It is no small matter to stay the course of unselfish living, to have effortless access to the soothing impact of divine Love, to find the stillness for the next step, to experience genuine healing.
Mary Baker Eddy has words of assurance for us:
"That tomorrow starts from today and is one day beyond it, robes the future with hope's rainbow hues. In the battle of life, good is made more industrious and persistent because of the supposed activity of evil. The elbowing of the crowd plants our feet more firmly. In the mental collisions of mortals and the strain of intellectual wrestlings, moral tension is tested, and if it yields not, grows stronger. (...) There is no excellence without labor; and the time to work, is now."
(Miscellaneous Writings, p. 339/340)
Christianity as Jesus introduced it, wasn't called Christianity originally. It was called The Way, I learned. I get from this: It is a practice, not an object of admiration. Jesus himself talks about life as a way:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it."
If you have no Bible background and are unfamiliar with this quote and can't make sense of "everlasting", think "continuous", and if "life" is too abstract, think "being". So living in sync with continuous being is living the good life - the real life, the only existence that truly is. It is here.
But, Jesus says, beware of the danger zone, the "wide gate", opening to a destructive path. The good life is to found only behind the narrow gate. Why is it narrow? How many ways are there to go wrong, how many chances to give in to "the elbowing of the crowd" (Mary Baker Eddy) and elbow back? Millions, of course. Because there is only one way to do it right. So what makes the gate narrow is, I find, its precision. We have to hit the mark. The "narrow gate" is a hand-forged master piece, because there are many wrongs, but only one right. The divine way.
Narrow is in its original meaning also another word for tailored - it is really fitting and clear, not restricting. It is narrow, because it is made FOR YOU. It feels right like a custom-made dress. Who are you truly, what defines your being? What is true individuality? The answer is specific and it is glorious. It is unlike the path of anybody else.
Difficult to find this gate and to travel this path behind it? Yes, says the couch potato, the poor little me, that can only understand a limited life-span. In order to find it, to daily and walk in it, I have pinpointed those small thoughts that lead me right into the danger zone in which it is impossible to life the real life. We can detect those thoughts quickly and know: "I am not going there. My thinking is private, it is the reflection of Goodness and intelligence, of generosity and humility. I will not let one of my thoughts be used to jeopardize the divine plan of justice, health, and peace for all." You will notice quickly that the danger zone is no fun, although it feels justified to stay there. The danger zone is really dangerous, not at all like Kenny Loggins' energetic "Highway to the danger zone, gonna take you right into the danger zone". The danger zone is hazardous, it erodes strength, takes away meaning, and makes healing impossible.
So now it is time: The curtain rises. Drum roll! Its time to present to you:
"The infamous d-a-n-g-e-r z-o-n-e."
Look around, behold its ugliness, its unnatural allure, see its bottom covered with sludge, beware of the tar on the side, look at the dust covering the walls, ash and cinder everywhere --- and hear what the voices hidden in its obscure recesses are whispering:
Quickly jump out of the danger zone, take a deep breath, take a bath in the sunshine of goodness - and make a healthy plan: Own your life and take responsibility. Get to know Good. Find the narrow gate and walk right through it up the good path. Note how it becomes wider at every step. You have avoided the danger zone, the ego cascade, thoughts recurring to your needs 24/7, the "me first" nightmare, the story of desperation. Discipline and love will keep you on the right track and will make your life complete, less lonely, boring, or stressful. It will teach you how to live the good life, the abundant life. Good, God, enables you to do your mental homework every single day and work within God's master plan for all.
Write something on your personal banner as you march on. Perhaps a poem? A spiritual idea? A Bible verse? A wise counsel? Or this hymn. It will boost your confidence, encourage you to stay alert - and keep you safe and sound out of the danger zone, complying with a divine standard. It is fixing you right in the middle of Love's comfort zone:
"Is the heart a well left empty?
None but God its void can fill;
Nothing but a ceaseless fountain
Can its ceaseless longings still.
Is the heart a living power?
Self-entwined its strength sinks low;
It can only live in loving,
And, by serving, love will grow."
(Poem by Elizabeth Charles, Hymnal #360)
Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its fact sheet on "depression", and shared this assessment: "Depression is the leading cause of disability world wide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease." (see it here.) What a stunning observation - if there were a way to overcome depression, humanity would benefit also physically, this statement seems to say. So anybody who as anything to contribute should share something, and I am presenting to you three different perspectives in this text.
Behind the scenes is a vivid debate about the treatment of depression, with or without medication. It is a debate whether psychotherapy or prescribing is better, and many individuals in the medical world are part of this debate. This tells me again, that every single case of the 300 million people worldwide diagnosed with depression is individual. And that there is no institution or verdict that is truly applicable to everything and everyone. When I heard again at the phone someone saying that the doctor consulted said that she would need hospitalization and would have to take prescription drugs for her entire life, I could honor her reluctance in taking this step and saw already her insight that something more than giving in to the verdict of one medical professional was necessary. Anyone who has been diagnosed with depression, or was in the position of helping someone diagnosed with depression or had to help someone find healing by first helping the individual to see what was at stake, knows what I mean. Knows something about the empathy, consecration, patience, persistence, unselfish love, patience, patience, patience that is needed for healing. And that is the real need that has to be met. And that is being met with something deeper than human will or effort. Don't reckon without one's host - discovering a higher view, more dignified and whole, of man is key.
I observed, first, that some of the cases I was supporting (as a professor, as a family member, as a practitioner) had a similar theme - this theme being a conviction that the life that these individuals were living wasn't theirs. Somehow a life that didn't fit - that the way they were living wasn't right or appreciated by the family or surrounding, that their talents couldn't be expressed to the full, that what they really wanted was unacceptable to the surrounding and that expectations felt like unsurmountable obstacles. Communication stopped and all the attention collapsed into the inside. What was perceived as adding to the burden was the unsolicited advice or the demand to pull oneself together. This is simply not how this works, I observed over the years. What works is the most tender care, quiet support and humility, not unsolicited advice. It makes a huge difference to feel that we are o.k., to feel strength and power from Spirit in an individual way, and to discover the independence that stems from the fact that what we are and how we live is really a matter between us and God. Of course, this is sometimes a tall order, but Mary Baker Eddy assures us: "If we would open their prison doors for the sick, we must first learn to bind up the broken-hearted." (Science and Health, p. 367)
Second, I remembered from a report of a healing, how important it is to activate gratitude while at the same time refrain from denying that the negative pull exists. Ostrich-like methods just don't help, mental activity does, which uses spiritual sense as a means of seeing in the dark. A healing of depression by Pierre Pradervand, author of The gentle art of blessing, illustrates this powerfully. It gives hints and tips and was published in The Christian Science Journal in 2001 - you can read it here. You will see from this deeply moving account that the Christian Science approach takes into account spiritual resources unknown before and builds on self-knowledge, Spirit knowledge and a deep sense of goodness.
Third, I find food for thought in this short lecture by Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of the concept of "non violent communication" (please scroll to the end of the post). It is again a different way of looking at depression, a thoughtful and tender way, I find. Sometimes healings of depression are on the spot, sometimes they take years and start with accepting that there is something to learn and live with for a while. In any case there is always a way out. Always. Our destiny is not to remain in the dark and feel not at home in Life. Our destiny is to see the beauty and rightness of our being, to acknowledge our independence from the approval of others and to discover our most vital and most powerful link of all, the link to our creator, divine Love. Goodness is a law in Love's dimension of healing.
The Psalms, wisdom of the ages, give words to the sad heart and share also words for the joy when the sense of Life is permanently regained in acceptance and healing.
"How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13)
In The Message, a Bible rendering by Eugene Peterson, this same Psalm is translated like this:
Long enough, God--
you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
have looked down their noses at me.
Take a good look at me, God, my God;
I want to look life in the eye,
So no enemy can get the best of me
or laugh when I fall on my face.
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms--
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers.
Everybody has favorite concepts we live with and elaborate over the years. Deepening, refining them, proving them and exploring them. Sometimes we realize only much later that this is so - and what this has meant and means for our sense of individuality. In a way it is vital to have a focus, because of the infinite aspects of infinite topics and the meaning of life as service and expression. True mastery stems from dedication, right? "...and is seen only in the details", as a friend of mine noted comparing amateurs and professionals. Coming from music studies and linking his comment to the stunning perfection of Bach's music in which every single note has its perfect and wonderful relationship to the whole, I agree.
In my case my favorite spiritual concept and topic for my human experience is that all is one. When I started a regular and deep Bible study as a student in middle school, I saw it everywhere. Aspects of this spiritual fact include a deep understanding in prayer that there is only one Life. This insight and what it means spiritually resulted in the permanent healing of migraine headaches of a family member. An application of the oneness of goodness overcame several situations in the workplace and notions of national stereotypes (I wrote about it here). Character transformation is probably the deepest effect of this daily focus. "God is not part, but the whole," writes Mary Baker Eddy in Miscellaneous Writings, p. 102, and being the whole means: God is All.
I had already for years prayed and worked practically daily to understanding the oneness of Life, until I realized that I was doing it. I had already given a talk on the topic "Man is one" at an Italian Youth conference on spirituality, written articles in the Christian Science periodicals and experienced several stunning healings on the way, yet never really connected the dots - it feels natural to live with this idea every day. What this tells me is that God is working with each one of us in an individual way, and that this unity is more felt than reflected upon. It is a practice, not a theory.
With humility and joy we can catch glimpses of oneness every day. Behind every effort for healing, peacemaking, reconciling, overcoming divisions and fractions, is the powerful spiritual law of oneness. This is the basis why these efforts are successful - and why they started in the first place. Everything is already spiritually whole and complete, and striving to understand this fundamental truth about the nature of Life is really not the starting point but the result of this supreme law in operation.
In a current article in the Christian Science Journal Patricia Tupper Hyatt touches on this subject in a deeply inspiring way. She adds, I find, another fundamental aspect to the understanding of the spiritual law of oneness. One might think that oneness means something like a puzzle, with each piece needed for the wholeness of the image, but that is not all to it. There is more. She writes: "God’s supremacy does not have limited or hit-or-miss expression in single individuals. Each one of us represents the whole of God’s being in an individual way. And when we know a spiritual truth, we know that it is true for all of God’s creation and that it has all the authority of God behind it. While God does need all of us to express Him fully, we each reflect His infinite power." Her article elaborates this idea beautifully and shares a powerful healing. You can find the full article here.
The whole is expressed not just partially, but fully in each on of us. When someone at a meeting commented recently how only a few people were present, it came to me to propose this: "Well yes, but lets explore not the fullness in the room, but the fullness in man. Each one of us is a little universe." And we did. And experienced no lack, but completeness that evening. Have a whole day!
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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