Ten Ways to Meet God Mindfully
Jim Burklo, Associate Dean at the Religious Life department of the University of Southern California, provides some avenues to experience God through mindfulness.
Know the divine Knower within you as you mindfully contemplate…
1. Watch your thoughts and feelings and urges. Close your eyes, stay quiet for at least 20 minutes, and observe what is going on in your mind and your body. What claims your attention? What emotions and bodily sensations do you feel? What ideas and plans and memories bubble up? Simply be present for your experiences, like a trusted, caring friend, without trying to judge or change what you observe. God is the one within you who observes all with loving attentiveness and acceptance.
2. Look at an everyday, unremarkable thing - anything at all - for several minutes, until you notice something beautiful about it that you never saw before. That out-of-ego moment of wonder is an experience of God.
3. Look at another everyday, unremarkable thing for several minutes, very closely and intently. Then release your attention to it, and notice what you experience. That moment of expanded awareness is an experience of God.
4. Find somebody you don’t like, and listen to them for at least half an hour. As you listen, observe and then release any attachment you have to your opinions of this person. Show love to this person, without needing to like or become a friend to this person. But act as if you love this person, until the moment comes when you begin to feel like you really do. This love is God.
5. Choose one public policy issue that has an important direct or indirect effect on vulnerable people: the young, the elderly, prisoners, the sick, immigrants, people with low incomes. You probably don’t have time to go deeply into every issue, so just pick one. Seek information about that policy issue from the most reputable, objective, in-depth sources you can find. Stay on top of current debates or events that relate to this issue. Inform your friends and family about it when the right occasions arise. Communicate with your elected officials and other policy-makers about your views on this issue, on a regular basis. Every so often, show up at public events that may have a strategic effect on making things better for people affected by this policy. The deep concern you feel for those people, expressed through your learning and your activism, is God.
6. Immerse yourself in nature. Take a walk in the country, or at least in your neighbourhood. One word per stride, ask yourself: “What… is… here….?” over and over, until you begin to feel present in the moment, noticing and appreciating all that is around and within you, instant by instant, item by item. The moment you can say “I… am… here…” as you walk, you have arrived at God. (This is my primary daily form of mindfulness practice.)
7. Watch a small child play. Observe the child trying to do something he/she cannot yet accomplish. Observe your urge to help the child do the task, and let go of that urge. Let the child know you are there, paying attention, but don’t intervene in the play until, and if, you sense a clear invitation to do so. Imagine what the child is thinking and sensing, and begin to play with the child in the way that the child is playing. The moment you give up your adult perspective and take on the child’s perspective in play, you are playing with God.
8. Draw a picture. Then look at the picture. Observe what’s there, but also observe your reactions to your picture. Do you judge it somehow? Do you have opinions about it? Do you wish it were different? Notice these experiences as you look at the picture. Then draw another picture slowly, and do the same thing as you are drawing it - noticing your feelings and opinions about it as you go. Look at the finished picture and again observe your reactions to it. Do it again and again until you feel liberated from your opinions about it, and simply enjoy the process of drawing it and looking at it. When that happens, you have drawn a picture of God.
9. Go to a house of worship - of any faith - and sit and listen to the liturgy or prayers. Instead of focusing on the words being said or sung, or on their meanings, focus intently on the silences between the words and the sounds. Notice and savor as many moments of quiet - some extremely short, others longer - as you can. Let the silences be the focus of your worship. Let the silences become the source of meaning for the sounds in the worship service. When you are enthralled by the sound of sheer silence, you are hearing God.
10. Take a walk in a familiar environment: one you see every day. Look at everything around you and name it. “Tree” - “house” - “car” - “dog”. Then start to do it another way: “My idea of tree” - “my idea of house” - “my idea of car” - “my idea of dog”. Then, in the same way, start naming your emotions and feelings and thoughts alongside naming the things and events in your environment: “My opinion of dislike for that car” - “my feeling of pain in my foot” - “my thought of trimming that tree”. Do this until you are awakened to the fact that so much of your inner and outer experience is based on your ideas of things, rather than the real essence of them. When you are awake to the possibility that the world around you has an essence that is beyond your ideas and opinions, you have awakened to God.
Jim Burklo has a book out called Mindful Christianity. He encourages Christians to practice mindfulness both individually and in groups.