence and awareness and awaken to your true nature as consciousness, your heart opens. Then kindness, love, and generosity become the natural cornerstones of your behavior.
If everyone observed the religion of the heart, the world would be a beautiful and safe place for all of us. There would be room to express our competitive, striving natures in a healthy way, because they would be balanced by cooperation and sharing. If we lived like this, we wouldn't be in the fragmented place in which we find ourselves.
How, then, to practice the religion of the heart? Maghrabi Sahib, a spiritual master also from India, gave us this exquisite prescription:
When I looked in, I found within me that which has been sought for ages by all mankind. We have been searching for it for many ages here and there, from one corner of the earth to the other, but we have found it only in our heart. Therefore do not search for your lost Beloved outside yourself. You will find Him [or Her] only in the recess of your heart.
Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
©2010, 2011. Dist. by Red Wheel Weiser.
End Your Story, Begin Your Life: Wake Up, Let Go, Live Free
by Jim Dreaver.
About the Author
Jim Dreaver has been guiding others in the fields of mind/body integration, stress-management, and personal mastery for twenty-five years. He is a speaker and teacher who has appeared at conferences and workshops across the country, including the Esalen Institute and the Whole Life Expo. Jim is also the author of "The Way of Harmony", "The Ultimate Cure", and "Somatic Technique". For information about his work and speaking schedule, please visit his website at www.jimdreaver.com