Most dharmic traditions understand and espouse the interconnectedness of all things. That means everything. You and me. Us and nature. Heaven and hell, enlightenment and ignorance. Opposites are merely perceived just like the crest and trough of a wave or two sides of the same coin.  There is no separation other than in our minds.

Founders of the Abrahamic traditions also had plenty to say on the subject of interconnectedness and unity. But, way too many modern day adherents choose to ignore it.  And, I do not understand why.  It’s unfortunate that unity is no longer the central organizing principal of all religious faiths, because the concept of unity is why they exist in the first place.

Even though you and I might consider ourselves strangers, we infer each other. We’re made up of the same stardust, share the same DNA and look up with wonder at the same moon. We are essentially versions of each other. And, no one can say where their skin ends and the air begins. Our bodies are mostly water, yet the systematic poisoning of the world’s water supply does little more than raise a collective eyebrow among most informed citizens.

Ignoring our obvious dependence on our environment and each other is insane. Fighting a war is like cutting off your own arm and soiling the environment is like soiling your own pants. Peace and sustainability are more than bumper stickers to be snickered about. Initiators of all major faiths exhorted their friends and followers to be as one with each other and good stewards of natural resources. Modern day adherents who reject peace and sustainability in the name of their god and the advancement of commerce are either ignorant of their own religion or have knowingly chosen greed and hate over love and compassion.

Turning our view from the outside world inward toward our personal contemplation, within the context of interconnectedness, it’s also important to understand there’s no separation between heaven and hell, nirvana and samsara. The ignorant person doesn’t live differently than the enlightened person. Both get up every morning, do their work and relate to the world.

An enlightened person is merely awake. But, they continue to live the same life experiences as the person immersed in delusion. The secrets leading to contentment might have been discovered, but that contentment will still be experienced in the same material world.

Enlightened people are still faced with frustration, anger, and sorrow. They just react to those emotions in different ways. Also, ignorant doesn’t mean dumb. Ignorant means a lack of exposure to certain concepts or choosing to ignore them after exposure.

And, enlightenment doesn’t necessarily denote intelligence. Enlightenment is just another word for waking up to what is. An awareness or view into reality, which is ignored by most people.

However, to the enlightened person, normal life IS Heaven. The two aren’t separate. Being awake to the connection between perceived opposites is a feature of enlightenment. There is no separation between normal existence and Heaven other than in our minds. Every-day-life, with all its good and all its bad, is Heaven if we merely get out of our own way and let it be.

I don’t believe Heaven is something that happens to us after we’re dead. Neither is Hell. I believe both channels course right through the portal of the present moment in each of our lives while our perception, behavior and mental state enable us to tune into the channel of our choice.

All the good and the bad in the world happens to both the “just and the unjust.” It’s our reaction to the happening that determines delusion or enlightenment. People are just people, whether they’re walking around in a sluggish dream or fully awake to what’s in front of them in the here and now.

I think both Jesus of Nazareth and Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) tried to teach this reality to their friends. They were both reformers of the legalistic religions of their day and they both transmitted a simple message:  We are all interconnected variations of each other, individuations of the divine, bound by love and compassion in the present moment. And, anything that degrades compassion, generates fear and hate, separates us from our unity or detracts from these realities is the source for suffering or what most people refer to as Hell. I think people have been wrapping religious dogma around those simple messages ever since.

I also think sometimes both sudden stress or an unanticipated moment of bliss can produce a glimpse of this interconnected reality.  Many people find themselves on their knees in prayer for the first time when they’ve just lost a loved one. In those focused moments, when the world’s distractions are pushed out by their grief, I believe mourners briefly experience Reality in the present moment.

Other times a blissful awareness might happen when we’re lucky enough to be on top of a mountain without the normal daily distractions or when a child tells us they love us. These are happier lenses into the same reality of the present moment. Many people recognize these moments as God Moments and they’re right. All of this is God, but most of the time we’re just too distracted to notice.

The open secret is we can sustain these moments of reality and expand them into our daily lives. Through mindfulness, patience and practice, we can push out distractions and experience peace-of-mind in the present moment. Some people use prayer or meditation. Others use music or exercise. Whatever helps us to reduce mental noise and be aware is worthwhile. Regardless of what works for us as individuals, if we ever hope to experience true contentment we must give ourselves a fighting chance to slow down and live fully within the present moment free of the distractions of past and future fantasies or concerns.

Once we’re in the reality of the present moment, we have a chance to create some room in our minds to wake up and realize the present moment is Eternal. It is in fact the only thing which is eternal. The past only exists in our minds and the future never comes, because it’s always Now.

When we practice settling in and living fully in the present moment as both Jesus and the Buddha suggested, we experience Reality. And, we discover that presence is the most generous and precious gift we can ever give our family and friends. Proof of this fact is as simple and no further away than your child’s smile when they know you’re fully with them, both mind and body, and not distracted by a problem at work or focused on some electronic device.

I personally believe this Love in the Present Moment is the Kingdom of God we’ve heard about for so long. When we stop the noise in our mind and the concerns about past and future, the peace of living in the present moment enables us to experience our true Self. And, God. This is the “Peace that passes all understanding.”

And, most importantly, in this moment of full clarity we experience the unity of our Self and God and Love. We finally know our perception of all things is God in this present moment. There is no separation.

You are IT.

– Scott Kinnaird, 1/31/2010

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