When do you feel close to God? By which I mean, to reality. For as I’ve noted before, if the entity we call “God” isn’t more real than anything else in the cosmos, it isn’t worth wanting—and certainly isn’t worthy of its name.
When do you feel clear, simple, pure, grounded, and most importantly, real? When does the deepest truth seem to shine forth most brilliantly, shorn of the coverings that usually dim divine light?
For me, I wish that I could say that it was during my periods of daily meditation. This is when I try to cast aside the clutter that usually fills my mind. I do my best to clear away the contents of my consciousness, assuming that what remains after everything movable has been cast out is nearer to God than the transitory thoughts, perceptions, emotions, and what not that normally occupy my attention.
Unfortunately, my best efforts usually leave me unsatisfied. A Zen Buddhist likely would say that this is because I am making an effort to become something else rather than simply being what I already am. I couldn’t disagree. Yet my philosophical agreement that what I seek is nearer to me than I am to myself doesn’t bridge the gap (even if it is illusory) that I feel between me and what I long for during meditation.
I feel closest to the ultimate reality that I call “God” during my nighttime dog walks. A few days ago the moon was almost full. The sky was clear. The air was crisp. Serena and I walked down the path to the creek, across two small bridges, and up to the trail that leads to Spring Lake.
For several hundred yards no houselights were visible. No human sounds were heard. There was just me, the forest, a dog bounding somewhere up ahead, and whatever created me, the forest, and a dog bounding somewhere up ahead. I sensed that whatever more than anything else, even though it wasn’t visible, audible, touchable, smellable, tasteable.
Whatever was all around me that night, especially when I left the forest and stepped out onto the banks of Spring Lake. Even through my middle-aged eyes, the stars were crisp white lights. I now could see manmade illumination from several houses. I looked away. The natural lights in the heavens were so much more appealing.
This is so perfect. It wasn’t a thought. More of a knowing. A certainty. Always has been, always will be. No worries. No effort. It is. I am. Nothing could be simpler.
I’m pretty sure that meditation, looking within, should be just as easy as gazing skyward on the shore of Spring Lake, looking without. For some reason it is easier to do the latter than the former, probably because the darkness within seems less real than the darkness without. Also, it lacks stars and a moon.
Nature appears more natural to me when perceived outwardly with my physical eyes; the eye of consciousness that looks inside seems to gaze only upon my personal creations—thoughts, imaginings, memories, emotions—and not the universal Creation, much less the Creator.
I can only speak for myself, not for others. You may feel closest to God, or whatever other term you use to describe the Really Real, in an entirely different setting or circumstance. Fine. I’m merely suggesting that whatever that setting or circumstance is, cultivate it. It’s precious. Maybe the most precious thing you’ll ever have. Take care of it. Nurture it. Let it become your guide to God.
I readily confess to being an iconoclast, for I don’t believe that any particular religion, theology, belief system, or spiritual path can encompass what is universal. The whole can’t be encompassed by any part. Yet since each part is connected to the whole, there is a way to move from partness to wholeness, from many to one, from confusion to clarity.
My strong intuition is that this is a natural way, not a manmade way. We miss the way when we look for signs posted by humans: books, verbal descriptions, conceptualizations. Signposts leading to God are, I’m pretty sure, much more likely to be discerned in the nature that is independent of Homo sapiens than in the idiosyncratic creations of a single species.
On a daytime walk around the lake today I was struck by how much more appealing it was to look upon the natural environment rather than the manmade environment. Nature is, well, so wonderfully natural. Flowing. Diverse. Creative. Calming. What people make tends toward the opposites: Linear. Similar. Repetitive. Jarring.
As an experiment I took one photo facing toward the natural side of the lake, then turned and took a photo in the other residential direction.
Sitting on the dock, gazing at the surface of the lake, it struck me that nature is lawful and regular. Yet not rigid and rote. The patterns of nature are ever-changing and fluid, while the patterns of humankind tend to become set in stone, petrified. We people think that we know what’s going on, while what’s really going on escapes our notice because we’re so busy thinking and knowing.