If I believe that God lives in me as me, then what do I do about that? How do I begin to make that real? Is this what “realizing God” really means?
Typically we look for God in a church, in a guru, in a marriage or a child, on a mountaintop, in a sacred text. And we’re right to look in all these places. God is meant to be found and experienced everywhere. Where we fail to look, though, is in ourselves. I have been wondering why.
When I consider the idea that God lives in me as me, there are no inner disagreements. Not so much at this point because I know its true, but that I believe it to be true. It strikes loudly a chord of truth in my heart. It feels true, all through my being and feeling and thinking. No part of me, consciously, disbelieves this idea.
Why, then, don’t I act by now as if it were true? What impedes the translation of the cognitive belief into living experience? There are times when I feel a divine quality in myself and times when I touch such an inner depth that I am filled for a moment with light. This is what every seeker longs for.
But the periodic taste of God is not enough. And though I know that I will not in this lifetime fully embody my divine essence, I am certain of my birthright to increasingly identify with the consciousness of God. This is my one real craving. All other cravings are mere substitutes and pointless distractions.
And here may lie a clue to the question, why don’t I more fully embody my divine essence? False cravings. Another word for this is addiction. I think that underneath every addiction lies our craving for God. When I first considered this idea years ago, I started looking for my addictions. There are the obvious, and these are the first to tackle. But dig deeper, and it’s startling to realize: we can be addicted to just about anything. And we are, I bet you, addicted far more than we acknowledge.
Addicted to love, to fear, to movies, to attention, opinions, routines, drama, adrenaline, worries. These subtle addictions are unconscious habits, and ultimately are points of identification that lure us away from our identification with God, the love that is within us. Maybe it can be said that our unconscious patterns are obscurations to God and love.
If this is true, then one approach to knowing God is to clear away the obscurations. Clarify and simplify ourselves. Piece by piece, layer by layer. A lifetime endeavor that may never be done, but the beauty is in the unfolding realization, not the attainment of perfection itself. I’ve been trying this for awhile, and have never felt more alive and deeply satisfied.
There’s a catch though, the more of God I begin to know, the more I sense and see the obscurations that continue to conceal my divine essence. My craving grows, but my discernment of what the craving is really for grows sharper.
Hasn’t it become the way of the spiritual seeker to travel from church to church, teacher to teacher, picking up pieces of truth and wisdom here and there, in search of that elusive magnificence we can’t really know or understand until we find it? We are looking for Truth, we are looking for Wisdom, we are looking for Love, we are looking for Liberation. We look and look and look, and often only find the uncapitalized, humanized, cognitized versions of our Divine Essence.
We might be temporarily satisfied with crumbs of God, and the most tiny crumbs can move us to our core and even change us in some way. But isn’t it true that when the crumb dissolves and the effect has passed, we find ourselves back in the desert, parched and hungry? Those of us who are most fortunate recognize the crumbs as crumbs and hunger for the meal. We want to sit at the table with God. We want the experience, not the words.
This is my constant angst. The words don’t nourish, but words are the medium I have known. More words, better words, have not changed this (I have tried). The road to God, the place at the table, is not of words or even the mind. As Eckhart Tolle says, the words merely point. In this sense, the words are valuable. For human beings, they are essential. Initially.
The great teachings, the best of words, point us to the road to God, but they don’t get us on the road. They are not the vehicle. They can’t truly take us anywhere. The vehicle, the direct access point to God is experience itself. The better teachings talk about Direct Experience. That is what will satisfy our hunger. And the mystics know that that is the only true happiness in this world.
Since understanding this, I look to teachers and teaching who are experienced in Direct Experience, who have themselves been at God’s table and sat with God. Finding these souls in such a spiritually barren world is quite a thing. How do we know who really Knows? There are those who say they Know, and what do they have to say? They say, get quiet, be still, meditate, go deep into nature, chant the name of God, worship — do any practice that will move you beyond the words in your mind into the expanse of your Heart. God’s table is not far from us. It is in our Heart. God waits patiently there for you.
The spiritual practices are the vehicle to the destination of the Heart. Words can point the way and inspire us there. Here are a couple of my favorite words and practices.
“The Heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam.”
– Bhagawan Nityananda, one of the more odd but interesting Eastern saints
“Honor your Self, Worship your Self, Meditate on your Self, God dwells within you as you.”
– Swami Muktananda, who was the student of Nityananda
Centering Prayer, developed by Thomas Keating
The pursuit of friendship with God (Say hello as often as you can. Give thanks for the good in your day. Tell God your hopes and dreams. Confess your anger and hatred. This is important, acknowledging anger and hatred. Don’t try to hide anything from God. God knows already and loves you anyway. Spend the rest of your life exploring what it means to be in friendship with God. It is really, ultimately, friendship with yourself. “God dwells within you as you.”