“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast...."
― Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24
Fifty years ago, Cashmere folks put a cross on Flowery Divide hill where we live. They celebrated Easter Sunrise service at that cross.
Some people have said that the Flowery Divide hill is a “thin place” or space. That terminology – thin place has been a bit overworked lately in some circles, but it’s the idea originating with the 5th century Christian Celts, particularly on the Scottish Isle of Iona, that some locations are more mystical – that the boundary between the physical realm and the spiritual realm is so close that you can have one foot in each at the same time.
A thin place experience can be life transforming. Some feel that the experience returns people to their true selves, their essence – in connection to the “Infinite Whatever” - we often use the word “God” - the one who inhabits the everywhere and “the everywhen” as the Australian aboriginals say.
A thin place is like a spiritual portal. But some say we can have thin moments of sacred encounters through many portals, through a deep conversation, time in nature, sitting around a fire, listening to music, reading or listening to a story or a passage which transports us to a new consciousness, a new reality.
The Easter story can function as a portal for some, perhaps people of a particular religious slant. What the story tells me is that the Divine cannot be holed up – tucked away in a tomb.
We may literally believe the full scriptural report of the Christian Easter story. Others may think of it more metaphorically. I believe the story is true whether or not it happened exactly as the gospels purport.
What is true? Maybe many miraculous things. But what I am convinced of is this. Life in abundance cannot be closed up. Nothing can separate us from love, hope, joy. Not death, nor political polarization, nor COVID, nor anything under the sun.
In 2020. We were told not to gather as people have on Flowery Divide for this half of a century. It was depressing. In fact, everything looked bleak.
But then John and our grandson, Eli, and one or two of his pet dinosaurs decided nothing could stop us from celebrating. We had a fire, said a few words, and had communion.
I looked around Flowery Divide with new conviction …and decided that it’s really not about thin places so much as the malaise of thickness of the mind and spirit. Of not seeing, feeling with all our hearts, minds, and all our strength that nothing can destroy love, hope, joy, and our connections with each other and all creation.
It’s hard to knock that thickness, that fog, down when we are ourselves locked away – entombed…relying on our cell phones to pull us out of our funk. But on Easter, some of us choose to come out whether it rains or shines to throw the stone back, to come out of the tomb ourselves to celebrate both the human and the Divine spirit alive in us and everywhere, everywhen…….
Spirituality (and religiousness as well) is grounded in the conviction that there is a transcendent (nonphysical) dimension of life. Spiritual people feel life has a purpose, that there is a Sacred force in all living things and that this force connects us to each other. The word “spiritual” is derived from the Latin word “spiritus” and means the breath of life.
Spiritus historically has also been used as a synonym for wisdom, intelligence, the capacity to reason, and the soul or any nonphysical life force.
However, in the earliest passages of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible there is a concrete reference to the meaning of spiritus. In the book of Genesis, the first human became fully alive only after God breathed “the breath of life” into him. Through that breath God accomplished a profound level of intimacy with humans and also infused an essential – enlivening sacred aspect.
That breath was associated with creativity, the capacity of love, compassion, goodness, harmony, growth, and peace. A beautiful story.
What are the consequences associated with spirituality from a scientific perspective? According to the research to date, many people do a lot better physically and emotionally. They have better relationships, stronger marriages. They experience more meaning in life.
We know that the story of religion, however, is mixed. Religion has been used many times to incite violence, hatred, and prejudice rather than what many consider the essence of all religions – love of neighbor (which by the way, is reportedly much easier when in a spiritual inner space). That hatred has scared many away. Rightly so.
This Easter it might be worth considering, however, the benefits of spirituality, perhaps even religion…at its best. Open ourselves to the experience of a thin place, a thin moment, a thin conversation, a thin story where the tomb is empty, death is defied.
We may emerge from the tomb ourselves, from our thickness…connecting us to the “Infinite Whatever” …Everywhere…Everywhen… and join in unleashing the human, perhaps even the cosmic, forces of love, joy, peace, hope…
How might we journey to The Good Life by opening ourselves to spirituality and the best of religion?
A short body prayer that can open us to a "thin place/space" (and is compatible with the movements of our compassion practice. Being present, giving what you can, receiving, letting it go - thank you, Jan for sharing this)
(Ok, dear friends, I know I am treading on dangerous grounds with some of you when the topic is related to religion or spirituality, I am open to hearing your thoughts and feelings. Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org)