Integral Joy

Today’s post is by Carl McColman

A phrase from the Lakota language, mitakuye oyasin, means “all are related” or “all my relations.” It’s a way of seeing: of recognizing that we exist not as some sort of isolated cells over and against our environment or are communities, but that our existence, our very lives, are indeed integrally bound up together with all other beings, with the world and the cosmos. We are all related. We are all connected.

This in turn reminds me of Julian of Norwich, who wrote “the fullness of joy is to behold God in all.” So not only are we connect to all, but that if we learn how to see, we can behold God in all to which we are connected. In scripture we read, “If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” (Psalm 139:8).

God is everywhere: in the celestial regions as well as the underworld, and of course everywhere in between. Perhaps this is why we can say with confidence, mitakuye oyasin, all are related: because everything is knit together in the silent presence of God.

What all this means, of course, is that silent prayer or contemplative practice cannot be divorced from the rest of life. Spirituality is not something apart from everything else we do; it is knit into the fabric of our undivided lives, the same way that breathing is. In silence we pay attention to our breath, and then for the rest of the day we continue to breath, whether we attend to it or not.