Over the holidays I went to a talk with spiritual teacher Sally Kempton. She shared with us her insights on "The Three Faces of God." There are different forms the divine can take, and throughout our life we may shift our perspective on how we see the divine.
1. The Physical World
Have you ever been immersed in the presence of nature and been overcome with the feeling of divine presence? When you look out at the vast expanse of the ocean, or sit in an old growth forest, everything stops and you are totally present. The physical world is an overpowering presence, that reminds us of our place in the world. It inspires awe, is a place where we can experience our true nature and the mystery of the divine through a physical manifestation.
2. The Other
When I grew up, as many Americans did, I believed in a God outside of myself. A being somewhere up in the clouds, most likely a wizard with a long white beard and a purple hat, overseeing everything and everyone. I prayed at night to this God and believed if I was good I would be blessed with the things I wanted in life.
In Eastern thought, bhakti yogis believe in the divine as their Guru. The Guru is considered to be an enlightened being, and the simple presence of the divine being would help you burn your past karmas. I was fascinated by the idea of the guru since I was a child, (maybe because my parents' friends told me Sai Baba was like a modern day genie) and traveled to India to visit some of these gurus and see for myself.
When I was at Amma's ashram in Kerala, I learned that it wasn't simply the presence that would help the disciples spiritually progress, but the act of devotion itself. To drop the ego and bow in devotion to the other is what actually brings you closer to God.
3. The Nondual Presence - Yourself
The third face of God is seeing this divine presence in yourself. Everything around you is divine, and you are not separate from it. As individual beings, we cling to the transitory reflections and perceive ourselves as disconnected from the divine within, however the nondual tantric philosophy states:
"One grand, illustrious path of revelation and returning to our own divinity is yoga. Yoga is the scientific art of remembering our true nature." - John Friend
This is the face of the God that has resonated with me the most this year. From my studies of Anusara Yoga, I have learned:
- Everything is supreme consciousness
- Each of us is essentially good
- We enhance a student’s pose by reminding them of their true goodness and innate beauty
- We embrace our limitations and difficulties of the body/mind to open to our own boundless nature
- We embrace the material world, we need our challenges to progress and transform
- We are co-creators with nature, which makes life full with creative freedom, exciting and inspiring.