Foretaste of Heaven
I was awakened to know that heaven is not a place to go to, but realizing that I am already there, with emphasis on realizing. According to American novelist Scott Russell Sanders,
“The likeliest path to the ultimate ground leads through my local ground. I mean the land itself with its creeks and rivers, its weather, seasons, stone outcroppings, and all the plants and animals that share it. I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one. I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in place. I am suspicious of any philosophy that would separate this-worldly from other-worldly commitment. There is only one world, and we participate in it here and now, in our flesh and our place.”
The more I realize that heaven is not a separate place I go to, but a sacred space I come from, my whole perspective changes. The experience of coming from a sacred space changes the tapestry of the terrain in front of me. It gives me a new vision to see the space in front of me as seamless and sacred, and the people in front of me as souls.
When apostle Paul talks about having a foretaste of heaven, he means that we should have it right now during this life, rather than later, while waiting in the lobby of a heaven above the clouds, munching on celestial hors d’oeuvres. I don’t want to be one of those distraught souls pounding on the proverbial pearly gates, only to be told by an incredulous St. Peter that the place I had lived my entire life — Earth — was indeed heaven!
Thomas Merton reminds us that the gate of heaven is everywhere! Is it possible that our sleep walking through life prevents us from recognizing the gate of heaven in front of us? I believe that an unexamined life is part of the problem. But more importantly, it is also because of the unconscious beliefs about God as the Man Upstairs and heaven as the Mansion Above the clouds.
Most people still live in the pre-Copernicus era of a “three-tier universe,” also known as the “hamburger universe.” In that scenario, heaven is above, hell is below, and Earth is in the middle, and it is also flat. It takes conscious awareness to move from a flat earth theology to a round Earth cosmology, where concepts like up and down are meaningless.
My life has become more Earth-based rather than heaven-bound, not because I am a new age guru or ardent environmentalist, which are usually used as pejorative terms. It is because I have reflected deeply about the unfathomable beauty, mystery, and magnificence of this moving, yes, moving blue dot in space, which holds me up as God holds me tenderly in the palm of Her hands.
I have lived on Earth over 26,000 days and it has never failed to provide me air, water, and food, the three most basic ingredients needed for my very existence. With a heart filled with gratitude to Mother Earth, I walk gently on the holy ground, gratefully reminiscing and prayerfully repeating the immortal words of prophet Isaiah: “The whole earth proclaims the glory of God.”
The more I meditated on the life and teachings of Jesus, and of sages from other spiritual traditions, my love for the Earth increased. If the Earth was such a bad place, why would Jesus choose to be born here? Incarnation means taking flesh. Jesus was born on this planet and took flesh.
Most Christians believe that Jesus came on Earth to save them and take them to heaven. I believe that Jesus came on Earth to show us how to create heaven on Earth.
In the only prayer he taught, we are instructed to pray for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth, as it is in heaven. So, this Earth of which we are so much part, this Earth that Jesus made his home, this Earth which proclaims the glory of God, this Earth which God so loved and sent his son onto, has a lot to teach us.
This glorious planet has an ethos and rhythms to it. Nothing on this Earth is arbitrary. There are some guiding principles that govern the Earth. Everything on Earth has a plan and a pattern that has been designed, delineated, and choreographed by the Creator. If we can join that plan, learn the lessons Mother Earth teaches us, and go with the flow of the Earth, we will be a much happier and peaceful earthlings!
(from Cosmic Kindergarten: Earthly Lessons for a Heavenly Life)