Everyday Mystics

Experiencing God in the busyness of everyday life

I’m at a point in my life right now where I often feel overwhelmed by two things: busyness and tiredness. It’s a deadly combination that make a thriving spiritual life a seemingly insurmountable challenge. 

Anyone with young kids—mine are five and two—knows just how exhausting a stage of life this is. (I’m convinced the endless stream of articles about the importance of sleep are sent into my Facebook and Twitter feeds solely as a means of torture.)

I look around at so many friends who are at a similar place in their lives and there is at least some small comfort in knowing I’m not alone. It feels like many of us are hanging on. It’s a struggle to survive. Talk of thriving is just a cruel joke.

Having grown up in a church environment, one constant refrain has been the need for a daily ‘quiet time’, no matter how busy or tired I am. I must have an extended time each day where I pray, study scripture, meditate, and worship. 

This can be a wonderful thing. Daily time for solitude and encountering God’s presence is hugely desirable. But what if life makes these moments rare or even close to impossible? Is a vibrant spiritual life only available to those who can dedicate an hour of ‘quiet time’ every day?

These are the questions I’ve found myself pondering lately. Life doesn’t allow me to spend significant amounts of time engaging in what are often called spiritual practices. Does this mean I am unable to encounter God?

I don’t think so. 

And it is thinking about this that has led me to wonder what an ‘everyday mystic’ might look like. I can’t live in a monastery, and I can’t dedicate significant amounts of time to overtly spiritual practices, but how might I still encounter God consistently in the midst of normal, busy, tiring everyday life.

Richard Rohr defines a mystic as bring any person who has experiential knowledge of spiritual things. It’s not about how many Bible verses we know, or what doctrines we understand, or which church we do or don’t go to—it’s about personally experiencing God. 

If God is everywhere, and everything is sacred, why would a spiritual experience need to be limited to specific spiritual practices, worthwhile as they can be? 

They don’t.

Says, Rohr: 

‘There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments—and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence.’

These words, in parallel with reflecting on the state of my own life, have made me realise how blind I have become to what is going on around me. I don’t see everything as sacred. I don’t recognise that the physical world is not the only world there is.

Instead of seeing the visible world as a portal into the much larger invisible world, I have become consumed by the here and now. What is going on in my life has come to dominate everything. I no longer see through the physical realities of my life and into the deeper, richer spiritual life the lies within and behind it. 

Busyness and tiredness have not only pulled me away from regular spiritual practices, they have also blinded me from seeing the spiritual realities that infuse everything around me.

This is what I want to change as I go through 2015. I may not be able to make huge changes to the busyness and tiredness, but I can choose to see with spiritual eyes and not mere physical ones. 

I may not be able to spend hour after hour in prayer and meditation, but I can learn to see God within every moment and every event. As Rohr reminds us, ‘Matter is, and has always been, the hiding place for Spirit, forever offering itself to be discovered anew.’

If we will allow it, all of life can become a place of spiritual encounter. We can all be everyday mystics. A mystic is not someone who lives in a monastery, or who spends their lives in a prayer closet. A mystic is someone who is able to see and find and connect to God everywhereand at anytime.

‘Once we accept that God is in all situations, and can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God.’ (Rohr)

As well as being challenged to open my eyes to seeing God more fully in and through the realities of my busy, tiring life though, I do recognise that there is still a need to make some space for what are typically called spiritual practices.

This might not take the shape of extended periods of solitude or an hour of ‘quiet time’, but mystics throughout the ages have long emphasised the value of prayer, scripture, meditation, serving, worship, giving, and more, in enriching their experience of God.

When much of life is dictated to you—as it is with young kids, in particular—there is a need to look for ways to creatively make these moments happen. The shower can become our prayer closet. The bus ride can be a chance to read and meditate on scripture. Even the toilet could become an opportunity for multitasking (assuming a toddler isn’t clinging to you)!

In other words, we need to see what opportunities there might already be in our day that we’ve not seen before. Life won’t always be like this, but we can find opportunities—no matter how fleeting—to connect to God in the midst of the busyness. There will be some, even if it might take talking it through with a partner or trusted friend to see them.

And maybe, just maybe, we could establish a practice of once a week, making some space for a more extended time of directly connecting to God. It may mean getting our partner or a friend to take responsibility for the kids, and it may require getting out the house in order for it to be quality time, but it’ll be more than worth it.

Whether we realise it or not, we all need this experience of God. As Rohr reminds us, we need to be honest and humble enough to admit this:

‘The entire world is indeed sacramental and mediates the message, and yet it is hidden in such a way that only the humble and honest—and suffering—will find it.’

It’s so tempting to keep pressing on through life when it’s busy and all-consuming, thinking we can manage by ourselves. But it eventually catches up with us. We all need to be reminded that we can all become everyday mystics. We can have a rich and meaningful spiritual life even when life is overwhelming. (Truthfully, there is perhaps no greater time in life when we need God more!)

So my goal for 2015 is to become an everyday mystic, experiencing God in the midst of the busyness and tiredness of life. I want to see God more. I want to see the invisible and not just the visible world. I want to take off my blinkers and see—and experience—the full life that Jesus ultimately offers. 

And, not only that, I want to carve out some additional moments for more intentional engaging in spiritual practices too—even if it is while multitasking.

Here’s to a mystical 2015, filled with rich and diverse, spiritual experiences and encounters with God!

Sam Radford

55 Leopold St, Sheffield, S1 2GY, United Kingdom

I tell stories and share ideas. I’m a pragmatic idealist fascinated by technology, science, faith, politics, relationships, and what it means to be human.