About 40 years ago, I was at a boarding school in Canterbury, England. It is what is confusingly known in England as a “public school,” although in fact that actually means it’s a private school. The school was founded in the 13th century, and many of the old stone buildings have hardly been touched since that time.
There are a lot of things not to like about going to an English public school. Imagine putting a few hundred testosterone-driven adolescent boys into close quarters, where dozens sleep together in rows in the same room, have no contact with girls, and eat food that looks mostly like wallpaper paste, and is served with a ladle out of a bucket. The closest thing that exists like that today would be a lock-down for criminals. But 40 years ago, that was how the “privalidged” got educated in England.
Like many of the things that happen in unpleasant environments, I’ve tended to dismiss almost everything about those years. But it had its golden moments, too. Like something that the headmaster said at a morning assembly one day when I was 14, which has stuck with me ever since.
What is Heaven?
The headmaster was giving a speech about the difference between Heaven and Hell. “Hell,” he said, “is where a great number of very hungry people sit together on benches in a long, long, long row. There is a table in front of them, about six feet away, piled with all sorts of sumptuous dishes from all around the world. Each of the people sitting on the benches has a pair of six-foot long chopsticks. They are able to use the chopsticks to reach the food, but of course they have no way to get it to their mouth.
“And as for heaven,” he said, “Heaven is also filled with a great many people sitting on a long, long, long row of benches. The same tables are in front of them, also six feet away, and also laden with all kinds of delicious foods from around the world. In heaven, they also each have a pair of chopsticks long enough to reach the food.
“The difference,” he said, “is that in heaven, people use the chopsticks to feed each other.”
I don’t think I fully appreciated or digested the beauty of this story at the time that I heard it, maybe because of the very hard seat I was sitting on and the very uncomfortable school uniform I was wearing. But now, 40 years later, I feel that aging Anglican cleric was right on the money. That is the the difference between heaven and hell, and that’s the difference that we’re all being invited to participate in today.
Last week, we met for a tele-seminar about the most effective ways that you can be of service to other people in this time of transition. We talked about three of the most important qualities for being an instrument of awakening to others. We talked about “inspired certainty” as the capacity to hold a vision of what is true and abiding. “Absolute presence” means to be with another person without any kind of distraction, either internal or external. And “radical awakening” we described as the capacity to help another person shift from the preoccupation of thoughts and feelings to limitless, expansive consciousness in just a few minutes.
This week, we’re going to continue talking about how you can be an instrument of awakening to other people. We’re going to talk about how easy it is to free up contractions and emotional charge when we know how to free it from a story. We’re going to talk about the right use of practice, to shift from habits that create suffering to those that create joy and play. We’re going to talk about recognizing and bringing forth the unique gift in another person, and we’re going to talk about the mysterious magic of “spontaneous creation.”
Please join me on Thursday, January 26th at 6pm Pacific time for this discussion.