Integral Contemplation: Practicing with Our Whole Being
Dancing with the Three Faces of God
in Head, Heart, and Gut
The Three Faces of God is a foundational teaching in integral spirituality. As early as second grade we learned the three basic points of view on any subject or situation called third, second, and first person. When we use these three points of view in relationship to God, we find they are helpful descriptions of how we understand and experience God.
To talk about God in third person we find words like “he, “she’ and “it.” Whenever Jesus talked about God, even Abba, he was ultimately referring to the awesome, infinite I AM God of Moses. I use the metaphor of vast infinite space to symbolize God-Beyond-Us.
When we talk to God in second person, we use the personal language of relationship such as “you.” In Christianity this has been traditionally represented by Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit —three beings who relate personally to one another and to us. This is God-Beside-Us.
When we experience our own divinity —God as us—we use the first person language of identification — “I” and “we.” Jesus was identifying with the “I AM” God of Moses’ burning bush when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). We follow Jesus’ model for us, as also sons and daughters of God, when we experience God-Being-Us.
Amazingly, each of these three viewpoints about God parallel what is deeply perceived from the corresponding head, heart, and gut centers in our bodies. This helps us locate where we are sensing this kinesthetically, and actually embody the different ways we experience God.
The head in transcendent consciousness is God-Beyond-Us
“We are here to find a dimension within ourselves that is deeper than thought.” ~Eckhart Tolle
When we wake up to the vast, spacious awareness that is conscious of our thoughts, our thoughts are no longer the center of our attention. Instead, we become aware of being aware.
When the thinking mind becomes still, we rest in pure being. This is the ever-present I AM of Moses and Jesus that is beyond conceptualization and form. Our vast, transcendent consciousness, without thoughts or objects, can then be identified with and experienced as God-Beyond-Us.
1. Object of awareness (for those new to the head path)
Focus on your breath, a word, an object such as a candle or picture. When your thoughts wander, return to your breath, word, or object.
2. Observing thoughts
Observe your thoughts as they come and go without judging or holding onto them.
3. Open awareness
Find an inner stillness and let go of your focal object. What remains is an abiding presence which is not distracted.
4. Self-inquiry (for the curious and courageous)
Ask a most powerful question: Who am I? Or “Who is thinking this thought? Don’t try to figure out an answer. Let it remain unanswered by concepts or words. Drop the question into the stillness of your consciousness like a pebble into a still forest pool, sending ripples through your being.
The heart in radiating love is God-Beside-Us
When we move deeply into our heart, we find it overflows with powerful feelings of love and bliss. Love is relational —directed to the other. Bliss is an internal state beyond happiness and joy that is not dependent on outward circumstance. A full heart is one that is spiritually engaged with the energy of love and bliss. A loving heart inspires affection; we want to hug everyone in the world! A blissful heart is full of joy and ecstasy; we sit and enjoy it!
In a full heart we feel the love of closeness, gratefulness, and devotion to the motherly-fatherly presence of God, to the presence of Jesus, and other icons or saintly spiritual presences.
But there is even more than this communion with God. Paraphrasing Meister Eckhart, “The heart with which I love God is the same heart with which God loves me; my heart and God’s heart are one heart, one knowing, one love.” As our heart awakens to experience oneness with God, bliss arises and saturates all being and experience.
Amazingly, we experience both communion and union with God in heart sourced God-beside-us.
Step 1 — Drop your attention from your head to your heart.
Step 2 — Think of someone you love. For a potentially deeper activation of your heart into not only love but spiritual bliss, receive love from God, Jesus, and/or other saintly guides.
Step 3 — Rest in your heart space, identifying with God in oneness.
Step 4 — Let feelings of love, gratitude, and bliss flow.
The gut in divine identity is God-Being-Us
The gut is home to our core sense of individual, separate identity. It is not a head concept or a heart-felt emotion there, but rather an intuition there as US. We grasp onto that identity because we think losing it means death and not existing. When we become aware of this mistaken identity and release it, our deepest identity, our True Self is finally revealed. Our True Self is beyond time—it was never born and will never die. Our True Self is even beyond our individuality—as we release our individual self for our True Self, we begin to identify with everyone.
Jesus said, “Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me” (Matt. 25:40). Why? Not because of a philosophical or theological position, but because, he had embraced his identity as a fully human, fully divine son of God. Therefore, Jesus experienced himself as everyone! So do we, the more and more spiritually awake we become to our fully human, fully divine identify as sons and daughters of God.
As I have pointed out above, we can sense our divine identity also in our head and heart. However, we intuit it most deeply in our gut.
The egoic self ’s experience of God is not God’s experience of being us. The gut release of the egoic self to reveal our True Self is God’s experience of God-Being-Us.
Step 1 — Place your attention in the middle of your abdomen, around your navel.
Step 2 — Breath from your gut. If your gut is moving up and down, you’re doing well.
Step 3 — Ask yourself a powerful question, “Who am I?” Let the answer come, not in words, but in a sense, an intuition that can lead you to your divine identity.
Grounding to the earth
Grounding means that you're present in your body with a sense of being connected to the earth. This allows you to be centered and balanced no matter what's going on around you. If you aren't grounded, you're like a leaf blown about by the wind. But when you are well grounded, you are like a strong tree with roots deep into the earth.
Because much spiritual pursuit has the potential to float us off into the clouds, this is a very important dynamic in our spiritual practice. While we can ground through our head, heart, and gut, we mostly root through our gut.
As long as we are physically embodied, we need to embrace our bodies, living gratefully in and with them as divine gifts. This allows us to be embodied consciousness in all of its trailing clouds glory.
When we are grounded, we sense that there is something more essentially authentic in and behind all of these forms that evokes a deeper level of human consciousness, existing prior to the forms themselves.
Step 1 — Move your attention to your feet on the ground. Perhaps even remove your shoes. (best if you’re outside, in nature)
Step 2 — Picture or look at trees with their roots reaching down into the soil.
Step 3 — See the roots of a tree coming out of your feet, into the earth. Breath up grounding energy through your feet into your gut and others parts of body you want to energize and ground.
Integrating Head, Heart, and Gut with the Three Faces of God
The result of integrating the Three Faces of God with the head, heart, and gut is a shift in our perception from seeing ourselves as isolated individuals to a divine cosmic sense of being everyone, everywhere, everything, at the same time!
In the fully awakened mind, heart, and gut, we are no longer “in here” looking out at a world that appears to be “out there.” This is because everything out there is now in here, and everything in here is now out there. It is all one. In other words, “Christ in you . . . holds all things together” (Col. 1:27, 17)!
We begin to be more and more comfortable with the head perception, the heart feeling, and the gut intuition that we are one with God, made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and participants in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).
While we will usually favor one dimension over the other two, we can use that favorite dimension to sustain us while we experiment with the others when we are ready. These three awakenings can each come suddenly, but most often they rise up in bits and pieces, gradually over time. And more and more we experience an immovable depth amidst the waves and currents of life.
Step 1 — Begin with head, heart, or gut center—whatever draws you.
Step 2 — Continue there for your entire daily meditation/prayer time—or move to one or both of the other centers if you are drawn to do so.
Step 3 — Finish by drawing energy, slowly or quickly, up from feet into gut, then include heart, then head, and then, while still remaining in your body, let it continue to be drawn into transcendent space out the top of your head, connecting the ground, your energy centers, and transcendent space in one flowing wave.
The integral stage is the evolving edge of the integration of the Three Faces of God with the head, heart, and gut centers. There is much more to discover here, and the Integral Christian Network is poised to be on the evolutionary frontier of this spiritual path. Your experience, feedback, and sharing in our WeSpace groups, Slack Channel, and here are vital to this process moving forward. In journeying together, let’s recognize that we are manifesting loving evolution on the forefront of the Christian frontier!