BY SWAMI CHETANANANDA
I’m not very comfortable using the term “God.” I suppose the reason is that I grew up a Catholic, and I was quite certain at an early age that whatever the Catholics meant by God was not what God was. Despite that, it was in church that I first had the experience of God. My first memory from being in Catholic grade school was getting a copy of the Baltimore Catechism. The first lesson in it included the question “Why did God make me?” and the answer given was “God made me to know, love and serve Him in this world.” I believed that when I heard it, and I really tried to live it.
I was going to church every day (I was an altar boy), and each time I found I could go to a different place, one that had nothing to do with what was going on around me, by feeling into my heart and feeling something wonderful there. I learned to breathe into my heart and to feel there, with my breath, something wonderful. I did that every day as a kid, and I had some pretty far out experiences doing that.
Life went on and I grew up, went through puberty, and became completely disillusioned with Catholicism as I knew it. When I got to college, I lost myself in that whole experience, in the struggle to find my place in the world and to create for myself a career and think about how I would manage family and career and so forth. The whole time was a very big tumble for me. Then one day I was experimenting with mind-altering substances, and I remembered something that I had forgotten in the whole process of growing up: that there is something really wonderful in my heart. As I began to understand that I needed to find myself again, I relied upon that wonderful feeling that I found in my heart and what I learned from everything I had experienced as a child. I realized that I absolutely could not allow myself to be distracted by all the crazy shit going on around me. In fact, I couldn’t allow myself ever to be distracted by anything, ever. Instead, I should always establish my awareness in the wonderful feeling that was available to me in my heart, and go through my days in touch with, thinking from, speaking from, acting from, doing what facilitated the expansion of that wonderful feeling and its expression in the field of my life.
During my college days, there was a lot of countercultural discussion going on about God. Throughout that time, I sincerely wanted to understand what God meant, and I really wanted to find God. I heard a lot of talk about different paths to God and that everybody had their own path. There seemed to be thousands of paths, and I was glad I finally remembered that, for me, there’s only one path. There was always only one path, and there will forever be only one path. That one path is loving God. That’s it.
To find that wonderful feeling in your heart, and go to the depth of that wonderful feeling in your heart, you will discover that you, your life, and God are exactly the same thing. Every single day, connecting to that feeling will open you deeper and allow you to extend your awareness through the field of experience itself in a finer and finer way.