I am a firm believer that any book or bible can only help point the way for us to experience the living word of Love and Truth that is in our hearts. There are many teachings in Christianity and, indeed, in every other religion, which gets taken out of context and twisted into something unrecognizable from the original intent – often times even quite the opposite of what the Teacher, Prophet or Messiah had in mind. Yet, if you truly pray with an open and yearning heart and contemplate the words, it can lead you back to the original meaning. This is the point and practice of Mystical Christianity.
Even though I have never read the bible cover to cover, I have had the experience of being in prayer or meditation and suddenly understanding a phrase or a verse that I have heard repeated all my life without knowing what it really means. One such phrase is “the straight and narrow path.”
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
This bible verse from Matthew 7:14 has been used for centuries as a way to justify a very straight and narrow religious point of view and all kinds of discrimination or prejudice for those the particular church deems not straight or narrow enough. But I experience that the phrase is not about being straight as in heterosexual or even straight as in upright and rigidly conforming to religious norms. And narrow does not mean narrow-minded.
One summer years ago I had just dedicated my life to God and at this particular time that meant I was not working “out in the world.” I spent my days mostly alone, working at my desk and taking care of my ministry’s retreat center and sweet little temple. I would water the plants on the decks and in the temple and then take the opportunity to kneel at the altar and pray or meditate. I wore all white just because I felt like it, and I do admit, some days I would put my white sarong over my head and dress up like a novitiate, just for fun, just because it felt good to me, even though no one else was around to see me – or I guess specifically because no one was around to see me. (Otherwise the only opportunity I had to dress up like a nun was once a year on Halloween.)
Throughout the day I would stay tuned into my heart. I know we often talk of the Temple within the heart, and it is most often used as figurative speech, but I actually would feel my little inner self inside my little inner temple in my heart. It was like I could tune in to my heart and feel myself kneeling at the Temple in my heart, sometimes prostrating, and sometimes, when I was feeling less than surrendered, I could feel myself standing or restless, not quite in the mood to be empty or devoted.
One day as I knelt before the altar in the temple, I looked at the picture of Jesus and poured forth my love for Him and then closed my eyes with my hands on my heart. I tuned into the Inner Temple of my heart and could feel myself kneeling with my head bowed to Christ. All of a sudden I experience myself kneeling inside a column of white light. It was the most exquisite, peaceful, soft and radiant white light I’d ever felt. And I could see it as a straight and narrow column or path connecting me to God. And it didn’t have anything to do with behavior or moral code or do’s and don’ts or should’s – the only thing that helped me stay in this beautiful exquisite blissful straight and narrow column of white light was my focus on loving God.
That was it – that was the mystical meaning of the straight and narrow path that I felt from the living word in my own heart. I don’t know what mystical scholars or ecclesiastical books might say about what was meant with those words in the bible, but my experience of those words was about the simple and profound power of devotion. The straight and narrow path I felt inside of me is about keeping my focus steadily on loving God. It’s not about anything else, and it’s certainly not about judging someone that we deem to be off the straight and narrow path that we have self-righteously drawn out for ourselves.
And, as is usually the case, this mystical meaning of the straight and narrow focus on God can also be found in other religions with different words. Last weekend I was over at a friend’s house and they had just acquired a new Shiva Nataraj statue. They invited us over for puja, to bless and consecrate the new addition to their temple room. We chanted the Om Namaha Shivaya 108 times and afterwards I stayed in the little room standing in front of the Nataraj.
Shiva is the Hindu aspect of God as the ultimate yogi, the ultimate meditator with absolute pure focus solely on God. As I was standing in front of the Shiva statue I all of a sudden felt my spine become straight and narrow in single pointed focus on God. I could feel Shiva’s spine as a focus so straight and narrow that it felt like a thread – a thin, glimmering, golden thread of light.
I was reminded of my experience of the straight and narrow column of light connecting me to God. Shiva’s spine is also the straight and narrow focus on God, and it has nothing to do with renouncing or not renouncing the world, it has nothing to do with do’s and don’ts or should’s, it only has to do with getting into the state of consciousness where you are residing in single pointed focus of loving God.
The straight and narrow path is internal. It’s all an inside job. The mystical truth is between you and God. And whether you practice devotion to Christ or meditation with Shiva, the straight and narrow path is found in the temple of your own heart.