The Fun of Dying was first published in 2010. It includes an appendix that demonstrates the many ways that the dead affirm in detail the Gospel teachings of Jesus. Eventually someone asked me whether the teachings of Jesus actually work. Wow, what a great question! I thought I ought to find out.
So as an experiment, early in 2012 I set out to live the Gospel teachings as strictly as Jesus intends that we live them. What astonishes me almost four years later is that the teachings are so easy to follow. And they effect a rapid transformation! Strictly following the Gospel teachings soon begins to transform your mind into a haven of peace and light and swelling, deep-seated joy. It makes you happy! And from what I can now determine, these changes in our minds are permanent.
The Master’s core teaching is this:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (MT 22:37-40).
Seems simple enough! I soon came to understand, though, that there were many people and situations that I could not love until I first had forgiven them. This seems to be why our need to learn to forgive is so central to the Gospel teachings: no matter how many times someone does us wrong, we are meant to forgive without a thought. Every time. When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (MT 18:21-23). So by the summer of 2012 I was beginning to practice a variant of what is called “radical forgiveness.” Silly me: I thought I had invented it!
Radical forgiveness is so simple and effective that it ought to be taught in kindergarten. Each time something irritates you, you physically gather up the whole situation, people and events all mixed together, and you wad it into a nice, tight ball with your hands. If there are people in that ball, you say aloud (and really mean) “I love you and I bless you!” Then you push it away with both hands as you say (and mean) “I forgive and I release!” When I first began to do this, often the darned thing would come right back so I had to do it a second time. I cannot recall now whether there was anything so vile that I had to do this more than twice.
I don’t know why radical forgiveness works, but it works beautifully! It seems to have been no more than a month before I was noticing a difference in my attitude toward everything. Our minds are efficient. If we are willing to court resentments, our minds will be delighted to dish them up; but if we refuse to give resentments mind-space, very soon our minds won’t bother to notice whatever used to bug us before. Perhaps the reason radical forgiveness works is nothing more complex than that.
Soon I was living with an astonishing lack of interest in things that used to wreck my day. It was as if there had been levers on my mind that would be flipped and result in extreme irritation that would be very hard to get past; but now those levers had been disconnected. Things still happened, and I noticed them, but now they had no effect on my mind. It has been a good two years since I have had to package up and forgive and release anything! In place of what used to be resentments that were easily triggered and slow to heal, there now is a vast internal peace. It’s as if you have forgiven, now and forever, all the negative things that might ever happen to you in all the rest of your life.
Once you have mastered radical forgiveness, it begins to be possible to learn how to love. Loving God comes first. To do that, you’ve got to stop fearing God, since fear is the opposite of love; so that was when, reluctantly, I had to stop being a practicing Christian. It is difficult for me to admit, even now, that Christianity is based in fear of God, but I found that once I was no longer subjected to crosses laden with their Sacrifice whenever I dared to enter a church, I was able largely to heal that fear and begin to develop with my Source the gentle and trusting relationship to which every one of us is called.
Dear friends, learning to love God truly is the secret to loving everyone else! Until you are loving and trusting God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” as Jesus suggests, I don’t believe that you even can see your fellow human beings clearly enough to be able to love them as we must learn to love them.
There are many tricks that I have found to be helpful as we expand our ability to love, but they will have to await a later post or my 2017 book, The Fun of Growing Forever. The bottom line is that once you have mastered forgiveness and learned to love God without fear, you will begin to see God in everyone. As you better strengthen your ability to love each person without reservation, you will find that love becomes the air you breathe and every beautiful thing you see. Soon your mind knows no other emotion.
It was only as I saw the fourth anniversary of my experiment approaching that I thought to wonder WHY following the Gospel teachings seems to be so easy. How was it possible for someone almost seventy years old who had been more or less a self-absorbed crank to transform within months into someone whose only emotion is the joy of ever more perfect love?
It was just days ago that the answer hit me with the kind of thud that makes you slap your head. The afterlife evidence abundantly reveals that each of our minds is inextricably part of the infinitely powerful and perfectly loving Spirit which is all that exists.
So in truth, I hadn’t been learning anything! Following the Gospel teachings of Jesus is a process of joyously REMEMBERING who and what we really are. It is a simple unlearning of the falsehoods that our matter-based culture inflicts on us. Following the Gospel teachings is coming home to truths so central to our nature that as we do it, we find a joy of wholeness and centeredness unlike any other.
As you make perfectly following the Gospel teachings of Jesus the center of your life, you will with joy and gratitude begin to remember who you truly are.