The rest is silence.
− Hamlet, act 5, scene
LONDON, February 24, 2013 ― “God doesn’t exist,” we hear it often said. If he did, the argument goes, we would be able to see and experience him readily.
But the fact that we fail to experience God easily should not be held against him. Neither does our failure constitute evidence of God’s non-existence.
To experience God is not difficult. It is, in fact, startlingly simple. Psalm 46 tells how it is to be done: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The stillness referred to here is not primarily physical. Rather it refers to psychological quietude. To put it another way, to know God we should first try to still our mind.
Scientists report that we think between twenty and sixty thousand thoughts in a day. This means that even if the lower-end estimate is correct a new thought flashes in our mind every four seconds or so.
Mind researchers have also noted that ninety eight percent of our thoughts are repetitive. This means that almost every thought you will think today you have thought hundreds or even thousands of times before.
More tellingly still, most of our thoughts are divorced from the immediate reality in which our physical existence unfolds. We spend much of our time thinking about things that are unrelated to the present moment which is the space where our lives take place: We think about what we need to do or what we should have done. We engage in imaginary conversations. We daydream. We think about the past and the future, but psychologically we rarely find ourselves fully engaged in the here and now.
We live instead in the unreal world fabricated by our minds. It is any surprise, then, what we find it so difficult to experience the ultimate reality which we call God?
“I AM THAT I AM,” is how God first identified himself to Moses. This is how one commentary expounds this statement: “The revelation of the ineffable name ‘I AM WHO AM’ contains then the truth that God alone is… God is the fullness of Being… All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is.”
God is pure being, the ultimate ground of all manifested existence. To perceive him we must be attuned to what is right here and right now. God can only be encountered NOW, because NOW is the only place where he can make himself directly known.
But to experience that reality – to experience God – we must still our minds and escape the world of our ceaseless imaginings. For a modern person this is a very hard thing to do, because for most of our lives we have been passively carried along by the rushing stream of our thoughts.
To still your mind means to remain alert while not thinking any thoughts. It means to be aware without any preconceptions. It is to be aware without judging, analyzing or labeling. A still mind is perceptive of reality as it truly is.
When the mind stops and its endless chatter subsides a new realm opens up. It is the realm of silence. In that silence we can begin to see things in the way we have not seen them before. Even seemingly the most ordinary objects become filled with wonder. In such moments we begin to perceive that all existence is miraculous and that things and people do not just exist of themselves but are anchored in a supernatural source of being.
But to see this we must first be still. We must leave the petty world spun out by our minds and enter the realm of quiet. It is there God speaks to us; it is there we perceive His presence.
Observed Mother Theresa: “In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself.”
It is through being still that we come to know the eternal I AM.
Born and raised under communism, Vasko Kohlmayer is a naturalized American citizen. He has lived in several countries under various forms of government, but he still marvels at the goodness of God and the wonder of life.
He has written for a number of newspapers, magazines and internet journals. Vasko currently lives in Europe with his long-suffering wife and two beautiful daughters.
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