What if the higher power most of us know as God was around you all the time, a constant presence in your life? Only you didn’t take the time or make the effort to realize it? What if all it took was a little awareness on your part to discover that God was, in every moment, both in you and all around you?
That’s one of the main premises that Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr puts forth in the updated edition of Everything Belongs. Rohr has spent a good part of his life trying to wake us from our collective sleep, teaching us about the omnipresence of God. It’s a common theme of Rohr’s and for good reason: we need to hear this message again and again for it to sink in.
One thing that Rohr makes clear is that there is no searching for God. God is already here. In our everyday lives, right at this very moment. In Rohr’s words, “You cannot not live in the presence of God. You are totally surrounded by God.” To further get his point across, he quotes the 5th century missionary St. Patrick:
God beneath you,
God in front of you,
God behind you,
God above you,
God within you.
If God is already here, how do we recognize his/her presence?
Rohr suggests that a good place to start is with “beginner’s mind,” a phrase often associated with Zen Buddhism. According to Wikipedia, beginner’s mind “refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.” Rohr explains it this way:
It’s a kind of panoramic awareness, a fundamental openness and clarity. Beginner’s mind is a posture of eagerness, of spiritual hunger. The beginner’s mind knows it needs something.
Rohr points out that beginner’s mind is “a rare feeling in today’s treacherously seductive culture. We answer too quickly…we are too comfortable, too opinionated, too sure we have the whole truth.” We need to drop all our preconceived notions of who and what God is and become, in effect, a blank slate. In Rohr’s lightly edited words:
It’s a place of utter simplicity. It feels unadorned. There’s no dressing, nothing to congratulate yourself for. You can’t prove any worth, much less superiority. After years of false adornment, it will at first feel like nothing.
Nothing? Rohr points out that “being nothing has a glorious tradition. When we are nothing, we are in a fine position to receive everything from God. The Franciscan word would be “poverty.” The Carmelite word would be nada or “nothingness.” The Buddhists speak of emptiness. Jesus preferred to talk in images so he spoke of the desert. It is who you are before having thought about who you are.”
To achieve a state of nothing, we must first clear our heads, quiet the mind and “let go.” This can be done through meditation or, as Rohr suggests, through contemplative prayer, a prayer without words. You might then consider this 10-point guide which I compiled below, using lightly edited passages from Everything Belongs. Read them slowly.
A 10-Point Guide to Finding God
You cannot attain the presence of God because you’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness.
Feeling God’s presence is simply a matter of awareness. Of enjoying the now. Deepening one’s presence. There are moments when it happens. Then life makes sense.
When you are fully present, you don’t accomplish presence in your head. Your whole body is present.
Wade into the waters of the great compassion, the great stream, the great river. All that is needed is surrender and gratitude. The stream will flow through you. Your job is to simply thank God for being part of it all.
The secular becomes sacred. There are no longer two worlds. You no longer have to leave the secular world to find sacred space because they’ve come together. There is no “natural” world where God is not. It is all supernatural.
The material world is the hiding place of God. God is perfectly hidden, but once the scales have been removed from your eyes, God is also perfectly revealed and you see the divine image in all things.
See the divine image once and the circle keeps moving out. You see God in all created things, without excluding anyone or anything.
You begin to see God in physical reality, in politics, in feelings, in childbirth and death, in everything of this earth. Isn’t that wonderful? Without his hidden presence, we are in utter exile here.
Come to every experience and ask not if you liked it, but what does it have to teach you. How is God in this event?
If God can receive you, who are you not to receive yourself—warts and all? When you learn to trust God, you will also learn to trust yourself.