Giving Up a Too-Small God

Meister Eckhart, a 13th century Christian mystic living in Germany, describes the practice of "gelassenheit," or non-attachment. Most contemplative traditions have a version of this concept and cultivate holding life and ideas with an open palm. This is a Buddhist precept as well. In yoga philosophy, aparigraha means non-grasping. We let go of how we would have life be, and welcome in the way things actually are, which includes acknowledging how little we know. Just like John of the Cross, Eckhart described God as "no-thing," meaning that God is not an object we can possess, but a reality that is far greater than our human comprehension.

We let go of who we are certain of God to be and cultivate an openness to the One who is far beyond the horizons of our imagining. In the Book of Job, God challenges Job's desire for understanding and asks "where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" God is never a set of concepts to be understood and grasped, but a relationship to encounter and engage. In this way, the spiritual life is always a journey and in process. We do not let go once and for all, but move through the layers of clinging in our lives until we are living more from our hearts than our minds. We do not arrive, but travel toward the horizon, realizing that it is always receding from our view.

5/1/2012 4:00:00 AM
  • Progressive Christian
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  • Christine Valters Paintner
    About Christine Valters Paintner
    Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess ofAbbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes in contemplative practice and creative expression and pilgrimages to Ireland, Germany, and Austria. She is the author of eight books on monasticism and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press) and her forthcoming book The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Inner Journey (Spring 2015, Ave Maria Press). Christine lives as a monk in the world in Galway, Ireland with her husband of twenty years.