At times we think we are separate and alone. We struggle to get free of the ancient prison walls around our hearts and of our sense of alienation from our Source. But we are not alone.
The Soul is a mighty bird flying into the sun, not a broken-winged sparrow. Spirit is living us, and when the time is right, Love manifests in astounding ways to show us the way back home. This is what happened with Alma.
She was born into great poverty in Peru, and yet she was the richest one among all the little girls in her school. She had what the nuns yearned to find. She had what all the holy books didn’t know how to say. She had her friend. It was very private to her and she didn’t speak about it. But with him she had all the happiness in the world.
He was with her every day. They grew up together and played with each other all day long. While he was with her, Alma was happy and exuberant. She forgot that her father didn’t want her and her mother had abandoned her. Her pain was gone and not even the strict rules of the monastic school bothered her.
Her friend was Jesus, as real as he can be. They met in the openhearted innocence as children do. In these years her great love for God was the most natural thing for her. It was as easy as breathing; it was more nurturing than food and drink.
Alma’s story takes me back to India, to the bhakti traditions of ecstatic devotion, where the Infinite becomes your intimate Lord. There the devotees yearn for nothing more than to play with their beloved Krishna.
He comes to them in the way they most love him, as a child – just as we celebrate the divine infant at Christmas - or their childhood friend – like Alma and her young Jesus - or as their lover in the full flowering of divine passion, or as the timeless guru in the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita.
God comes to all of us in whatever form we long for Him. This may be in the abstract, as Truth or as Spiritual Insight, or in the most personal and intimate ways. What matters is only that the heart is pure in its yearning, the mind one-pointed on the Beloved, and the soul open to the guidance of the Divine. Then the relationship develops and deepens until life becomes a rapturous dance.
At that stage everything in the lover’s life becomes the motion toward that inner marriage that transports her beyond the duality of this world into the bliss of Oneness in the arms of her divine Beloved.
Alma’s Beloved was Jesus. He was more real to her than anyone around her knew he could be. She was immersed in him.
In the Indian tradition of bhakti she could have been understood. But not in her school, not among the austere nuns. While they spoke of loving Jesus, they could not find him fully in their own hearts like Alma could. They could not fly with him. They didn’t know where he was. They didn’t know that he is always right here.
And then she noticed the lies. She became confused. What were they saying, the adults, the stern nuns, the dusty holy books? It was so different from the unburdened freedom she knew from her friend.
They told her that she could not fly, that she was a wingless chicken and had to be content to pick through the dust for morsels of her love here and there. They did not know that our hearts can soar in that love.
As she listened, her confusion mounted, and eventually she could no longer find him. In the end she came to believe that it was Jesus who had abandoned her.
Now in her 50’s, the poor girl from the Peruvian countryside has become a highly accomplished lady. Her life is international in scope. “I learned,” she says, “to fly like the Condor, the bird of the Gods.” She is free. The great bird has a majestic wingspan. It soars over the world. She is free.
Only she no longer has her friend. She misses him. Can she ever find him again?
The only thing that can come between us and God are our stressful beliefs and their many effects. Now Alma is setting out to free herself of the thoughts that stand in her way, the stories of abandonment, old pain, and of her friend’s absence. The belief that she is anything less than the intimate friend - and the radiant bride - of her Beloved.
This inner Work opens a door. It is the door to the space of closeness, innocence and passion in her relationship with her Beloved. It is the capacity to use the full spectrum of human emotion and passion to relate to the Infinite. And now her divine love affair can take new forms, appropriate to who she is now.
Now she has not only the innocence of a little girl - that is still in her - but also the maturity of a woman in her prime. This brings new and exciting ways of relating to the Beloved - and with that comes a price:
She cannot take her old stressful thoughts and emotions along into that new relationship, nor her limiting ideas of who she is and about what is and is not possible. She will have to re-think who she is. She will have to dare to be as intensely in love with her Jesus as her heart desires. She will have to gamble it all for her love.
The dusty church people of her past would have gasped at such freedom, but if her heart commands it, she can make Jesus her lover. She can be his bride.
The only limitations in our relationship with the Divine are posed by our limiting thoughts. God certainly does not restrain His love for us. God is free – but are we?
We come to the infinite ocean of God’s heart – our heart. What do we bring with us? A cup, a thimble, a bucket? Or an ocean-size, unquenchable thirst for His love? What thirst and container we bring determines how much we can drink.
We will see what container Alma will bring. Judging from her early beginnings, it will be a large one. It will be large enough to fill the Heart of the Condor.