I never had a spiritual “aha moment” — that life-changing awakening that comes like a smack on the back of the head from Special Agent Gibbs of NCIS. It just never happened.
I grew up a “preacher’s kid” in the Bahamas with wonderful, compassionate parents. My father was a local Bahamian minister who married a lovely American missionary girl who never went back home. From them I learned a lot about caring and sharing, morals and ethics, but I never learned how to develop intimate communion – that connection to the Divine that only comes with soul-searching and meditation. But maybe that’s something that can’t actually be taught.
I was just into my 50’s when a life crisis hit hard. Somehow I found myself sailing off into the ocean without a rudder, unable to stay my own course. Feeling physically and emotionally disconnected, pure fear led me to reach out for something that would ground me—something that I had nudged into the margins of my life years before. Intuitively I knew that the restoration I sought would take time and effort to attain, and it wasn’t going to happen easily.
Yet it did happen. Over a period of several months I began to recall a little book that I had read earlier in my life, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century French Carmelite monk. A man of humble beginnings, Brother Lawrence discovered the greatest secret to living in the kingdom of God here on earth—the art of “practicing the presence of God in one single act that does not end.” He often said that it is God who paints Himself in the depths of our soul; we must merely open our hearts to receive Him and His loving presence.
Over the next few months, as the fog began to lift from my mind and heart, I also rediscovered The Pursuit of God, by the late A. W. Tozer, who would so beautifully and profoundly impress on me the importance of experiencing—and practicing—the basics: letting go of dogma and focusing on developing true yoga—a connection to the Divine—which can only be done in solitude and contemplation.
Finding God in meditation and nature has been the practice of religious mystics, shamans, monks, yogis, Kabbalists and others since the beginning of time. Even Jesus went off by Himself over and over again—occasionally for great lengths of time—to meditate and converse with His Father.
As these luminaries found their way back into my life story, I began to forge a fresh course to safety. One of the things that became eminently helpful to me during that time I learned reading the blog Wanderings of the Whiskey Priest, which he learned from a Benedictine Monk, Brother Edward of Belmont Abbey: “breathe in God” (which he said “like he was whispering the secret to the universe”). As the Whiskey Priest so intuitively revealed, “We’ve gotten used to thinking that prayer is something you do, like eating your vegetables, instead of a quality of life that you breathe in, and a response that you breathe out. But ‘breathing in God’ is a life you experience, not simply a concept to understand.”*
Just the other day my mother and I were having lunch together and we got to talking about wholeness and the need to care for both our physical self and our spiritual self. At 82, no matter what time she goes to bed at night she’s wide awake by 2 am. Eventually, she learned to just get up and accept the couple hours of sleeplessness instead of fighting them. Now she gets out of bed, puts on the kettle and asks God to sit and have tea with her, and right there in the kitchen, in the very early morning hours, they spend time in quiet communion.
So, what’s my point with all of this? Simply that, no matter what your personal beliefs and practices are, be persistent and patient but pursue an experience of God. In your car, in your kitchen, in an ashram – wherever you are. That’s how you construct a rudder and steer through the winds and tides.
*Living the Benedictine BIG Life by James Johnson. WhiskeyPriest.org
Excerpt from Feeling Great: Living with Optimism, Enthusiasm and Contentment (HCI March 2015)
© 2015 Galyn Kelly Johnson. All rights reserved.