I was at dinner a few nights ago with a friend. We’d just spent a day with the spiritual teacher Adyashanti. We’d both been deeply moved by the experience, and by him.
As we talked about life, love and religion, I happened to mention that I’d felt increasingly drawn to Christianity over the last couple of years. He was a little surprised, and wanted to know more.
I want to share with you what I shared with him. It’s a story that is achingly close to my heart, and one I feel quite uncomfortable speaking about.
Even with a close friend, I felt awkward speaking the name Jesus, aware of the cultural connotations that the word has for so many of us.
But as I finished my story, he told me how much more permission he now felt to embrace the spiritual depth of Christianity, and let go of the old associations he had from his own upbringing. He said to me…
“What if, by you telling this story, someone else’s estranged relationship to Christianity can be healed or reborn?”
He was right. What if? So here’s the story of my friendship with Jesus.
I Grew Up Atheist
Atheism, if you didn’t know, is a contemporary religion that doesn’t have any Gods. The atheists typically don’t like the Christians. And so as a child, I didn’t have any friends who went to church or who had read the bible.
Even at school I was protected from the Christians for the most part. We’d have the occasional shallow bible reading from Miss Bathmaker. But even as a 7 year old, I knew what she was teaching us wasn’t true.
Growing up, Christianity was the old dusty religion that we’d replaced with something much more rational and humanistic.
In fact, for most of my life, spirituality in general was hard for me to accept.
Even when the work of philosopher Ken Wilber changed my life at the age of 23, it was his teachings on spirituality that I found hard to swallow. I would digest the philosophy and psychology at an alarming rate. But all the Buddha and Brahman stuff? That felt weird and alien. I didn’t know what to do with it.
It was the practice of Chi Kung that really opened me up spiritually. I practiced it on and off for 4 years. But while I would study with my own teacher, to this day I have never read a single book on the Shaolin Arts. I didn’t want anything to do with the philosophy.
And then, a few years ago I started feeling this curiosity for Christianity. It would come out in mild ways at first. And then 2 years ago, it got serious. I was going through one of the darkest periods of my life, and felt a call to study Christianity. I remember hours spent sitting in front of the wood burner at my dad’s country farmhouse, reading about Jesus.
I talk to Jesus
Not every day, but often.
Often when I’m meditating, I’ll call forth his image. He normally stands in front, and slightly above me, a little way off. Recently he started standing slap bang right in front of me. He has a beard. He’s wearing white. He has some kind of pattern around his collar. He’s a big man. Strong.
I’ll ask him things. I ask him for help. I ask him what God is asking of me.
He’s so compassionate with my struggles. His heart is always so open. When I’m upset, bowing my head under the pressure, I’ll look up and he’s crying too. He feels my pain as I feel it.
He’s ruthless with me. A few days ago he slapped me around the face. He told me to wake up. He told me to wake up and stop turning away.
For the last 7 months he’s kept saying the same thing to me over and over.
“You must speak.”
No-one taught me how to do any of this. It just started happening.
I’m not a Christian
But I love going into old churches and cathedrals. I’ll sit in the pews and meditate. I’ll surrender to the chorus of the place, let it infiltrate me, carry me.
A few months ago I was in London. had a few hours before my flight back and decided to go to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I’d never been there before.
I sat underneath the great dome and I gave myself to the place. I was taken up and out. A great expansion reaching up to the dome, and further. As my awareness floated higher, my heart was grinding itself against my ribs. A profound feeling of love. Loved by him.
Loved by the man who changed everything, and who never wanted any temples, churches or religions to be created in his name.
Jesus was a human warrior of the heart
It feels quite vulnerable to write this to you.
Not simply because of the closeness of this story and this man to my heart. But because even now, I can feel the part of me that associates Jesus with weirdos. I see in my mind’s eye a different man who ‘loves Jesus’.
A stubborn and judgmental religious man. A nut. A bigoted evangelist. Some Bible bashing zealot who will condemn you unless you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior.
Except the Jesus that man speaks of is not my Jesus.
My Jesus was a human who lived and died. He was a brilliant thinker, and a spiritual revolutionary. He was the least zealous spiritual leader of his time. He was a man who taught that awakening is not about escaping the world of form, but embracing it.
He was a man who bucked against his destiny. Sometimes pleading to be absolved of the responsibility he felt, and the pain he was asked to endure.
He was a man who got angry and spoke out, condemning those who abused power for their own egoic gain.
He was a man who taught that the heart is the center of life. He was a man that loved others with his own human heart, deeply and profoundly. He was a man that loved a woman profoundly.
I have tears even as I write this.
He told me once that he felt sad that the stories of him had edited out his great love, Mary, with whom he taught and entwined. The woman who was the other half of his awakening and of his teaching.
My Jesus is not a man who will judge you if you do not do as the bible says.
He’s laughing as I write that. That’s so very far from who he was.
What I’ve learned from him
As I’ve strived to bring my work into the world, there’s one thing that I’ve been continually challenged by, one trial that has faced me down in a myriad of forms. Doubt. The great doubt.
Can I really do this?
Am I truly worthy?
Who am I to say this?
I’ve walked into new territories where the maps have been sketchy at best. I’ve felt continually pulled back by the gravitational force of safety and conformity. And I’ve questioned my work, deeply, time and time and time again.
I could not have come through all the trials I’ve faced without a faith in something larger than myself. I could not have stepped out vulnerably into the unknown without a trust in a force greater than I.
Jesus has been a divine guide for me. A true representative of God. And a man, who lived, loved and lost. He’s always there for me if I want to ask him something.
I just asked him what he thought of me writing this piece. He said he likes it.
He said he likes me speaking.