Seeing God is normally impossible
In an earlier post I wrote about the importance of seeing God in all the places where he (or she — I know that’s uncomfortable for some, but c’mon — you know God isn’t male or female!) is. In my last post I said one way to do that is to make the move from religion to spirituality. This is critical. Just as critical, is learning to be quiet. This cannot be overemphasized. Meditation is the way people have learned to be quiet for thousands of years, across cultures and across religions. Seeing God in the world only happens as you learn to see God in yourself. If you are not spending liberal amounts of time quiet and alone, seeing God is nearly impossible. As long as you are rushing about here and there, filled with urgency, thoughts darting through your mind at a thousand miles an hour, you will lack many things: peace, perspective, the ability to let go of thoughts before they carry your emotions away, and — most of all — the confidence that God is in you (and the world around you) and is growing in you daily.
Seeing God is rare, even among religious people
If you ask most Christians the last time they were confident that God did something amazing in their lives, they will tell you that it has been a while — a few days or weeks ago, a few months ago, several years ago, some will even say it has been a few decades since they were certain of God working in their lives (the theological word for which is simply “grace”). This despite the fact that most Christians are striving constantly to do good and be good, and beating themselves up considerably for falling short.
Seeing God comes through quietness
The plain fact is that most Christians have not been taught what is of utmost importance in the spiritual life — the cultivation of a quiet heart and mind. God is already with you, already desiring your best good, and has already given you what you need to live in peace and happiness (including the gift of his Son, Jesus, which we celebrate this season). If you are not living happily and in peace, it is because you have learned many toxic things that are blocking your happiness and your sense of the presence of God. The spiritual life is much more about unlearning than about learning. You must learn to set aside what you think you know and approach God in emptiness. Philippians records that Jesus had to empty himself before he could become human. Humans have to empty themselves before we can become like God, a la Gal. 4:19, ”…until Christ be formed in you.”.
Quietness is acquired through meditation
The way to empty yourself is through the ancient art/discipline of meditation. Meditation is not a spiritual option for those who wish to live a spiritual life rather than a material one. Nor is It is one among many options that are all equally effective in the spiritual life. It is not something for super spiritual people. It is not something only Buddhists do. It is not esoteric. Mounting scientific studies are showing the benefits of meditation. Verbal prayer, service, membership in a church, fellowship, study of sacred texts, a few minutes of devotional reading daily — all of these can be especially helpful to the person who has rooted their life in the silence of meditation, but will only be slightly valuable to those who simply add all of these practices to the already chaotic conditions of their hearts and minds. Learning to quiet ourselves=seeing God.
Resources for meditation
I have two resources for those interested in learning the invaluable art of meditation.
- First is a brief description of what meditation is and how to do it. It can be done just as effectively without the mantra (“prayer word”) by simply following your breathing.
- The other resource is a set of brief talks on aspects of meditation, given by Father Laurence Freeman of the World Community for Christian Meditation. You may download those here, and are free to distribute them as you wish. Enjoy seeing God more and more in yourself and in the world around you as you learn this vital practice.
- This post from The Huffington Post‘s religion section is one of the best pieces I have seen on the critical importance of training the mind.