Becoming one with God is an interesting topic that has two parts (at least):
- What does becoming one with God mean, exactly?
- How do we “achieve” that?
I am coming at this as a fairly progressive Christian. So if that’s going to offend you, this may not be the article for you.
The theology of becoming one with God
Theologically, I believe that becoming one with God is merely a state of mind. Whether or not “God” actually exists, we can attain a state of knowing what we call God.
We do this by letting go of everything else in our mind, and focusing on the attributes of God: His infinite love, joy, peace, kindness, and wisdom – but especially love (1 John 4:16).
It is possible that God does not exist. It is possible that what we think is God, is actually just our minds reaching higher, more transcendent states of consciousness. I won’t get into that theological debate here.
But if God does not exist and is only a mental construct, focusing on infinite love will produce the same result as if we believed that God does exist, since “God” is love.
But if God does exist, and God is love, then focusing on infinite love is focusing on what I call God, whether you call it that or not.
In this way, contemplative prayer (the primary method of becoming one with God) becomes something that anyone can access, whether you believe in the divinity of Jesus, that He’s the only way to God, or believe in the Trinity.
I think this is a beautiful example of the true Gospel. This is good news! This means that everyone has access to a higher power (whether you believe the source of that power is outside of us, or comes from within).
Theology isn’t an exact science
My theology may seem confusing to you – It’s confusing to me sometimes, too! I tend to believe that God is infinite love, joy, peace, and wisdom, but is also above all of those things, making God a great, transcendent mystery to contemplate (as Richard Rohr would say).
And I believe that when we contemplate God, God works on our behalf. God is a transcendent state of mind, yes. But God is also living, active, and works all things together for good.
But then I also realize that God may not be real. And what I think is an active Being working on my behalf, could actually be me and the universe working together, because I access deeper levels of consciousness through prayer and meditation (manifesting, Law of Attraction, etc). Maybe I’m the one manifesting what I want in life, because my mind is operating at a deeper level and telling me what to do, to accomplish what I want to manifest.
Plus, I see that most other religions and philosophies experience the same transcendence as I do – Buddhists, Sufi Muslims, Contemplative Christians, as well as those who don’t subscribe to a specific religion. So that either means that everyone has access to what I call God, or that God doesn’t exist and what we are all accessing is simply a state of mind.
Who knows! But I do know experiencing oneness with God is a powerful thing.
How to become one with God
Alright, let’s get to the meat and potatoes. How do we accomplish this “oneness” with God?
This is a mystical, contemplative process, for sure. But mysticism doesn’t have to be all crystals and incantations. It’s not weird or unattainable, or even a sin.
What is our faith if we don’t have a united relationship with God? And Jesus was one mystical dude, right? Going away for long periods of time to the mountains, saying deep stuff that people couldn’t understand…seems pretty mystical to me.
“Divine union is the goal for all Christians.”Thomas Keating
There are 3 steps to becoming one with God:
- Exterior silence
- Interior silence, by letting go and centering
- Contemplating God
1. Exterior Silence
The first step to a deep experience with God is creating a climate where that experience can happen. As described in Matthew 6, we must go into our room, shut the door, and pray to the Father.
We are much better equipped to have a direct relationship with God, when we’re not distracted by noise or interruptions.
I get it – sometimes this is hard to accomplish. Maybe your kids are loud, or you’re in a noisy place. But with the help of technology, we can create a climate of peace anywhere we are.
I love listening to music with my headphones to get into a more peaceful state of mind. There are plenty of ambient, meditation, and instrumental playlists on Spotify.
I also really like binaural beats. Beatfulness is a great app for this. Check out my other article to understand how binaural beats affect your brain waves to create more transcendent states of consciousness.
2. Interior Silence
“Detachment is the great secret of interior peace.”Pete Scazzero
“Action, then passivity; striving, then letting go, doing all one can do and then being carried . . . only in this rhythm is the spirit realized.”Pete Scazzero
“The core spiritual issue in stopping revolves around trust. Will God take care of us and our concerns if we obey him by stopping?”Pete Scazzero (again!)
“If we want to recognize the presence of God within us—what the tradition calls the “image and likeness” of God—then we need to make sure to clean our mirrors.”Carl McColman
The next step of becoming one with God is creating silence and peace in our minds. This is done by the action of letting go, and centering.
Creating interior silence by letting go
Letting go can be hard, especially if we can’t remember the last time we let go of anything in our minds.
Most of us in the West love to be attached to many different things, all at the same time – our to-do list, social media, the news, our worries, desires, anxieties, hurts, jealousy, anger, and everything else that comprises the human experience.
But we have to let all of those things go, if we want to be one with God.
I hear from a lot of people that they have trouble letting go during meditation and prayer, and that’s understandable. Just like a new exercise at the gym, it can be really uncomfortable at first. Many times we have the tendency to judge our performance: “Oof, I can’t let go and quiet down my mind. I suck at this”.
But it takes practice, so be patient! I’d encourage you to sit quietly, close your eyes, and keep practicing letting go. As a thought or emotion emerges, let it go. When another one comes (or maybe the same one!), let it go again.
Sometimes I’ll sit to meditate or pray, and then I realize I’ve spent 5 minutes thinking about this or that. It happens. Gently bring back your focus to letting go of what doesn’t need to be there.
As Pema Chodron would say, the mind is “very wild”. It can take a while to rein it in. But you don’t rein it by forcing it, or judging yourself if you don’t do it well. We rein our minds by being gentle with ourselves, letting go of all thoughts, and letting them dissipate (like a wisp of smoke).
On the plus side, letting go does get easier with time, if you do it regularly. It’s usually only difficult if we haven’t tried letting go in a long time. So hang in there – it will get easier!
“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not.”Richard Rohr
The next way of creating interior silence is by centering. There is actually a whole method around this, aptly called…centering prayer!
This simple method was created by a monk named Father Thomas Keating. The process is quite simple, and flexible.
The action of letting go that I mentioned earlier, is a part of this centering process. But there are 3 other steps (or options) of getting centered:
- Simply consenting and being aware of God’s presence (abiding, as in John 15)
- Using a sacred word or words (love or joy, for example)
- Focusing on our breath, given by God
In all 3 of these options, we are choosing to meditate on a single thing for an extended period of time. This preps our spirits to have a posture of submission to God’s will, and receive anything that He has to say or do in us.
I personally love focusing on God Himself (option #1). He is beyond words (option #2), and the source of our breath (option #3), so I like to skip all that and go to the source (option #1), which is God (in His infinite transcendence).
3. Contemplating God
“A mystic is simply a man or woman in love with God.”Catherine De Hueck Doherty
“What all different shades of contemplation have in common is that they are all immersed and infused with the love of God.”Carl McColman
“We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us.”Thomas Merton
“You will seek Me and you will find Me, when you seek me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13
“When God’s longing for us connects with our longing for God, we enter the mystical life. All that remains is for us to wake up to this fact.”Carl McColman
Becoming one with God requires being humble before God. It’s really that simple. As we contemplate and focus on the incredible attributes of God – His infinite love, joy, peace, kindness, grace, and wisdom – we are immediately accessing and enjoying His presence. In other words, as we contemplate infinite love, joy, peace, and His other attributes, we are already in His presence.
He is already here, we just need to focus on Him. But our expectations get in the way. Usually we pray TO God, expecting Him to say something, do something, or otherwise show Himself in a significant way.
But if we let go of even our expectations of Him, and just realize that focusing on His attributes IS experiencing His presence, becoming one with God is simpler than most Christians make it out to be. Abide in Him, rest in Him, be quiet with Him, enjoy Him. Drop the expectations!
That being said, He will eventually give you clarity, answers, insight, and maybe even a significant experience of ecstasy. And those are great. We just have to wait on Him, don’t strive for those “goals”, and simply enjoy Him for who He is. What kind of relationship is it where the only time we spend time with someone, is to expect or need something from them?
As we choose to contemplate God, we are humbling ourselves before Him. We are deciding that He is bigger than us, smarter than us, infinitely more loving, and is infinitely more everything in every possible way. By choosing to focus on Him, we are thereby choosing to focus less on ourselves. Thus we are automatically acting in humility toward His presence.
As we become humble before Him, letting go of everything that doesn’t matter (including our perceived separateness from Him), He draws closer to us than even our own breath, and we become one with Him.
Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty, acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.J.I. Packer
The convenient part about that is that as we contemplate God, it makes it so much easier to accomplish the previous steps I mentioned (of interior silence, letting go, etc). As we contemplate the infiniteness of God, we are letting go of everything else.
So really, you could skip all the previous steps and jump straight to contemplating God. In doing so, you’re accomplishing all the previous steps in one.
And that makes sense, right? Why would we want to stay attached to our shallow desires, distractions, worries, and stresses, when we could be contemplating an infinitely holy God?
“Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart.”J.I. Packer
“To fail to see the value of simply being with God and ‘doing nothing’ is to miss the heart of Christianity.”Leonard Doohan