Over the past several weeks I have been discovering an interesting pattern. I have become more and more interested in what actually helps people grow in their spiritual lives and how does this process begin. Oddly enough, this was something that I was never taught in seminary. So I set off to begin asking people I knew and ran into who have both traveled deeply into the spiritual life and who have taught many others. Over the last while I have ran into an interesting range of people. I have talked with Jewish Rabbi’s, Hindu Swamis and Christian monks. All of them have responded with basically the same thing – it begins with sacred awareness.
So what is sacred awareness? It is a combination of two things. The first is component is what is often referred to these days as mindfulness – that is simply paying attention and being aware in the present moment. In other words it involves not being caught up in our thoughts, in our regrets about what has past, in our anxiety about our future or even all of the things that we have to do today. Rather it is about simply being present, in the present moment. How this is cultivated can be through different forms of meditation. It can also be cultivated by simply brining our self continuously and gently back to the present moment when we get distracted throughout our day.
This is just the awareness half of what sacred awareness is about. The sacred part is found in paying attention to how God is present in this current moment. One of the key significance of the life of Jesus, from his birth, to his death and his resurrection, is that his life shows us that God is not separate from us, from creation or from our present moment, no matter what is happening. Immanuel - God is with us! So how do we begin to cultivate our awareness of God’s presence during our day?
One of the ways that you can cultivate this is though the practice of reviewing your day. It is a simple practice of prayerfully going over you day at the end of your day looking for how God seemed either present or absent – or more accurately how throughout your day how you were open to God’s presence or closed to it.
So how do you recognize God’s presence? Scripture writes about the fruit of the Spirit. These are the signs that God is present and flowing through us. They can be found in Galatians 5:22-23. One of the best ways of looking for how we are open to God is to look for how these fruit are present in our life. They are (followed by the meaning of the Greek word used in Galatians)
Love: (Gr. Agape: a Divine Love. A strong, ardent, tender, compassionate, devotion to the well-being of another.)
Joy: (Gr. Chara: the emotional excitement, gladness, delight over blessings received or expected for oneself or another.)
Peace: (Gr. Eirene: The State of quietness, rest, repose, harmony, order, and security in the midst of turmoil, strife, and temptations.)
Forbearance: (Gr. Makrothumia: Patient endurance; to bear long with the frailties, offenses, injuries, and provocations of others, without murmuring, repining, or resenting.)
Kindness: (Gr. Chrestotes: a disposition to be gentle, soft spoken, kind, even tempered, cultured, and refined in character and conduct.)
Goodness: ( Gr. Agathosune: the state of being good, kind, virtuous, benevolent, generous, and God-like in life and conduct.)
Faithfulness: (Gr. Pistis: the living, divinely implanted. acquired, and created principle of inward and wholehearted confidence, assurance, trust, and reliance in God and all he says.)
Gentleness: (Gr. Praotes: the disposition to be gentle, kind, indulgent, even-balanced in tempers and passions, and patient in suffering injuries without feeling a spirit of revenge.)
Temperance: (Gr. Enkrateia: Self-Control; a moderation in the indulgence of the appetites and passions.)
As you notice how these fruits have been present. Allow your self to again feel them, allow this feeling expand within you and soak into you.
Overtime, as you look over your day for these things, you will discover that you will begin to be attentive to when these fruit arise throughout your day. As you become more attentive, you will also begin to grow into these things. Look over the list. Is this not a description of what any of us would like our life to be about? As we do this we then begin to discover again and again that God is present and active in our life.
And you can being this right now. Prayerfully read over the list of fruit, then prayerfully reflect on the past day. Where have you experienced God?