*Disclaimer* God is what you want it to be. I personally think of God as myself and everyone else, the energy of the world and everything else. This post was inspired by a sermon by Doug Klassen.
We never know what will bring about a religious experience, an experience of God, but it often has to do with contemplation.
I find it easier to be close to God in beautiful places. Like the beautiful churches in Italy. I’ve always felt closer to God there. It’s hard not to. I always thought that if I lived in Italy that I would go to church at least weekly, just to be in that space. The beauty created by human hands is inspiring.
The beauty created by the earth is even better. One of the ways my parents encouraged contemplation was going outside, and going to the mountains. It’s easy to feel close to God, yourself, and everything around you when you’re looking at a snow-covered alpine meadow, or through an aspen grove, or up at the amazingly endless blue sky. Much of my progress over the last year has been due my effort to get outside more and go for walks.
Another way they encouraged contemplation was through music. They are both musicians and have very strong spiritual ties to it. They are trained classically, so from the time I was born, I was taken to long concerts without words. This makes you think your thoughts, and I have had some pretty cool experiences. But I have also had near-religious experiences at concerts of my favourite bands. Sometimes, when everyone’s singing along, you get a feeling of being on the same level as everyone in the room and it’s powerful.
I remember reading a Christian novel when I was about 12. I didn’t know it was Christian until halfway through. My mom had no idea why I was reading it, but somewhere near the end I was overwhelmed by this feeling that God was with me and everything would be alright. I was surrounded by love, and everything was fine. It was an amazing feeling that I will always remember.
Jill Bolte Taylor speaks of feeling this way during her stroke where the left hemisphere of her brain was completely shut off, and she could only live in the present. It’s hard to turn off our right hemispheres when we use them so much to process the overwhelming amount of information we are exposed to in any given moment.
The right hemisphere is also engaged in creative activities. This is another thing we can encourage. It has always been important to have music in church. It allows us to concentrate on the present moment and get closer to God. I think my experience while reading the book happened because of being wrapped up in it, but also reading the religious words about God being Love. There are good environments, but even a good environment needs a kind of trigger, I think for those especially overwhelming experiences. Maybe the trigger is something we think, or hear, or read.
So as a girl who didn’t go to church, I got those feelings too, and it certainly was because of contemplating myself and the world that surrounded me while also experiencing the moment for all it was worth. We have to make time to be quiet, to think and to empty our minds of thoughts, worries, plans and analysis. We also have to know that we are loved by God and we are good enough. We have to hear those words. I think we are more likely to experience it if we know what it is.