"The child is in me still, and sometimes not so still"
- Fred Rogers
I have recently put up some quotes on Facebook from Fred Rogers. If anyone doesn't know who Fred Rogers was; he was an ordained Presbyterian Minister that had a television show for children called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as his ministry. Since his passing, his show is on Public Television only once and a while, but I never miss it. Fred did not talk about religion, or mention God, but talked about simple human relations in terms a child could understand.
I have found that children are often capable of understanding great spiritual truths. As we, who begin, or continue, the spiritual "search " , we often find that we are "looking back " at a time of simplicity that we remember from our childhood. The story is told of the of a three year old who has just had a new baby in the house. One day the parents found the three year old curled up in the baby's crib, with the newborn. "What are you doing?" the child was asked. "I was just sitting with the baby", the child said. "I was trying to remember, I had forgotten so much".
We, on the spiritual search, also discover that we have forgotten so much. As children we live and love and swim in freedom. As we become older, we long for a different kind of freedom; one we imagine will be of our own making. As adults we begin to rely on our education; our acquired knowledge. The intuitive response we once had as children is buried under a self imposed "wisdom". I think one of the factors that leads many "seekers" after spiritual understanding is that call to "remember ", because we sense that we have forgotten so much. This "seeking " often stems from a fear that comes to all adults at some point. As children we are protected by our parents. We are free of worry about the simple daily needs and cares that are so much a part of adult life. We long, if we are honest, for that simpler time of no care or responsibility. We remember the comfort of our parents or teachers as a safe haven, even if our childhood was not the best. We see the protection provided by these "guardians " as the reason we felt safe, not recognizing that it was our spontaneous love and joy in life that was our true savior. When we feel that it was the guardians that made us safe, we often look for spiritual "teachers " that will give us some prescribed plan or method. We look to a "father " God, in whom we can trust, or a guru who we see as encompassing all truth.
When I first returned to the Church, I took a Lenten class in the "Jesus Prayer". This is a form of meditative prayer using the "mantra", "Lord Jesus, have mercy upon me, a sinner". We were however asked to contemplate on it and to come up with our own personal "mantra". Mine became "Father, my Friend, I love you." The "father" part was there because this was how the Christ had described God. The Christ used the word "Abba " frequently, which means not simply father, but something like "daddy ". This was the closeness that the Christ wanted to convey. God is not just creator, but loving daddy; Our Father. The "my friend " part of the mantra was because I felt that close. God knew me, understood me, loved me. And the "I love you " part conveyed my return of that feeling. Of course, this all belonged to an "imagined " God. One I did not yet understand, but longed to.
After the discovery of Advaita; non-duality, which was not really a "discovery ", as I had a sense of oneness even as a child, I began to seek the realization of that understanding. The "child " in me recognized that I had "forgotten so much ", and I began to understand intuitively that Love was my true nature, and I began to again live, love and swim in freedom. This freedom is life itself. It is giving freely, as a little child. It is standing in awe of a beautiful sunset, as a little child. It is letting the tears flow, in happiness or sadness, as a little child. Yes, there can be sadness, even in freedom. It is the acceptance that make it whole; holy.
When I watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and I hear him talk or sing about "The mad that you feel", or that "You have to do it, do it, do it." I remember the "forgotten so much ". One of Mr. Rogers' compositions that says it all is "There are Many ways to say I Love you." This is at the heart of the "realized person ". Not great words, or mystical experiences, but the living out the "Many ways." If your teacher sets him or herself apart or views themselves as somehow on a different level than you, then they are seeing separation where none exists. Realization tells you that you are Love. There is no need to be loved, only to share it freely. When you and the "other " see that you are both Love itself, you and the "other" become secondary to the Love that you are.
Fred always began his show with the song. "It's a Beautiful day in this Neighborhood. It's a Beautiful day for a Neighbor." and ended the show with the song "It's a good feeling to know your alive." Wonderful neighbors, joy in living. That is what enlightenment and awareness are all about. If you make it any more complicated than that, you need to get back to the "forgotten so much."