"As for the spiritual life: what I object to about "the Spiritual Life" is the fact that it is a part, a section, set off as if it were a whole. It is an aberration to set off our "prayer" etc. from the rest of our existence, as if we were sometimes spiritual, sometimes not."
~ Thomas Merton, A life in Letters, p. 176
When we perceive God as an entity I think many make the erroneous assumption (I know I have in the past) that we can welcome Him into certain moments in our lives while in others He is distant or altogether absent or perhaps disinterested. Another way of putting this, is many of us become accustomed to being aware of God at certain times and not at others. We have "times" for God and then when those times are over we live as if He is not with us.He drops off of our radar, so to speak.
We might accept the teaching that God is omnipotent and omniscient (all powerful and everywhere at all times) but it is easy to live as if He weren't. For sure, many of our actions, our outward ones and those in which we do in private, are expressed as if God were a concept in which we can pick and choose where we want Him to fit into our lives.
The wondrous aspect of God's true dimension is that He is not an entity in which we would normally perceive an entity to consist of. He is all of reality, His presence continually creating, sustaining and permeating all that exists. Scripture clearly describes that all of Creation is sustained through the continual presence of Jesus.
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
We are walking in a world saturated with the glory of God. We only need to lift our spiritual blinders from our souls, like pulling the blinds up at a window in the early morning, and letting His love, light and reality come flooding into our consciousness and hearts. Then we will find our souls quickened and stirred by the Grace that is etched into every textured leaf quivering at bending boughs, the wind's gentle breath gliding across landscapes green and fertile, new growth sprouting up with vibrance and purpose in early Spring, retelling the tale of resurrection and hope. The gospel is stamped within and upon all of Creation with the seal of God's love. God beckons us to read and experience this gospel everyday, every moment, if only we will open ourselves to its reality.
A practice that has helped draw me deeper into a life lived more spiritually is the practice of contemplative prayer. One can find many parallels between the techniques and experiences encountered in contemplative prayer with other practices incorporated in the mystic traditions of the world's religions like Islam's branch of mysticism-Sufism. I believe this proves what a mighty God we have in that He is calling all of the hearts He so lovingly crafted in their mother's wombs, whether in the deserts or highlands or suburban and urban jungles, home, into the infinite depths of His love. Yes, I do believe, others besides Christians can experience God's love. I do, however, believe that the fullness of His love and truth is expressed and experienced through a living relationship with Jesus.
Sessions of intentional contemplative prayer have a way of awakening contemplative moments throughout one's day with continued practice. These moments help lift the spiritual blinders that we can put on and dissolve the compartmentalized thinking we have that separate God from facets of our lives. Our own egos and attachments to this world are our greatest impediments towards living the spiritual life.
To fully describe contemplative prayer would take up a whole other post (probably a few more besides!) but essentially it is seeking union with God. It is letting the clutter of our continual inward chatter dissolve, losing our attachments and illusions so that we sit (or stand or walk depending on one's preference) with a mind and soul that becomes more and more still, slowly awakening to God's presence within. Through some practice and time, it is possible to begin to hear oneself less and less and experience God's presence more and more.
We can carry this practice onwards with us throughout our day by being fully mindful in the present moment. The present moment is offering itself up to us, presenting to us the glory of God and invaluable gifts of understanding and insight, if only we drop our inward chatter and allow ourselves to be fully present.
One popular exercise that can be practiced is the simple act of washing dishes. This has been an illustration I have come across in both eastern meditation books as well as Christian contemplative books, as an exercise of practicing mindfulness.
Simply begin washing dishes. When a thought arises, let it arise, note it with no interpretation, and let it fall away. Like waves on the ocean our thoughts will rise up, endure and fall away. Let those waves come and go with no attachment to their significance, without reading into them or letting them cause bigger waves to come as you find yourself taken by them. For example, if a thought like " wow the dish soap is running low"comes, don't let yourself then think, " I have to run to the store to get more later on, I wonder if I should do it before lunch or after", that will just lead to more and more thoughts, taking you away from the present moment! Instead, note the thought and let it pass, while at the same time allowing your senses to explore and sense what the present moment is offering them. The feel and temperature of the water on your skin, the reflection of light on the bubbles, the sound of water splashing on steel or porcelain.
This helps us still our insignificant inward chatter and guides us into the present moment, where truly, reality is only found. Reality cannot be found in the past...the past is always continually shifting and is shaped by our own biases and illusions and the future isn't reality for it hasn't happened yet! God is here, God is now, God is inviting us all in, but we have to shed our egos, our attachments our illusions and enter the naked reality of life to experience Him in the present.
Let's not let God become just a part of our lives, but let's allow ourselves to become internally aware of Him during all of our moments and to live a life fully in Him and for Him. I will end with a great passage from Father Jean-Pierre de Caussade :
"...the one thing needful is simply what comes to the soul each moment by the will of God. This includes the stripping, the self-denial, the renunciation of earthly things, in order that the soul may be nothing in itself or live for itself, but may live wholly by God’s will, and at His good pleasure content itself with the duty of the present moment, as though that were the one thing in the whole world."
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments Section. Thank you!