How I Practice Awareness of The Divine, God
So, how do I do this practice?
The best, shortest, most directly to the point answer I know to give you is this:
Open Your Heart to God, The Divine.
Please notice that right now I’m writing to you about the way “I” practice awareness of The Divine.
But, what you need to know is how you will practice this awareness. So, I think the following may be helpful:
Treat the words you read here as sign posts, not ultimate truths.
Let YOUR heart guide you. Let YOUR mind guide you. But, in the end it will be your heart that knows and experiences The Divine.
It is Your experience that I urge you to seek, not the words of my experience. Only I have MY experience. Only you have YOUR experience.
Awareness of God's presence does not flow from trying to believe or trying to make yourself aware of God's presence. It flows from allowing yourself to be aware of The Divine presence. Which is why I say . . .
. . . Open Your Heart to God
The whole of my practice is expressed in this one simple statement:
Open your heart to The Divine.
Everything else that is written in this topic is simply my effort, through words to help you understand what this means.
I hope you'll continue on with me and let me tell you more about what I mean by “Open Your Heart to The Divine.”
Let your heart / soul / being EXPERIENCE God's Presence.
Let's be clear about the difference between experience and belief.
Imagine a hand gently brushing your arm. The brush of a hand on your arm is experience. It's not belief. When this happens and someone brushes their hand on your arm, it's the real, unmediated experience. It's not a belief.
A belief that your arm has been touched comes from the experience, it does not precede the experience.
Experience is the sensation at the moment when the hand brushes your arm.
Ego and Experience
Ego works to prevent experiences that are not tested and found to be safe. And, this is usually good for us and helps assure our continued survival.
Ego can be comfortable allowing us to be in our minds all that we wish to be.
But, I'm urging you to experience God's Presence. EXPERIENCE! Get out of your mind. Stop letting words and ego protection come between you and God.
Let your heart, your soul, and your being experience God's Presence.
Ego mind, our everyday way of thinking and operating, can make this practice complicated. It's not complicated. It's about your experience in the present moment with your heart and soul open to God's presence.
If you take the path of trying to understand rather than the path of spiritual experience, I believe you may find yourself in a never-ending complication.
It seems to me that our relationship to The Divine may be analogous to the ants in the following little story:
Two ants meet on the steps of Widener Library at Harvard University. One ant says to the other: Do you know anything about this place? Yes, said the other ant. I know EVERYTHING about this place. There's a strong, easy-to-follow scent-trail just over there that leads from the greatest peanut butter blob you could imagine and leads back to a wonderful nest.
Like the ant in this little vignette who knows "EVERYTHING" about Widener Library, we can UNDERSTAND only that which is within our point of view — in our case, our human point of view.
And what can we do to understand what is in reality beyond our human point of view?
Perhaps the difficulty we have connecting with The Divine is NOT because we don’t have our beliefs and understandings just right, but that we think having the right beliefs is what we need and is even posssible for us as humans.
The practice I am talking about is not a practice of understanding. It is a practice of experience and of consciousness.
It’s my hunch that we are like the ants on Widener Library’s steps when it comes to understanding and knowing about The Divine.
We are out of our depth. We cannot understand that which is beyond us — beyond our human point of view.
Should we not seek to draw closer to God, The Divine Presence? Go beyond words and belief. Seek God in the experience of the present moment.
Experience the Present Moment
In what moment does experience take place?
Experiences happen NOW. They happen in the present moment. Afterwards, we have memories of the experience.
And, because we are humans, we may try to understand and put into words an understanding of that experience. We write books and websites (yes, here I am doing just that) trying to communicate to others. But, note the difference between having an experience and reading about the experience. One is direct, immediate, and palpable. The other is a series of ideas about the experience.
To seek the experience of God's presence, you must do so in the present. And, you can't do it second hand.
Experience is not a second-hand event.
We can't find real experience in words. Take, for example, the words I write here. These words are simply stand-ins for something I experienced and continue to experience when I practice awareness of The Divine, God.
Words are simply pointers toward something. They are simply voiced sounds and constructed symbols of communication. They are not the reality. And, your beliefs and my beliefs are not the reality of God.
So, how are you going to seek awareness of God?
To help you do this, you may know of a personal doorway to your heart that helps you move beyond the protective armament of everyday ego functioning. Loosen the grip of words and beliefs. Soften and open your heart to the present moment of Divine Presence.
Doorways to Your Heart — To Inspiration
We all may have doors along the hallways of our lives that are soul and heart doorways. They are doorways that we may already recognize as ones that lead us into special, heartfelt places. Doorways of inspiration.
The doorway may be a special memory. It may be a place. It may be a person. It may be a poem or a piece of music. It may be the memory of a newborn child. It may be a prayer or a phrase from a prayer. It may be through gratitude. It may be the sound of someone's voice. It may be a phrase.
But, whatever it is, it transports you to a special consciousness of inspiration in which the heart is dominant and the mind melts into the background. It is a place of peace.
If you have access to such a doorway, you might try using it as a way of slipping past the ego guard into a place of heartfelt goodness.
Here's a partial list of possible doorways that come to my mind:
- Holding an infant
- A special memory
- Meditation or special way of meditating
- A ceremony or practice
- A worship service
- Suffering and brokenness can be a doorway. The Christian contemplative tradition is full of testimonies to this doorway.
- Specially meaningful passages from the Bible
- A piece of music
- A place
- The writings of an author, perhaps a poem
- Being Saved by Jesus
- The act of prayer or specific special prayers
- A Truth
- The physical act of prostration
- The “Peace of Shalom”
- Public confession
What I'm calling a "doorway" is special to you. It’s personal.
My doorway came in the form of a book titled The Practice of the Presence of God.
It was a bridge for me.
For a while before running into this little book, it had seemed to me that if God is God, This Divine would probably be beyond our human ability to grasp intellectually.
The Practice of the Presence of God, a little book about Brother Lawrence, opened a doorway to the exciting possibility that knowing God, drawing closer to The Divine, might be more like an experience than an understanding.
Among other things, it seems to me that Brother Lawrence simply enjoyed God’s presence.
Maybe you can simply enjoy God’s presence, too.
Inspiration and Decision to Act
After reading The Practice of the Presence of God, there was a moment in which I felt inspired by Brother Lawrence's sense of joy and, simultaneously, had a thought I had not consciously had before. It was this:
I wonder if I can be aware of God's presence?
I was in a quiet place and thought, "Why not give it a try?"
Not knowing what to do next, I think (I’m not really sure) I simply said the phrase silently to myself, “God’s presence.”
Having prayed and meditated in the past, I had no expectation that the next moment would be any different than all the previous moments of my life.
But, it was.
It was as though I was flooded with a sense of well-being that I had never experienced before. It seemed to emanate from my heart. And, it was good.
I was totally surprised. Astonished.
This happened for the first time in 2006.
Astonishment has given way to a sense of liberation — a sense of being in The Presence — when I do this practice.
During this practice, gone is the sense of being in an ego struggle — in a place where I must continue to work to survive successfully, where I am yoked to the twin masters of praise and criticism, where I am constantly turning to the past and the future rather than this moment.
Please note: I am not trying to push you to do something you do not want to try. And, I am not trying to rush you. I'm just trying to make a very simple point: Reading about and thinking about awareness of God's presence are not the same thing as taking action.
This is a simple practice.
In the midst of the ego struggle there is an alternative to the ego struggle.
The simplicity is this: God is present.
Let your heart experience this Presence.
Make this practice a part of your life.
It is a way of liberation.
The whole of the practice I know to share with you is this:
Open Your Heart to The Divine, God
How I Practice Awareness of The Divine (This page.)