Last weekend I travelled to a group to run ‘Living in the Awareness of God’, one of the workshop days I offer, and this coming weekend I am travelling to teach a group on ‘Listening to the Heartbeat of God’ and abiding in the Divine presence. As I have prepared and presented these teachings it has reminded me of just how important it is to dwell in the Divine presence, both in deliberate acts and disciplines, as well as in the continued awareness throughout our day, in all we do.
One of the illustrations I use at the start of these days is that of the air and our breathing. The Meditation teacher’s basic 101 teaching – concentrating on the breath.
As I remind the participants, I remind myself, firstly the air around us is a constant presence – it is always there, and we share it with all other life. The other people and creatures around us breathe in and out as we do, and the plants which surround us ‘breathe’ in and out opposite to the way we do – breathing in what we breathe out, and breathing out what we breathe in. The air is always there.
Secondly, we are all breathing. In and out all the time, constantly, without ceasing, day and night, in and out, breathing. Yet we are almost never in a state of conscious awareness of either of these things – the air or our breathing. Through the practice of mindful meditation we become aware of the air and of our breathing. We draw in the air, and that which was outside of us comes into us. It fills our lungs and increases our physical capacity. Then we exhale and the air flows out of us again.
Just as the air surrounds us all the time, so the Divine presence surrounds us all the time. Just as we breath in and out and the air, becoming our breath, flows in and out of us, so the Divine presence is not just something outside us, but something which flows through us. The air and our breathing are just like the Divine presence and our existence. Just as we can use meditation practices to draw our attention to the air and our breathing, we can use meditation practices to draw our attention to the omnipresent Divine, and its flowing through us.
However, there is something more about the air and our breathing.
We don’t just breathe in the air around us and breath it out again, there is a point to it. There is a reason that our bodies do this. The reason is because there are things in the air which we need to survive as a being – oxygen, for example. The air flows into us through our breathing, but doesn’t just flow out again, first the life giving aspects of the air penetrate our physical being, it doesn’t just flow in and out of us, it actually becomes a part of who we are as a living being. It is incorporated into our being and it is this which gives us life. We can go for a while without food. We can go for a slightly shorter while without a drink. But we cannot go long at all without taking a breath! It is the most significant aspect to our survival, based on how long we can go without the things we need to survive. Breath is what we can go without the least.
This is also true with the Divine presence. As the Divine presence flows through our very being, it doesn’t just stay something separate to us, it isn’t just something external which flows into our being and through us, as it does that it becomes a part of who we are as a being. And it is what we can do without the least. We can go for a while without reading the bible, or going to church, or even verbal expressions of prayer, but without the interflowing of the Divine presence into and through our being, becoming a part of who we are, we will spiritually perish. So therefore this means that just like the air and our breathing and the interaction with our physical selves, the Divine is flowing through each of us and interweaving into being a part of our existence and of our very being all the time. We just live most of our lives completely unaware of it.
Just as the basic first fundamental teaching of meditation and mindfulness is focus on the breathe, and is a practice continued by even the masters, so the focused awareness of the Divine presence and its interflowing and integration into our very being is a basic practice for the spiritual meditator.
And just as with all other meditation practices, the more one does it, the more one becomes aware. The more one becomes aware, the greater affect it has on our being, our living, our existence. It becomes a part of who we are, and flows out from us as we live out our lives.
Stop. Breathe. Live aware.