“If you say that money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time: You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, in order to go on doing things you don’t like doing — which is stupid!” – Alan Watts
What If This Is Heaven?
Upon awaking this morning, I felt a sense of urgency to go for a walk around the neighborhood. The sunlight was starting to creep through the blinds. The whole world it seemed was calm. Peaceful. Perfect.
So, instead of my usual routine, I head out into the crisp, bright morning. No phone. No music. No one else. And no destination in mind.
As I step outside, the sun on my skin feels warm. A warmth I have not felt since the closing of fall. I found myself smiling at the magnificent power that the sun possesses. Just a ray of its light can awaken something inside of me that has the authority to bring me into my body, into the present.
I grab a coffee and head off. I began to relish in the cold Sunday morning air. It is close to freezing but warmer than it has been in weeks and so I do not mind it. It seems as if the entire city is basking in the silence of the morning. Feeling the power that only can come within the quiet moments.
This morning, my body is the captain of my steps; I am just along for the ride. It takes me onto a path near our home. It is an above ground walkway that is kept immaculately clean. I find myself appreciating this. Something I have failed to do on the numerous occasions that I have been on the path in the past.
On I go. Looking around. Experiencing my breath. Thinking only about what I am observing in my mind and body.
A couple of minutes later I pass by a dog park. There are a lot of dogs playing, surrounded by their owners, Venti Starbucks cups in hand. They are talking quietly amongst each other, probably about the weather or another one of the trivial things we often fill conversations with to “kill time.”
I laugh to myself when I see two dogs running away from their owners. In the best dog impersonation I can think of I say under my breath – Escape. Escape. They must have been running towards something more appealing than what they have. I find this eerily similar to my life.
…but my mind doesn’t.
I start to think about the owners in the park. All smiling and carrying on. No one is in a rush. Or annoyed with the responsibility of taking their dog out this morning.
The sun has that ability. The power to insert within people a calming sense of gratitude and genuine joy after being locked inside and held dormant throughout the cold, dark months of winter.
My walking pace started to slow as I took a deep, long sip from my coffee mug. Eventually, coming to a complete stop as a means of really tasting the coffee.
As I stood there, a question entered my consciousness. A whisper. One that had attempted to surface many times in the past, but I never noticed it due to the rapid pace of everyday life. However, this morning was different. I was present. Calm. In no rush at all. So, I let it in…
What if this is heaven?
By this, I mean this life. This planet. This existence we have here and now. What if this was the existential meaning of an afterlife, all we had to do was just wake up to experience it?
I take a deep breath. I sit with this question. I don’t try to answer it. I just let it be. I focus solely on grounding myself in the presence of this thought. Taking the time needed to go deep into myself.
I look up. At this point on the path, there is a beautiful view of the entire Chicago skyline.
I let my mind sink deeper into this question, what if this was heaven, as I start to notice whatever comes into my awareness. The sound of cars in the distance. The smell of coffee. An entire symphony of dogs barking. All were happening in my awareness of the moment.
I ask myself again, what if this is heaven?
How different would I act? What if instead of this life being a carriage to something else, it was the something else? What if this place, an awakened life, was what all of the religious teachers meant when they talked about an afterlife?
If this was heaven, would I work just to work? Or worse, would I live to work? Making a career the center of meaning and fulfillment in my life. Or would work be a viewed as a true expression of my potential? A manifestation of my true self. A place where I could achieve the final level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization.
Would I have fear and self-doubt about my ability to create the life I desire? Would I doubt my ability to be? My ability to become?
If this was heaven, would I have the same relationships? Would I passively stay within a circle of friends because it is comfortable? Or would I seek out people who bring out an authentic expression of my being?
Would I spend all of my time worrying about what others thought about me and my work? Or would I focus on creating the work that matters the most to me?
I wonder if I would even need external validation to do the work if this was heaven.
If this was heaven, what would I do differently? What agency would I grant myself over the creation of self? How differently would I view what I thought I deserved?
A belief that the world owed me nothing, for it already gave me heaven. Would I be small in my opinion of the world and my capabilities? Or would I be audaciously idealistic?
If this was heaven, what would I care about? Would loving others be a vessel to a deeper self or would I view others through a lens of what they could do for me?
A brisk westward wind brought me back to full awareness of standing on the trail. And I started to walk further down the path. But something was different. I had a deepening sense of being grounded in the moment.
Everything in my awareness became amplified. It was if I was seeing my life for the first time. I became curious about how I took my next step. About who was living in the homes I was passing. About how long it would be until the first flower sprouted. All things that I rarely think about.
I looked up and saw a young couple with a stroller approaching. I had the urge to greet them and say hello. So I did. As I leaned up from looking at their precious child, without being aware of what I was going to say, I whispered…”This is heaven. Make it yours.”
I said goodbye and moved on with my day.
Although the feeling only lasted for a few minutes, the realization of what this place could be is still with me. I am going to start asking myself that question a little more often. I hope you do too. Because you never know…
What if this is heaven?