A Request to Talk about God
Recently several people have asked me what I believe about God. Especially because they see me write about Buddhism, Father Richard Rohr, a twelve-step conception of a Higher Power, New Thought, and the Force or Tao in addition to other ideas. Regardless of these, I have been encouraged by spiritual teachers to always engage a question when it arises.
Let me start clean, clear and simple: my experience tells me that what we believe is not particularly relevant. It’s the wrong focus. Instead, we should wonder about the nature of our relationship with the Creator.
Over the years, I have seen the transformation of many people: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, Religious Scientist, Humanist, Native American, and even atheists and agnostics. As I like to say with a touch of humor, “For God’s sakes, if people who don't even believe in God can have spiritual experiences that transform them, surely what we believe is not the critical variable. Because they don't believe.”
Of course, there is the problem of our attachment to our beliefs. Many of us simply have to believe that what we believe is right, or correct, or preferred, or superior. And there is a parallel problem of our tendency to think that if others hold some truth somehow it negates our truth.
In the words of a dear friend, one who is a long-time student of ancient Tibetan wisdom, “In the end, each of has to find the way that suits us uniquely.” As soon as I heard him say it, I knew it was true to my experience with myself and others.
It’s about a personal relationship with the Supreme Principle. You can’t replicate my personal experience any more than I can replicate yours. It’s personal to each of us.
Speaking of experience, that too is a common factor with all the people I’ve watched through transformation. The change in them is not mental, but experiential. While cognitive approaches and disciplined practices may help get them to the moment of awakening, the actual remaking of them is fully experiential. That’s the mystical way, that eventually we have an experience of the Great Reality, which we then impose words and thoughts upon. We want others to understand, yet no matter how well we communicate it, it must be a personal experience for them as well. While we can learn from each other’s experience, we have to have our own.
Here’s where the way of the Twelve Steps is brilliant - it asks us to set aside what we believe. Simply find something that is greater than us. Anything will do as long we believe it to be greater than us. Then, focus on dealing with what blocks us off from the power it holds. That’s the whole point of the Twelve Steps, and most so-called inner work, to look within ourselves to find the blockages and deal with them. From this, the solution will emerge.
The issue of a Power Greater Than Ourselves is essential. As long as I believe my own motives, wits and intelligence can solve the problems of life and living, I am operating with myself as the all powerful. There is simply no room for something greater than me. There is tremendous evidence of the inadequacy of any one of us as the force for transformation. We do get to experience our transformation, but we are certainly not in charge of it. This can even be true if one’s conception of a Power is one’s True Self, the Soul, though it should never be confused with our personality.
Here’s the beauty of what seems to be the design: awakening and transformation can and will find us if we can open the means for it to do so. That’s where looking for the blocks to transformation comes in. We have to find a way to clear the channel for the Force to work with and through us.
Now we are in the realm of practices. Not because practices are the solution, but because when they work well they open us up for power that is not accessible to us to begin to flow. And that power can and will change us profoundly.
If meditation serves to get you out of the way to allow the Current to touch you, then meditate. If prayer sets aside the monkey mind so Spirit can find you, then pray. If trail running puts you in touch with the Majesty of Nature, please find a way to trail run. If you're a fan of deep study, create the means or a small group to support you in that study. If you want community to be a part of how you touch the Wisdom, then become a part of a community of Quakers, or Buddhists, or Evangelicals. If confession or personal inventory is effective in opening you to the Great Father or Divine Mother, then find the best practices you can.
The point is to stop debating about what God might be and focus instead on how It works, and how to engage it.
“The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Jesus
“What is quite amazing is that this understanding is not theoretical, nor does it come through our thinking mind; it is a matter of our own direct, fully embodied, personal experience.” Reginald Ray
“Are you ready to stop running from yourself? Can you just be still?” Sonny B.