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Center for Action and Contemplation

God Is the Ground of Our Being

Monday, April 24, 2023

God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction. —Meister Eckhart, sermon on Romans 8:18 

In his writings and sermons, medieval mystic Meister Eckhart (1260–1327) counseled detachment from anything that would separate us from God, whom he understood as the very ground of our being. In the latest season of his podcast Turning to the Mystics, CAC teacher James Finley shares his understanding of Eckhart’s teachings: 

The guidance that Meister Eckhart offers us in his sermons attempts to help us deepen our experiential understanding of the depths of God’s presence in our lives. A foundational way that he helps us with this deepening is with his metaphor of the ground. The ground of God is the deepest depths of God. And in the generosity of God, the deepest depths of God are given to us as the deepest depths of ourselves, in our nothingness without God. Our ground and God’s ground is one ground. And hidden down in the depths of ourselves is a union that’s already present, waiting to be realized, lived, and shared. [1] 

What is this path along which we can actually, experientially abide in the oneness of the ground? The path cannot be a path of attaining because nothing’s missing. The ground is this infinite generosity of God completely being given to us as this depth of ourselves. Therefore, the path has to be one of becoming detached from what hinders us from realizing it. 

Eckhart is saying we can choose to live this way: in a kind of empty-handed, open process of constantly letting go of everything as having the final say in who we are. We acknowledge it [the trait, the preference, the condition], but we know it doesn’t have the final say in who we are. The more we continue in that way, we are in this Gelassenheit, which means being released from everything that hinders. A key phase of this is what Eckhart calls “the birth of the Word in the soul.” [2] What comes welling up out of the ordinariness of everything is the divinity of everything. What Eckhart is looking for is a habitual underlying state of this releasing, of this birthing. [3] 

He gives some practical strategies so that we can practice finding our way to the ground in day-by-day consciousness by being sensitive to certain tendencies in our heart. 

Every time we catch ourselves getting reactive, every time we catch ourselves acting as if the outcome of the situation has the authority to name who we are, we are to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that it’s not true. That there’s this hidden, unfelt, deep, abyss-like center in which we’re being unexplainably sustained in the midst of the circumstances. [4]  


[1] Adapted from James Finley, “Meister Eckhart: Session 3” in Turning to the Mystics, season 7 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast, MP3 audio. Forthcoming episode. 

[2] Examples include Eckhart’s sermons on Wisdom 18:14, Luke 2:49, and James 1:17. 

[3] Adapted from James Finley with Kirsten Oates, “Meister Eckhart: Dialogue 1,” in Turning to the Mystics, season 7 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast, MP3 audio. 

[4] Adapted from Turning to the Mystics, “Meister Eckhart: Session 3.” Forthcoming episode. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Margi Ahearn, Exercise on Grief and Lamentation. McEl Chevrier, Untitled. CAC Staff, Untitled. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise. 

Story from Our Community:  

In 2000 I was a young actor in Hollywood, just starting to have some success … when I was diagnosed with a golf ball-sized brain tumor that came within two days of killing me. Even after surgery I was only given a 4% chance of five-year survival. Miracles were laid out for me and I am strong and vibrantly healthy 23 years later. When it first happened, I felt like all of my dreams have been destroyed, but looking back now I can see how it was actually one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. I am much more in touch with my true self, in a much deeper relationship with God … [and] much closer to being the person I want to be. —Jamie G.  

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