“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15–17)
At Easter time, it is fitting to reflect on another message from Jesus who is not ennobling naivete, or simple-mindedness, by receiving the kingdom (spiritual awakening and experience) like a child. He points directly to purity of heart and openness of mind as keys to the kingdom. Faith and trust in a divine parent in essence is like a child’s faith and trust in the protection, care, and authority of his or her worldly parent and other adult role models. It encourages us to live in the context of a friendly universe, not defined by the disappointments and rigors of worldly life.
Children in a normal and healthy environment learn much through play, and wake up daily to a universe they trust as friendly and safe. They are often uninhibited in their enthusiastic joy and spontaneity toward life. To a mature adult, feeling and giving wholehearted faith and trust can be more difficult. Openness and good will with an indwelling sense of universal friendship are not only required for entering the kingdom but are also essential for the capacity to invite the experiential leading of God’s living presence.
Like a child in the material world, the material senses and intellect are naïve to the subjective experience of spiritual presence and have little capacity to grasp spiritual presence and truth without the recognition and subjectivity of a receptive heart and mind. Increased depth and fulfillment from within through spiritual experience, further confirmed in shared experience with others, encourages a loving and positive outlook and experience in life. Increasing freedom from material attachments and aversions, through identification with spiritual presence, offers a lightness or joy of being akin to childhood innocence and uninhibited energy. This is very healing to a soul burdened by worldly life.
It is also good while tackling the big and deep aspects of life that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, as that can lead to a self-absorbed life. Too much self-focus, driven by lack of self-acceptance, can form an egoistic identity around our spiritual path, which is counterproductive. Jesus did not teach introspection and self-evaluation other than self-honesty and love. His teachings are based more on the selflessness of one who has the treasures of the divine and is left with an urge to give wisely yet selflessly to others.
Most people recognize the need and hunger for meaningfully constructive and fulfilling lives and relationships. In modern developed countries, where survival is handled for most, our needs are more around quality of life and meaning in a society where both can be lost amid a commercial and consumer culture. The battles fought are as much about our mindset and emotional needs as any material need. Many religious paths encourage removal of worldly distractions from what true inner happiness and reality is founded upon. The adult world becomes filled with complexities of responsibilities and pursuits, status and attaining material comforts. Meanwhile, divine love and other aspects of the divine nature can only be truly embraced and experienced with an open heart and optimistic trust that can be likened to that of a child. Approaching spirituality like a child implies a pure, sincere intent and openness of heart and mind. There is a simplicity to this state of the heart implied here rather than an intellectual conceptualization of the kingdom.
Childlikeness does not mean that Jesus proposes looking to God and the kingdom of heaven as a way of avoiding life and responsibilities. Jesus’s life and teachings were and are about tackling life fully with the best and highest of principles and values intact. Thus, the kingdom provides the most certain, lasting, and authentic platform to face all of life courageously. This is because it helps us to connect to our true eternal nature in the ideal of trustworthiness and goodness with a sense of fulfilling a higher purpose.
Spiritual experience includes and yet transcends logic and reason, which is why it is founded on faith and associated with the receptiveness of a child. Yet, the subjective experience becomes a recognizable and reliable home-base that permeates all aspects of life when consciously acknowledged with conviction, openness, and willingness. If we have made that step, we easily recognize it in one another as well.
Genuinely letting go in mind and heart to just ‘be’ with an attitude of open trust and faith is like a silent prayer. It creates conscious space for Spirit to be felt and is the entrance to the ‘kingdom’ within. It is the art of allowing the spaciousness and receptivity inside ourselves to be filled while remaining empty of our own self-made content. Breaking down the mind’s resistance to letting go is best done softly, with a child’s trust and optimism. Aligning with Spirit is a two-way process, like a dance of spirit and self-will, and it can get extremely deep and subtle once the dance begins to flow and develop. Like a dance, it can become a sublime, moving, like an ever-changing yet familiar ebb and flow of harmony.
So much of our living can be captivated in ups and downs that are really part of conditioned and programmed patterns or habits of thought and perception. Material mindedness is a limited and relatively unstable consciousness mostly of conditioned thoughts and feelings exclusively relevant to partiality and linear time. Conditioned thoughts and feelings are repetitive and actually quite predictable when appraised honestly and objectively.
Therefore, the indwelling Spirit’s influence, with our will and cooperation, is to assist our intuitive mind in tuning our consciousness to the higher vibrations, where divine presence and leadings can be discerned. This is where creative and spontaneous insight occurs, even flashes of genius, along with our sense of connection and fulfillment. Less energy and mental activity is then spent on unproductive repetitive thoughts. Divine presence experienced with our whole selves allow it to make the adjustments we are ready for, over whatever time is required, to spiritually mature.
Daily living with spiritual conviction leads to consistency of conscious connection to a state of God’s presence. Passing emotions and thoughts have less and less ability to disrupt the background of super-consciousness (consciousness of consciousness), of peace and goodness, light and beauty, truth and joy.
The purity and strength in this peace and stability persist and renew moment to moment, as it is a living presence in the ‘now’. True divine presence never gets boring or stale, it has a refreshing renewal effect that contains joy with a deep inner smile, akin to the purity and openness of a child. Because it is tapping into an infinite transcendental source, we receive an endless stream of the “living waters” (John 4:14).
We can sometimes see and feel an amazing old wisdom and presence reflected in a child’s eyes. Finding that presence within brings us to a place where we don’t need to arm ourselves with a manufactured ego and self-image but rather find authenticity in facing life openly as we are, putting trust in the moment and life, in the Spirit that moves and fills us. We know we are loved and supported, and as long as we are true and connected, know that all will be okay.
An open and receptive adult mind and heart has greater affinity and rapport with children as well as people in general. When centered in the divine, we are less self-preoccupied in internal dialog and increasingly released from cycles of emotional tiredness and reaction. Therefore, we feel much more in the present moment. The thought process is more spontaneous and adapted to the needs of the moment rather than conditioned by the endless narrative of our own passing opinions, programmed associations stimulated in the brain, and past-programmed repetitive reactions to ongoing reality.
When we accept and embrace this life and world as unconditionally bestowed gifts, along with all their potential ideals and possibilities, then it follows that we embrace every moment. Valuing and appreciating these gifts will enrich our experience of them. A human child is conceived by the will and actions of its human parents co-creating with the divine source of the spark of life and consciousness. Likewise, when we are born of the Spirit of life and pure consciousness, we are progressively glimpsing ourselves as conceived by the Spirit and sharing its nature. Like the human child, it is for us as spiritual beings to be of the love of our divine parent and let our sense of the divine reveal our own divine nature. In personalizing and identifying with our divine source and parent, we become a reflection of our own experience of the beloved divine Father/Mother who is our living source and destiny.
At Easter time, it is the resurrection I feel holds the most powerful message for us and is the purpose of the suffering on the cross. As a child receives and reflects the love of the parent in full trust, so can we open our minds and hearts to receive and reflect the love of our divine source and nature. This is the resurrection within that frees us from suffering and gives it purpose.
Photo credit: Magdalena Roeseler on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA (modified w quote)