When I was a small child, the Catholic high school I attended celebrated Easter by staging a live theatrical representation of the Passion of the Christ. I remember dressing up as little shepperd one year, then a Roman soldier the next and doing my best to play the part I had been diligently assigned by my teachers.
What I’ve never shared with anyone before is that I secretly envied the guy who year after year was chosen to play the part of Jesus. He was always a lean, tall, athletic, good looking guy with perfect hair, beard, light colored eyes, charming personality, and killer smile. Everyone loved him. And he seemed to love everyone.
Secretly I longed to be like him.
I suppose the reason for this was because I was completely the opposite of this Jesus our school theatrical play cleverly portrayed. I was shy, small, timid, insecure of myself, and terribly confused about life, religion, sexuality, people, my family… you name it.
After moving to the United States, my next experience of this kind came at Canterbury School, when my peers staged the musical Godspel, and I loved it. More than ever I wished I could be like this Jesus, that not only was a long-haired, barefoot, thrower-out-of-money-changers, but also sang and danced beautifully, with a revolutionary spirit that touched everyone’s heart.
I often wondered, why was this Jesus so different to the one they spoke about at church? I also wished to know how I could build a “personal” relationship with this guy, when ultimately he and I were so freaking different. Let’s not even talk about what it actually meant to be “saved” by him, and from what!
Each time I asked a priest, or counselor these questions, their answers did not satisfy my curiosity. Somehow, “having blind faith”, and “trust” seemed like ideas and concepts I could not grasp. It all seemed very intellectual. As a kinetic learner, I needed to feel it in my body, I needed an experience, and the Catholic Church was not helping me have it, so I made the decision to leave so that I could find my own answers.
More than 20 years later, and after having been through the experiences of being an atheist, an agnostic, a born again Christian, a santero, a New Age junkie, an urban shaman, a New Thought minister, and spiritual counselor what I’ve come to terms with is that this thing we call ‘Religion’, as English Author, Douglas William Jerrold once said, “is in the heart, not in the knees.”
And original Christianity, as Jesus taught it and lived it, is ultimately the religion of my heart.
This is the conclusion I’ve come to after years of studying what our spiritual and mystical traditions had to say about our human hearts. And this is what I’m most passionate about these days, and why I’ve decided to support others who are also following The Path of the Heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Original Christianity has nothing to do with society, buildings, creeds and dogmas. It is founded upon my unique relationship to the Presence of God, with heaven and earth for its beams and rafters.” And, the Christ, this Jesus we are honoring and remembering during Easter, is not really a cool, beautiful, charming guy, but the example of what it means to embody the Presence of God in my life.
This one realization was a game changer for me.
For years I had tried to find this Jesus in society, in relationships, in the pursuit of success and fame, without realizing, that what my heart was truly longing for was finding this relationship within me. This is why I believe that anyone who follows The Path of the Heart, what they are ultimately following is the Presence of God within themselves.
As a Christian we call this the ‘Christ’. As a Buddhist you might call it ‘The Buddha Nature’. As a Hindu, you might call it ‘The Atman Presence’. As a Atheist, you might simply call it ‘Love’. But whatever you call it, call it from within you through and by means of your physical, emotional, and spiritual heart, because that’s where it truly lives.
And in my experience, there’s no faster, more effective way to do this, than by doing exactly what the historical man we call Jesus taught the small group of men and women who fervently followed him…
The Prayer of the Heart
In the time of the Apostles of the Christ, there was a practice called The Prayer of the Heart, also known as The Jesus Prayer. In the Jesus Prayer, the words Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, (Lord have mercy on me, Christ have mercy on me) are spoken or sang with an awareness of the heart, while breathing consciously. In the book, The Way of a Pilgrim, written by an anonymous Russian mystic, this practice is discussed with great detail.
The earliest description we have of the Jesus Prayer is by a student and companion of the Apostle Paul, Abba Philemon, who died in 54 AD. In a sixth century book called The Life of Abba Philemon, the following instructions were given:
With the help of your imagination find the place of the heart and stay there with attention. Lead the mind from the head into the heart and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” quietly with the lips or mentally, whichever is more convenient; say the prayer slowly and reverently. As much as possible guard the attention of your mind and do not allow any thoughts to enter in.
Over the centuries, this Christian practice developed further with many saints stressing four basic requirements:
- Concentration on the heart
- Concentration on the breath
- Sincere, devotional, emotion
- Invocation of Jesus Christ
The first three of these are fundamental to what the Institute of HeartMath calls ‘Coherence’. They are also fundamental to the practice of Heart Rhythm Meditation, a simple and powerful Universal meditation taught by Susanna and Puran Bair, founders of The Institute for Applied Meditation on the Heart.
To me, this is a fundamental practice for anyone who is committed to following The Path of the Heart, for the greater your connection with the intelligence, wisdom and guidance of your heart, the closer you’ll be to fully activating your potential in all areas of your life.
The Religion of your Heart
Whether you’re a Christian or not, if you’re longing to have an experience of the Presence of God within you, and open your heart to the Christ, Buddha, Atman or Divine Presence of Love within you, I’d like to invite you to join me on this 4-week, transformational journey towards awakening the greatest potential within you.
And what we Christians call Easter might just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to resurrect or create a new version of yourself. That is what I ultimately believe the message of the Crucifixion is all about. This is a time for letting go of anything that no longer works, and set powerful new intentions that serve the bigger purpose you came here to express as a leader of your own life. It’s time to be re-born as the leader of your own heart.