Early in my high school years there was a girl I liked. I dared not call her, the likelihood of rejection far too great. So I did the next best thing.
I asked my friend to reach out and see if she'd accept a call from me.
I wanted some sort of assurance before putting myself out on a limb. If she wasn't interested, it would be so much better to learn that from my friend than suffer the humiliation directly.
That's the nature of assurances. They give us confidence. A more certain path forward, one way or the other. Ideally sparing us the pain of effort, shame, or failure.
Of course, many things in life do not present the opportunity for assurances. Yet we still seek them out. From others who've been down the same path. From recognized experts in the field. And even from our own gut.
Which is what many people seek in the realm of religion or spirituality.
If there is a heaven based on entrance criteria, we'd like some assurances the steps we're taking will grant us entry.
But who to trust?
Imagine being able to speak with Jesus or Muhammad or Moses or Brahma or Laozi or Joseph Smith or any other renowned spiritual teacher. What questions would you ask?
You'd probably want to get your own sense of whether what they were teaching was true or not. What did they really have to say, unfiltered by years of interpretation and translation and biased perspective.
But even with such direct communication, would we accept what they had to say? Would we trust their assurances?
This quote from the Buddha can go a long way toward cultivating confidence:
Don't take my word for anything I teach, don't accept it on my authority. Come and see for yourself.
Likewise, in the introduction to the workbook of A Course in Miracles, we get these lines:
Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist.
What the Buddha and Jesus of the course are teaching is this: don't take anyone's word for the truth. The truth is self-evident and does not require any explanation or defense.
We are simply asked to practice and see for ourselves. If, through patient implementation, we glimpse the extraordinary peace to which all great traditions point - then this curriculum is aligned with our path. And we'd be wise to practice more diligently.
We each walk our own journey - along our own path, with its unique twists and turns. The teachers and frameworks most helpful for our travels will present themselves on our odyssey. Rather than looking for assurances of the way we can open ourselves to the experience of heaven where all roads eventually lead.
Having had my friend call the girl might have saved me from embarrassment, but it cost me an opportunity for self-discovery. The chance to learn for myself and lead me back to the source of discomfort. An opportunity to practice whether a particular thought pattern stemmed from joy or lack.
A choice in the mind leads to all our experiences. The ego always projecting some form of shame, fear, anxiety, hope, or sadness. The mind of spirit always extending comforting love and reflecting the infinite oneness of heaven.
Heaven is indeed a reality. But it is not a destination with guarded entrance. It is our true, unconditional reality - the experience of which awaits only our awakening. But don't take my word for it. Instead, allow the word to gently take you.
Join me in Thursday's class where we'll explore how we can experience the peaceful glimpses of heaven to help us "see for ourselves" sans assurances. I look forward to seeing you then.