Listening to the heartbeat: God's, ours and the world's

by Teresita Abraham


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Often in the Garden of Oneness here in rural Zambia, we take moments of silence to honor the core of our being by placing our hand on our heart to feel our heartbeat and to be aware that the Heart of God is beating inside us. It is the same heart that beats in all creation: beings of land, sea and sky.

How often have I seen a twinkle in the eyes of people when we share that we are made of God, to know we are Holy Ground and are beloved of God! On one occasion, when we were practicing stillness together, a woman reflected, "How come we often use too many words when we pray, and how lovely it is to be in stillness together."

Stillness helps us to be in tune with the sound of the Spirit at the core of life itself, giving meaning and purpose to life. Spirituality is that which resonates with the sound of the Presence within us, helping us to breathe with the Great Spirit who is breathing within us all the time and within all things. The Spirit herself will pray in us, with sighs too deep for words.

Spirituality is about leaning on the breath of God in the realities of our life. One of my own sisters in the Presentation family, Raphael Consedine, sums it up: "leaning heart to heart on the One who pulses life in the lowliest and least of all that lives." This leaning is spirituality.

How do we experience this everyday God? In everyday life? How can we listen to the heartbeat of God in the ordinary events of our day?

Each time we walk the Sacred Web in the garden, we take moments to breathe together to appreciate the gift of breath, which we so often take for granted. We remember with gratitude the tiny bacteria that created a revolution in our Earth story and changed the poisonous oxygen into that which is life-giving. The ability to breathe is one of the miracles of life, is one of the greatest expressions of love. Love of God breathed us into being in the home of our parents, in the heart of Mother Earth.

Praying is breathing together, breathing with the Spirit. The image of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin "breathing together of all things" invites us to listen to the heartbeat of God in all creation.

We are connected to all of life through breath, and "God is the breath of all breath" (Kabir).

Spirituality is listening to our own heartbeat because what happens deep in our hearts affects us and affects everything else. Spirituality is also listening to the heartbeat of the world — its joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties, especially of those who are made poor and suffering. Listening gives us the courage to see, feel and act with and on behalf of the poorest, lowliest and the most lost of all that lives, including peoples, nations, species and Mother Earth.

Spirituality also includes how we respond to the hard things of life — our own and others' — and our world, both locally and globally. When we listen to the aches and pains of our own hearts, our own lives, and are faced with the struggles of life, spirituality helps us to be more compassionate and attentive to the pains of our brothers and sisters in our neighbourhood and in our world.

Last year, when some of the local people were here at the garden helping to clear the grounds, I noticed a little girl with a child on her back. When I asked what grade in school she was in, I was told she is not yet in school. She is 10 years of age. My heart ached for her. Since then, I have found two more girl children who are not in school. One is 12 years of age. I think it is a sad state of affairs that at this time and age, we can allow this to happen; that our children, our future generation is not able to see the doorstep of a school because of poverty. Since then, we have these three children back in school thanks to the help of a kind friend and sharing from our own personal allowance. Last Sunday during the church service, one of these little ones sat beside me and whispered in my ear with eyes beaming with joy, "I got a book.'"

Listening to the realities of life around us and responding to them is spirituality in action. Taking one small step to change one small situation in the life of a child demands listening to the heartbeat of God in another. The other is an extension of our own self.

Listening to the heartbeat takes practice. I consider it a spiritual practice. Practice, we know, becomes a pattern of life, of behavior. A number of years ago, I was at an Earth Wisdom Gathering with some 400 people of all faiths and walks of life. During a tea break, I was asked by one of my companions, "What is your spiritual practice?" I was taken aback! Gosh. What is my spiritual practice, I asked myself. Did I have one? It was a wakeup call to me, to be attentive to my spiritual practice.

Spiritual practices are not just for monks or for monasteries or hermitages. They are meant for each of us to stay connected to the Ground of Our Being, to nourish us. Our spirituality does not grow if we do not nourish it. We each need to develop our own practices, whether they be meditation, yoga, centering prayer, attentiveness to breathing, mindful walking, or watching the sunrise/sunset.

Every part of creation is beating with the heart of God and is also practicing by its very being, fulfilling its place in the community of life. When we practice, the whole creation practices with us. When we sit to meditate, the whole creation sits with us in some mysterious way.

Pilgrim, listen ... the Heart of God is beating all around you.

[Teresita Abraham is a Presentation Sister from India living in rural Zambia. She is passionate about the new creation story and spirituality of being in communion. Together with the local community, she has created the Garden of Oneness, a Sanctuary of Peace and Harmony where she lives and works.]