June 4, 2012

Knocking on Heaven’s Door. ~ Louis Cortese

We are all knocking on heaven’s door—most of us, anyway.

In hordes, we rush up to it and knock on it loudly and expectedly, hoping that it will open up wide to let us in.

I’m not using the phrase as Bob Dylan does in his brilliant song. With apologies to him, knocking on heaven’s door, as used here, is a metaphor for the yearning to enter that metaphysical place that exists beyond our everyday world of pain and suffering. It’s a mad rush to get on the other side, where relief or at least some meaning to the numbing madness of life awaits.

So we chant; we contort our bodies; we sit still in meditation as a means of knocking on that door. We’re knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door with a burning desire and so-called love in our hearts.

Except those of us who are contorting and meditating don’t call it heaven. We call it Samadhi. It’s the same door, same numbing life we’re trying to escape from, and the same so-called love in our hearts, same story, just different mise-en-scene.

We are susceptible to the romantic notion of it all, to the goodness that seems inherent in it all. How can all those wonderful sensations we get in yoga class—communal love, peace and brotherhood toward one another—be wrong?

We use words like grace and oneness to describe it. Namaste: I see the divinity in you and I salute it. We are all one. This is what it’s all about. This is why we meditate and sit cross-legged every day. It will open the door to integration with the one consciousness. That’s why we keep knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.

But what if there’s nothing on the other side of that door?

What if the door doesn’t really exist? What if all the talk of oneness is mental gymnastics, conjured up to satisfy a desire for something better than the stark reality of life?

Perhaps all the contorting and meditating and chanting are just empty activities, mere ceremony. They may instill a calm and peaceful effect to our neurophysiological system, providing a much needed respite from the stresses of everyday living, but nothing more. Or worse, they are manifestations of our greed, a selfish desire for spiritual power.

I could be wrong but here is my theory of what’s going on.

We come out of yoga class, having fired up a storm of endorphins doing backbends, and we’re floating on this great high. Or we spend a weekend meditating in a bucolic setting away from the maddening world that is part of our everyday lives, having ratcheted down our nerve impulses from the typical everyday frenetic levels. Add to that: yoga instructors or spiritual coaches who talk to you of lovely notions of universal consciousness, integration into the whole, living in the moment, heart perception, love as the life force. You feel so good about the world now.

It’s so intoxicating.

But what if it’s just a matter of social influence or receptive conditioning to something that feels good, but has no real basis? Or to put it in terms that other contributors to this blog might prefer, it’s all bullsh*t, but it feels great so we buy into it all the way.

Once we’re hooked, we keep going back for more and we start to incorporate the spiritual terms into our vocabulary. And because we never really truly experience oneness or self-realization or seeing the divine in our boss who is the biggest dick, we start sounding embarrassingly phony.

It’s my experience that being an awakened person in the spiritual sense is an extremely rare thing.

In all the years I’ve spent around spiritual environments, from Zen Buddhism to yoga, I have never met anyone who was a realized self. But the way people throw around these terms of what it means to be enlightened, you would think that it’s as common as a 200-hour teacher certification from Yoga Alliance.

There is a huge difference from describing what you have personally encountered to what you have come to understand intellectually. Most people understand with their minds the concepts of kundalini rising, or the eight steps to Samadhi, or universal consciousness, but never come close to experiencing one iota of it.

Krishnamurti, who was said by all who met him to have the presence of a sage, said: “It doesn’t matter who says it, the moment he says, ‘I know,’ he does not know.”

We become enthralled by ideas and concepts, which are described in poetic fashion and held up to us as romanticized ideals to strive for, in the same way we strive for everything else. Except, in this case the object of desire is considered to be on a higher plane because of its so-called spiritual nature.

But just like the crowds who line up in the pre-dawn hours on Black Friday, pushing up against the doors of department stores waiting to be unleashed into shopping nirvana, we keep knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door. What we don’t realize is that what we’re really doing is banging our heads against the wall of futility.


Louis Cortese, in his life, has been a precocious young boy in an anachronistic town in the mountains of Sicily, an immigrant at the age of 8 arriving by way of an ocean liner to the shores of the west side of Manhattan, a guido from the Bronx, a hippy, a Zen Buddhist, a businessman, a yogi and a conventional family man with three sons and two grandchildren, among other things, none of which describes his true self and all of which in the aggregate do not give a full account of him. If his story is not he, then what is? He’s still looking. Lou’s musings can be followed on his blog http://louiebop.tumblr.com/


Editor: Brianna Bemel


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