—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, Sermon 69, p. 353
It's odd to me to see how dogged the belief is that solitude is the place to find God.There is something weirdly attractive in the image of hermits in caves; and we love, it sometimes seems, nothing better than to sit with our eyes closed in the lotus position, totally inward — and, incidentally, shutting out the whole world at the same time.
I've said many times that this misses the whole point of spiritual search; because search is all about discovering relationship, and relationship is, as Meister Eckhart states, equally in all things and in all places. That is to say, certainly, the hermit in a cave can find God; but so can the elderly woman on the subway train, and the man in the office. A few weeks ago, I was in Shanghai at Hongqiao airport, and jotted the poem at the end of this piece down while I was waiting for my fellow travelers to arrive. I think it captures some of my observations on the subject.
I think that all of us fail to fully understand the nature of awareness, and its position as a bridge between inwardness and outwardness. In the same sense that we, as a culture and as individuals, abrogate our responsibility to inwardness through a failure to develop and cultivate the organic sense of Being, we equally fail in our responsibility to the outward; because without this connection to the inward, the connection to the outward is not properly managed either. The catastrophe of human relationships, both individual and cultural, which we see playing out around us day and night in our personal lives and in the media, emerges from this failure to see God in all things.
If I see God in all things, a new kind of duty and responsibility immediately devolves upon me. If all of this is God — that is, everything — how do I respond to God? If I have ever had a real taste of God, am I not in awe? Do I not feel the impulse to bend my knee and bow my head at every moment? Am I not humbled by the majesty and the miracle of what takes place before me, in every moment?
If I am not, then perhaps I do not know God. Not at all. Because I ought to be responding instinctively with this sense of duty and responsibility, this devotion and this immediate action of prayer within me, instinctively, and at all times. My entire organic response to being alive in the first place ought to be worshipful and dutiful; yet am I like that? Every time that I discover myself in a moment of Being where I understand this better, my entire awareness of what I am doing, who I am, and what is around me changes. All of my behavior, my thoughts, and my presence itself become a question mark; and instead of manifesting itself as self-consciousness (which is a product of selfish thinking about myself and who I am, what Gurdjieff called inner considering) it manifests as consciousness of Self, which by default already acknowledges a higher authority.
This idea that God is everywhere is actually an extraordinarily powerful one. It has the potential, under the right set of circumstances, to connect me to a much higher level of emotional understanding.
This, if God wills it, brings me to a real inner understanding of why I must pray, without fail and unceasingly—and how that Great Love dwells everywhere, in this landscape I inhabit.
You get the picture
I am at the airport
6 am, shanghai
And the green light on top of every cab says, God.
The morning air says God.
No fanfare, just a statement
Which seems so puzzling I am bereft.
This is a conversation of the body,
Where the manufactured words don’t fit
And even meaning drops itself
Onto the granite of the terminal floor
Where it chirps,
Fire hydrants, exit signs,
You get the picture.