Have We Forgotten the Practice of Awareness?

by Mark Votava


My own understanding of awareness has been difficult in many ways.  I used to think that I am separated from God in everyday life, God has little or no connection to the place I live, to the relationships I have or to the things I do.  Church seemed to be about a building and less about a community.  But I soon discovered that maybe I had it all wrong.

  •  Opening my soul to a different way of awareness

I discovered that maybe there was more to understand within me that would open up my soul to a different way of awareness.  I didn’t yet discover the longings living within me that would cultivate an awareness of God’s presence within me in the parish.  I didn’t have a steady practice of contemplation (a deep listening within life).  But the lonelier I became, the more I pursued God through a practice of contemplation.

  •  All alone on my own

Other than Sunday, I was usually on my own with my spirituality.  I had to figure out personal growth on my own, spiritual formation on my own, discipleship on my own.  There was no one there to help me or mentor me.  I was all alone living by myself in an apartment, working a professional job as a teacher.  I was frustrated and didn’t know what to do so I started to read books for mentorship.

  •  Dreaming about things I couldn’t see in everyday life

I started practicing contemplation (I really didn’t know what I was doing I just followed the longings of my soul) to develop some sense of growth in my life.  I would lay in my bed and cry sometimes because of all of this.  I would think about things that mattered to me.  I would dream of things that I couldn’t see in everyday life.

  •  Beyond words and language

This was all beyond words and language that I could express to anyone.  I didn’t understand what was going on and how God was forming me for the future.  Through many years of practice, and soon becoming a part of the Downtown Neighborhood Fellowship, I received some guidance and developed a lot of awareness understanding the mystical imagination more.

  •  An awareness for new paradigms

I started to have an awareness for new paradigms of communion with God, spiritual formation, the body of Christ and the importance of a theology of place.  Now after many years, I believe awareness of God presence in the parish is so important to experience the body of Christ in everyday life.  I believe a practice of contemplation beyond language and words is essential to this.

  •  Our awareness to the presence of God

Thomas Keating says in his book Open Heart Open Mind, “We rarely think of the air we breathe, yet it is in us and around us all the time.  In similar fashion, the presence of God penetrates us, is all around us, is always embracing us.  Our awareness, unfortunately, is not awake to that dimension of reality…”

How can we cultivate an awareness to the presence of God in everyday life?