Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

Spiritual Awakening

A spiritual awakening, for Jesus, is seeing that my own I am is connected to God’s I AM. Breathing YHWH awakens the divine I AM in me.

A spiritual awakening occurs when we see reality as it is, present and aware in the now.  The contemporary spiritual teacher, Francis Dale Bennett, describes his own spiritual awakening: “At one point, right in the midst of Mass, it was as if a bolt of lightning had struck the crown of my head and sent a strong energy current through my whole body, from head to feet. I suddenly clearly saw, in that instant, that in reality, the presence of God that I had been seeking my whole life had actually always been already within me and all around me: God is in everything and everything is in God.  There was a deep intuitive knowing in that instant that my own most basic sense of simple existence or beingness, the I am…is, in fact, always, effortlessly, eternally present here and now…And this simple sense of presence in the eternal now is nothing other than the presence of God. Simultaneously included in this split second seeing and knowing was the understanding that this eternally shining presence of I am was and is and always will be my own true identity. The ‘story of me’ fell away utterly and completely.”

Something similar happened to the man born blind, and can happen to us if we are willing.  The man born blind, like the Samaritan woman, is a literary figure for the Gospel of John.  He represents all of us.  Everyone is born spiritually blind, unaware of the truth of being eternally one with God, the Great I AM.  The centerpiece of this Gospel takes place when Jesus heals the sight of the man born blind and this very same man – not Jesus – says, “I AM.”  This is extraordinary!  Just as God and Jesus say, “I AM,” the one born blind (a stand-in for all of us) is able to see (realize) he also can say, “I AM.”  As Richard Rohr says, “Jesus gives us real eyes to realize where the real lies.”  Jesus enables us to see Absolute Reality and that we are always and forever one with this Reality.  The I AM of this Gospel is the I AM of God and Jesus; the I AM is Pure Consciousness, Pure Being, and Pure Nothingness.  Conscious presence in the now is awareness that simply is.  To be aware purely is not to be aware of any-thing.  It is pure nothingness.  This is awareness of God, for God is not a thing.

The man born blind is overjoyed that he can see, that is, that he is now enlightened and fully aware.  He came to know that he – and all people – are pure awareness, always present amidst the many thoughts and experiences passing through us.  The man’s parents, the religious authorities, and the crowds, however, remain trapped in their stories.  They completely identify with the story in the heads.  That is who they think they are.  The temple elders think, “We are followers of Moses.”  The man’s parents think, “I am afraid for my livelihood.”  The crowds think, “I am skeptical that this man was even blind to begin with.”  Yet, none of these stories come close to their true self.  The tale we tell ourselves about our lives, about what we’re feeling, about our opinions and personalities, is not our eternal and absolute identity.  That identity is found only in God, the Great I AM.  Our task, and the sole task of religion, is to realize this truth.

To realize the I AM, though, is a remarkably simple affair.  Francis Dale Bennett realized it.  He saw the need to drop the “story of me” and be present in the moment.  Beyond that, and more essential, is to shift our attention into pure awareness, which we can also describe as interior silence and inner nothingness.  Fr. Martin Laird tells an illuminating anecdote in this regard, which is about a conversation between a young monk and an elder monk.  “‘I have trouble being silent.’ said the young man.  ‘But you already are silent. I understand how there is a lot of noise and chaos swirling around. That’s true of us all. But you, you are silence. You are the silence that is aware of the chaos. You are the silence that sees the chaos…you don’t know who you are.’”  If we think we can’t be present, aware, or silent within then we are telling ourselves another false story about who we are.  We can’t help but be the silence and the presence.  The issue is realizing it.

In one of his sermons, Meister Eckhart declares, “God’s being is my life.  If my life is God’s being, then God’s existence must be my existence and God’s is-ness is my is-ness, neither less nor more.”  My I am is one with the I AM.  This simple, lucid, divine presence is utterly available this instant through prayer.  We just need a doorway into pure awareness, into the silence.  The YHWH breath meditation is but one doorway.  Breathe, therefore.  Breathe YHWH and know I AM.