Inspiring story found on TV.
Originally published 2003
Everyone Who has Ever Loved You
In Star Trek: Voyager, cuddly little Neelix describes a comforting belief from his tribe: That when you die, you will go to the “guiding tree” — a great tree in the middle of a beautiful forest, filled with sunlight, where you will meet everyone who has ever loved you. He told that story to help a little girl go to sleep, telling how he often thinks of that when he has trouble sleeping.
Immediately, I recognized this story as an incredible meditation. In that instant, I recognized all religious imagery as, essentially, objects of meditation that lead to incredibly good feelings and new realizations.
In the Far East, there is a tradition of meditating on one’s master, in order to experience the powerful emotions of love that stem from that connection. Having been fortunate enough to train with a true master, Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim, I have been fortunate enough to experience the benefits of that meditation. (Grandmaster once related that her master loved the quiet early morning hours for meditation. So when I wake early, I frequently focus on that connection, and experience the love.)
It was Grandmaster who first awakened in me the power of gratitude. In one class, she asked us to focus on generating gratitude — for our breath, for our life, for everything we could think of. It was a powerful experience. The more I generated gratitude, the more I became aware of to be grateful for. For two weeks, I generated gratitude every waking moment. I was grateful for the sun’s warmth and energy, for the shade of the trees and the wood they gave us for houses, for the food that grows to nourish us, for having a job, for the person who invented the automobile and the people who make them, for people running gas stations and for people taking away trash. Everywhere I looked, there was reason to be grateful, and I experience two weeks of non-stop bliss. It was my first experience with true enlightenment.
Christian religions, too, have imagery with which to generate such feelings. Focusing on the image of someone dieing for your sins gives you the freedom to forgive yourself. That lets you stop harming others in attempt to “prove” you’re right, and it lets you experience the powerful emotions of love and gratitude. (I’ve never personally bought into that concept in any meaningful way, but a lifetime of exposure to it gives me insight into the value of meditational imagery it provides.)
After seeing that episode of Star Trek: Voyager, I went to bed that night visualizing that beautiful, sunlight tree in the middle of a great forest, and I began thinking of everyone who has ever loved me. The list was much longer than I first thought! Each night, in fact, I think of others who, in their way, demonstrated love one way or another. And I, in turn, love them back.
In that process, I am finding that visualizing “everyone who has ever loved me” brings up those powerful feelings of love and gratitude — the same feelings and awareness that my master brought me to experience originally, and which are the focus and foundation of all major religions.
When I heard the story, the powerful potential of meditational imagery became clear in that moment, as did the awareness of the commonality among the religions of the world. Since it is that inner experience which is the raison d’etre of religion, it is tragically ironic that so many wars are fought over superficial differences.
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