By Ed Williamson
PROMPT — The way I see it ...
In my younger years I discovered a simple truth. It was in my nature to be curious, to ask questions, and—if I knew it—to tell the truth. One day while attending mass with my mother, I announced this truth. My mother was a devout catholic. Her belief in the church was unshakable. I knew it was genuine and authentic, and I admired her devotion to it.
We were in the local parish church in Cork City, sitting quietly. I asked my mother to look up at the large crucifix that had a statue of the dead Jesus on it. I never understood why Jesus was portrayed in such a callous and garish way in every religious venue. It always seemed so cold and disrespectful to me. The statue had four letters on a plaque above his head. INRI. I asked my mother if she knew what those letters meant. She replied that she did not. I then told her in a very nonchalant way that they mean, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. She immediately turned to me with a look of horror and disgust, scolding me with her eyes saying quietly but forcefully, “Jesus is a Christian!”
This simple truth, even when prominently displayed on a cross in a catholic church for all to see—that Jesus was a Jew—having never been a Christian, never mind forming a church, was met with defiance and certainty of belief that it could not be true.
Since that day in church, I have thought a lot about the truth. The truth, as I see it, is always what is, not what is assumed or believed. It is important to understand this distinction because it makes all the difference in the world, literally and figuratively. Our lives are full of assumptions and beliefs that affect how we view the world around us and how we react to it. If we could instead, start from a place of, I don’t know, then the possibility of knowing is there.
There is no secret way for discovering truth, and truth is not a secret. We need to practice letting go of assumptions and be patient in discovering truth. Nothing is hidden from anyone, no one is hiding the truth, but some who claim to know truth create mystery around it because they themselves don’t know.
If you encounter a true master teacher of spirituality you will know it because they have nothing to teach you other than the ways you can be free and open to experience for yourself. They won’t ask you to believe anything and they certainly will not ask you to follow or worship them. All they are looking to teach are ways to look for truth within.
I wasn’t there when Jesus walked the earth nor when the Buddha did, yet it is clear and unmistakable from their teachings that these teachers did not want to be followed, but rather, they demonstrated to those who listened and heeded their teachings how they might find their own way to truth by living with love, compassion, and kindness. No beliefs were taught, no secrets revealed. In fact, the teachings of all of the great spiritual ones, although presented differently because of era, culture, language, and ethnicity, reflect similar qualities, and seem to include the guidance to:
Accept all beings for they are all part of the oneness of life. Turn inward for that is where discovery of truth exists. Be childlike and free, don’t judge, least of all yourself. Pay attention with intense curiosity for all life. Listen with an open heart and be grateful for your own beautiful, unique life. There is no mystery to this, no secret.
Ed Williamson is the founder of Pathways Center for Mindful Living and Wellness, which he opened in 2014. Ed has followed a path pursuing a deeper knowledge and understanding of life from an early age. His many years of mindful awareness, meditative practices and spiritual encounters have enlightened his journey. He has written many essays and articles on life, its challenges and wonders, and is currently working on a book chronicling his journey, the wisdom that was afforded him on the path and lessons learned. Ed is also a tai ji master, having studied in the martial arts for over thirty years. He received a chief instructor certificate from his tai ji teacher, grand master Gou Ming Xu, President of WACIMA the world association of Chinese internal martial arts. Ed teaches Tai ji, mindfulness, meditation and gives talks and seminars on tai ji, mindfulness, meditation, and spirituality. He writes from Franklin, MA.