Hell is not some abstract place under the ground that we get sent to when we’re bad.
Hell is alive and well here on earth, in the hearts and minds of men and women all across the world. You included.
I know what it’s like to live in hell. I know how it feels to have shut down my heart and my body and my soul so completely that I lived yet didn’t live. My existence was pure torture and I nearly put an end to it.
Hell is what that happens when we learn to disown God. And yes, it is learned.
God is not some man in a beard up in the sky. God is alive and well in the hearts and minds and bodies of men and women all around the world. God exists within each of us – even those who also live in hell.
God is the feeling that we spent or spend so much time numbing out through our addictions to Facebook, alcohol, porn, crappy food, working too much, buying stuff, staying busy, and our own ceaseless train of thoughts.
God is alive and well in you and I. We just never learned to listen. We never learned to honor our instincts and our hearts and our bodies – our connection to spirit.
God is emotion. The signals in our bodies which, if we really truly learned to listen and act accordingly, would bring us back to equilibrium and vibrant health.
We learned to ignore the God that exists within us all.
So that we could fit in.
Because as mammals fitting in is a core survival mechanism. Over tens of millions of years we have evolved an entire segment of our brain, the limbic brain, which is responsible for emotion and social connectedness, to keep us safe.
Before our modern mechanized structures that deliver food, shelter, water, and physical safety at the pulling of a fridge handle or turn of a faucet, losing the belonging of our community meant imminent death. It meant nobody else to watch our back. It meant no safety in numbers. It meant no help getting food when you’re sick or disabled.
Loss of community meant loss of safety.
On a fundamental level our brains register loss of love and belonging as death. It has been wired into us as mammals over tens of millions of years.
We, humans, as high up in the order as we may think ourselves to be, evolved from mammals. We ARE mammals.
And when we allow our need to belong to become so strong (and we began to learn at very young ages, before we had ANY awareness of ourselves) that we suppress the natural, God given emotions and instincts that inform us to emote, express, cry, and follow our bodies’ natural responses to heal, we suffer instead.
Our emotions, when allowed to run their natural course allow us to heal. To become whole. To move away from hell and toward God.
When we suppress our emotions we suppress God.
When we suppress our emotions our hearts suffer. Our souls suffer.
And when we suffer too much, for too long, we die. We either live not fully alive as I did for so many years, or we die of disease or suicide or early death.
When we shut down the natural expression of our emotions for fear of what those around us would think or feel we also end up passing that suffering on to those we love most. Our children, lovers, and family members most of all.
Hell is turning away from the uncomfortable emotions, the anger, the grief, the pain, the fear. When you turn away you WILL pass hell on to those around you.
Turning toward God is turning toward the emotion and peering into the deep, dark places within us where embers still smolder and smoke and burn, and stepping into that fire knowing that we will not die, but be reborn.
Turning toward God is stepping into and through the fire. Deeply feeling every nuance of emotion that there is to feel, and emerging more healed.
The journey is not easy. It requires massive amounts of courage. With no exceptions it requires trust far, far beyond our perceived capacity.
We must commit fully to the path of seeking God. Stopping or turning around means re-embracing and turning back toward hell.
We also can’t do it alone. We need the support of others who have walked those paths and felt those fires before.
Note that they cannot carry us, nor can we expect them to carry us. This is our hell. Not theirs.
Some of us are very good at trying to get others to take on our hell. We will cry, scream, bargain, and manipulate. Sometimes in very overt ways, sometimes on incredibly subtle levels. But anything to not have to feel the depth of our hell ourselves.
Others of us are excellent at trying to get others to GIVE us their hell. We would make the load easier for them, but in doing so we turn away from our own journey toward God while simultaneously robbing them of theirs.
But we DO need others. It is those who are willing to be with (not take on) not just the socially acceptable parts, but ALL of us, that will guide us toward our redemption.
Because as mammals we need to feel connected to others. We need to know that we can be seen, loved, and held through all of it. The pain. The agony. The messiest of messes.
And it is worth it. The reward is heaven on earth – whole, bright, radiant, open, and joyful.
We emerge from the fire newly born and in tune with our own hearts and souls.
In tune with others.
In tune with God.
This post is not about religion. It’s about the truth of life. Substitute God with any other word you prefer and give it your own meaning – universe, spirit, or the intangible knowing of something greater than you or I could ever wrap our minds around.