How Talking to God Can Change Your Life. ~ Tom Rapsas

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Thomas Gun

“Let us be silent, and we may hear the whispers of the Gods.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do evangelical Christians, devotees of the Bhagavad Gita and this humble elephant journal columnist have in common? We all believe in the power of a direct and personal relationship with God.

For me, this personal relationship means that I start most mornings with a specific ritual. After rolling (or these days, hobbling) out of bed, I flick on the coffeemaker and begin stretching, followed by a cup of coffee, meditation and/or prayer, more coffee and a three or four-mile run.

It’s at different points during this morning routine that I find and connect with the essence of God within. It literally gives me a feeling of warmth and love inside and gets me ready for the day ahead, hopefully to spread the compassion and good vibes I feel to everyone I encounter.

On some days, I take an additional step. I talk to and listen to God.

Now, this is not a traditional conversation, as it’s often wordless and involves more listening than talking. I simply ask for guidance in whatever single area of my life most needs it And while this may sound nuts to those less spiritually-inclined, I’m practicing a tradition that has been around for some time (see John 10:27) and recommended by some of the leading spiritual lights of our age.

One regular conversationalist with God was Ralph Trine, an early New Thought Movement leader. Trine believed there was a “divine inflow” that we all could tap into for guidance and advice on any life matter. In his great lost classic In Tune with the Infinite, which sold over two million copies and was credited by Henry Ford as the key to his success, Trine wrote:

“It is through your own soul that the voice of God speaks to you. This is the interior guide.”

Perhaps our greatest American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also believed there was a source of guidance available to us all called the “divine soul.” Emerson had his own way of communicating with this source which he referred to as “lowly listening” (more on that later):

There is a soul at the center of nature and over the will of every man….we prosper when we accept its advice…we need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word.”

Ram Dass also talked to the importance of listening for guidance in his modern-day classic Paths to God, Living The Bhagvad Gita. Here he discusses the benefits of “adopting a Gita perspective”:

“Instead of always preoccupying ourselves with trying to get what we think we want or need, we’ll start to quiet, we’ll start to listen. We’ll wait for that inner prompting. We’ll try to hear, rather than decide, what it is we should do next. And as we listen, we’ll hear our dharma more and more clearly.”

When it comes to talking and listening to God, I’ve distilled my personal process down to three steps—but by no means do I want to make this sound easy. It probably took me a decade or so to perfect the first step—but after that, step two came much faster, as did step three though I know this can be a tricky one for a lot of people.

1. Go to a place where you can quiet the mind and be still.

Unless you walk around in a perpetual state of Zen, this is a necessary first step. And as an elephant journal reader, I’m guessing you already have a good idea what technique for quieting the mind works best for you.

For me, I’m best able to quiet my mind by focusing on my breathing via meditation or by taking a brisk run along the river that lines my neighborhood. But there are many other ways to get there, as well. As Douglas Block points out in his book Listening to Your Inner Voice:

“You can achieve this stillness through any process that relaxes you and slows down your thoughts—meditation, visualization, long walks, exercise, driving on a country road…”

2. Engage in what Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to as “lowly listening.”

It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Once in a relaxed state, put your concern out to God. Then, while not trying too hard, “listen” within. Scholar and author Richard Geldard, who has written two books on Emerson’s philosophy, explains what happens during this lowly listening phase:

Solitude, stillness, reflection, judgement and understanding all come together to guide us.”

Emerson discussed the process of lowly listening is in one of a series of essays titled Spiritual Laws. He wrote:

“Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into you as life, place yourself in the full center of that flood, then you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment.”

 The key is listening. As author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee points out in his enlightening new book Prayer of the Heart in Christian and Sufi Mysticism

Learning to pray is learning to listen. Within the heart we learn to wait with patience for God’s words, which may come even when we have not asked.”

 3. Separate the word of God from the voice of the ego.

A friend once told me that she hears lots of words in her head, the problem is figuring which are the right ones. And maybe that’s the hard part. But once you’ re able to tune in to the “soul at the center of nature” as Emerson calls it, you’ll find there’s a single, authentic voice there.

When I say voice, it doesn’t always come through in words (though it can), but usually in the form of a deep-seeded intuition. One moment you’re questioning the correct next step at work, at home, in love or in life. The next moment you know the answer with certainty.

The one important part is learning to separate the false voice of the ego with the true voice of the soul and God. Vaughan-Lee advises that

“Such listening requires both attentiveness and discrimination, as it is not always easy to discriminate between the voice of the ego and the voice of our Beloved. But there is a distinct difference: the words of the ego and mind belong to duality; the words of the heart carry the imprint of oneness. In the heart there is no argument, no you and me, just an unfolding oneness. The heart embraces a difficulty, while the ego takes sides.”

What’s the importance of this morning conversation with God? Again, in the words of Ralph Trine:

“The little time spent in the quiet each day, alone with one’s God, that we may make and keep our connection with the Infinite source—our source and our life—will be a boon to any life. It will prove, if we are faithful, to be the most priceless possession that we have.”

That pretty well sums it up. It’s a priceless moment, one that helps me—and can help you—start every day in the right frame of mind, with the added assurance that any additional wisdom or guidance you need is never too far away.


Editor: Brianna Bemel

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Tom Rapsas

Tom Rapsas is a blogger on inspirational and spirituality issues for Patheos, Elephant Journal and his own site The Inner Way. A long-time spiritual seeker and student of philosophy and religion, his influences include Thomas Moore, John Templeton, Napolean Hill, Ralph Trine and Ralph Waldo Emerson. A resident of the Jersey Shore, Tom lives with his wife, daughter and nine cats. He’s the author of Life Tweets Inspirational & Spiritual Insights That Can Change Your Life, which is now available for Kindle and as a trade paperback. His next book, the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel, will be published in 2014. You can reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @TomRapsasTweets

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anonymous Aug 14, 2012 5:19am

[…] ways we can come to a full understanding of our relationship with God is by spending a little “alone time” with God. However, in our amped-up, wireless sphere of reality, I think this has become a lost […]

anonymous Aug 6, 2012 10:35am

[…] lies an experience full of connection, humbleness and vulnerability. Through witnessing another in communion with his or her Creator, you realize that each person’s prayer is actually your prayer. To have someone speaking your […]

anonymous Apr 30, 2012 8:52am

Hi ilona, I just took a quick look at the Wikipedia entry you posted and it looks very cool, it fits right in with the material in the post. I will definitely be taking a deeper dive into "hitbodedut". Thanks for sharing! ~Tom

anonymous Apr 29, 2012 6:48pm

Great article! To make it (more) relevant to a broader spectrum of Elephant readers, I'd like to add that Judaism offers the same practice, called "hitbodedut". The Wikipedia entry goes into more detail, but basically it's a practice of self-reflection (or seclusion), frequently involving speaking aloud to God while in nature.

anonymous Apr 29, 2012 6:28pm

I like what you have said here. I am open to expanding my thinking and finding new places for God to speak to me! I love it when that happens. I know that when I am able to carry on a conversation with God it is usually through meditation and prayer and it is always so healing. I often write my prayers and find him answering them at all hours of the day, it's like a big warm hug straight from him to you. I just started a blog and I have begun to add some of my prayers on it and have found great catharsis in doing so. I would love for you to check it out if you get a moment it's Also, I am adding you to my blogroll because I think your site would be very interesting and well liked by my readers! Thank you for posting this!
Wishing you abundant blessings,

    anonymous Apr 30, 2012 9:21am

    Wow Kimmy, looks like your Web site has a lot of great info on it. I am going to take a closer look later today. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt comments and yes, I know what you mean. Sometimes when you put a prayer out to God, God has a way of answering at a time, and in ways, you least expect. (Also, thanks for adding me to your blogroll!) ~Tom

anonymous Apr 28, 2012 4:22pm

Thanks for this offering Tom. It is a very nice blending and intertwining of various perspectives all directed towards our most important relationship.

Posting to Elephant Bhakti. Be sure to Like Elephant Bhakti on Facebook.

    anonymous Apr 30, 2012 8:49am

    Thanks for your comments, I enjoyed writing it as well! ~Tom

Bob Weisenberg Apr 28, 2012 3:05pm

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anonymous Apr 27, 2012 2:33pm

Thanks, Valerie! You kind words are much appreciated. ~Tom

    anonymous May 2, 2012 9:17am

    I echo her sentiments; I love the way Valerie comments — you always known she's read it and loves what you've written. I really loved this, Tom…should be more of it. Should be more of YOU 🙂 Write more…

      anonymous May 2, 2012 11:57am

      Thanks for your kindness, Braja! I know, I need to write more. Lots of ideas but not enough time, I'll try to pick up the pace soon.

anonymous Apr 27, 2012 7:54am

Wonderfully written, Tom. Brings to mind a curious fact of language and of meditation or contemplation: "silent" and "listen" contain the same letters. As you observe, it's when we become silent inside that we can truly listen to the guidance of the Infinite, in whatever form it comes.

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anonymous Apr 26, 2012 1:09pm

[…] by the likes of Ralph Trine, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ram Dass. I talk to and listen to God. Source content_fixup(); Tags: connect-with divine emerson essence-within- likes llewellyn vaughan-lee […]