ground of being

Posted on November 19, 2008


ground-of-beingWhat is the direction of our striving? What do we spend ourselves on? We arise in the morning and toil until we are weary to the bone. Then we fall in bed, hoping for sleep, so we can do it again the next day. If we are lucky, our endless striving brings us upward, advancing in our career, our religion, upgrading our home, our car, our furniture, our technology, our . . . on and on and on. Ensuring we are better than “them”, safe and secure, and very very comfortable.

Is it possible that if we are truly “lucky”

we get stopped dead in our tracks;

while everything falls apart at the seams?

After all of our striving, all of our toiling,

we are left ravaged and in shambles;

tattered and torn, battered and bruised, derailed and desperate.



“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold” (William Butler Yeats)


“But something in me knew that down, down to the ground, was the direction of wholeness, thus allowing that image to begin its slow work of healing in me.

“I started to understand that I had been living an ungrounded life, living at an altitude that was inherently unsafe.”

(Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak” p. 66)

“I had always imagined God to be in the same general direction as everything else that I valued: up. I had failed to appreciate the meaning of some works that had intrigued me since I first heard them in seminary – Tillich’s description of God as the “ground of being”. I had to be forced underground before I could understand that the way to God is not up but down.”

(Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak” p. 69)

“Years ago, someone told me that humility is central to the spiritual life. That made sense to me: I was proud to think of myself as humble! But this person did not tell me that the path to humility, for some of us at least, goes through humiliation, where we are brought low, rendered powerless, stripped of pretenses and defenses, and left feeling fraudulent, empty, and useless – a humiliation that allows us to regrow our lives from the ground up, from the humus of common ground.

“The spiritual journey is full of paradoxes. One of them is that the humiliation that brings us down – down to the ground on which it is safe to stand and to fall – eventually takes us to a firmer and fuller sense of self, When people ask me how it felt to emerge from depression. I can give only one answer: I felt at home in my own skin, and at home on the face of the earth, for the first time.”

(Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak” p. 70)

“There comes a time when both body and soul

enter into such a vast darkness

that one loses light and consciousness

and knows nothing more of God’s intimacy.

At such a time, when the light in the lantern burns out

the beauty of the lantern can no longer be seen.

With longing and distress we are reminded of our nothingness.”

(Mechtild of Magdeburg)

I can testify that it is at that point of “nothingness”

when we are pressed down, down to the ground,

“rendered powerless,

stripped of pretenses and defenses,”

it is then

that our façade falls away,

our ego dissolves,

our endless striving stops,

the clutter of our mind clears,

our eyes open . . . and behold . . .

we are no longer full of ourselves.

From this position we can either

grovel in the dirt

or turn and look up into the open hand of love.

It is here that we connect to

our Ground of Being

our Source of meaning and purpose

the Common ground where all are equal.

“In The Silence Of The Heart God Speaks. If You Face God In Prayer And Silence, God Will Speak To You. Then You Will Know That You Are Nothing. It Is Only When You Realize Your Nothingness, Your Emptiness, That God Can Fill You With Himself. Souls Of Prayer Are Souls Of Great Silence.” (Mother Teresa)