"What's he talking about?" you may ask yourself. "The kids are driving me crazy, the commute-traffic headache hammers me daily, stress at work is killing me, and household bills are piling up again. Everyday feels so difficult. Where would I find Heaven on Earth around here?"
So let's start with what Heaven on Earth is. You've actually been there before, many times, but forgot. Perhaps one of these questions will help you remember what it was like:
- Think of the happiest time in your life. A first love? The excitement of pregnancy? A new career? A huge success? How did you feel? How did the world seem in that moment?
- Have you ever been astonished by the beauty of nature: an incredible sunset, magnificent landscape, or a timeless moment enraptured by the sounds of birds, running water, or wind in the wilderness? In that spell of enchantment, how did you feel? How did the world seem in that moment?
- Can you remember one of those times when your mind stopped by itself and everything suddenly became quiet and still? You're just sitting there listening to the clock tick or watching dust motes flow in the light streaming through the window. Outside of time and completely removed from the freight train of everyday life, how did you feel? How did the world seem in that moment?
- Have you ever found yourself in a church, temple or other holy place peacefully absorbing its deep holiness and tranquility? How did you feel? How did the world seem in that moment?
In each of these experiences, the perception of Heaven on Earth was leaking (or breaking!) into consciousness. Of course you didn't realize this and probably concluded that this extraordinary moment was "just" related to what was going on at the time. What if you could stay in that consciousness a bit longer? The experience of Heaven on Earth involves a shift in consciousness that changes how you experience the world. This shift has the following characteristics:
- The mind becomes quiet. The inner world of racing thoughts, inner chatter, wishful fantasy, or endless "to-do" lists grows silent and you notice to a wonderful stillness inside and out.
- Attention moves to the immediate present; you are no longer focusing on past or future events. Shifting from conception to perception then has the interesting effect of waking you up further.
- As sensory perception increases in the here-and-now, you start to see what's actually around you and discover the world's spellbinding beauty and perfection just as it is.
- In this consciousness, a quality of holiness gradually emerges. The world seems filled with a Presence that is aware, awake, patient, and loving.
The Three Most Common Barriers to Finding Heaven Here
Why don't we see Heaven on Earth more often? The most common reasons are:
Disbelief: Was disbelief your first response to my description of Heaven on Earth? Did you immediately dismiss the possibility of Heaven on Earth with all your objections? Disbelief prevents us from even considering the possibility of stepping into that Heaven that is already here.
Fear and Worry: When you worry and fret about problems, distressing thoughts prevent you from stopping to really see what's around you. Instead, you're living in a fear-driven mental world completely removed from the presence of Heaven on Earth.
Compulsivity: Instead of stopping to see where we are really are, we rush on to the next problem, worry, or self-improvement project. Driven by compulsivity, we rarely stop to "smell the roses" which is where the threshold to Heaven lies.
Learning How to See Again
If you want to start seeing Heaven in your everyday life, here's one way to start:
- Find a peaceful and pleasant place to stop everything. Disconnect from people, phones, and tasks, and be quiet for a few minutes. Breathe deeply, quiet your mind, and down shift from the world's hectic pace.
- Make a conscious effort to create a sacred space. Meditate, pray, or read a something that touches you spiritually. Experience the Divine in whatever ways feel most natural to you.
- Now stop thinking, heighten awareness, and begin examining the world just as it is, without names, ideas, judgments, or beliefs. Look at whatever is around you and see it as if for the very first time. Notice the colors, patterns, textures, and spatial arrangements of things, and how the subtly changing light affects their appearance. Open your senses, be utterly fascinated, and you will soon discover that the world is not what you think.
- Bring love and joy to whatever you experience. You already know how to love, love everything unconditionally in this moment and see how the world changes before your eyes.
- Finally, silently repeat the following simple phrase, "This is Heaven on Earth." As you do this, notice how your perception and feelings change further. You are now looking directly into the divine world.
John Robinson holds doctorates in clinical psychology and ministry and is an ordained interfaith minister, author, and mystic. He has taught extensively at men's gatherings, professional conferences, churches, hospitals, and retreat centers and is the author of three previous books on the interface of psychology and spirituality. His new book, 'Finding Heaven Here' (O-Books, 1/09), documents the chorus of mystics from across eras and traditions who tell us that Heaven on Earth is already here when you learn how to see.