April 15, 2018

This week is about the False Self System which we can become aware of by watching our emotional responses in our daily activities.  When we feel upset, either through anger, grief, apathy, pride, or lust, we follow these emotional responses with "commentaries" about ourselves, which often result in feeling more upset. Here is a brief synopsis of some of Father Keating's thoughts on the False Self System and our afflictive emotions.  This is taken directly from Father Keating's talk for this week with a few additions and clarifications in bold: 

NOBODY HAS TO CHANGE, EXCEPT OURSELVES Grief (or anger, or apathy or pride or lust) is a very frequent experience when our emotional centers are frustrated. And it tells us infallibly: “Brother, or sister, you’ve got a problem.” Any upsetting emotion tells you that you’re in trouble. It’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s not the events of life. It’s your problem and you, as a mature human being aiming at full Mental Egoic consciousness, which is that of a human being, have got to take yourself in hand, take responsibility for those emotions, and change them, and stop blaming other people or events for how you feel. Nobody has to change for us to change except ourselves. And if other people have problems, that’s their problem. But if you’re upset, you’ve got a problem and you’ll always have it until you change it, and you can change it. And the effort to change it is what in our Christian tradition is called the practice of virtue. It’s as simple as that. Virtue simply is the introduction of reason, balance, moderation into our emotional life, which up till then has been irrational, subhuman, and childish, or infantile, if you prefer. 

Our false self system takes over when we feel strong emotions but Not God. He’s trying to save us from this nonsense. But pride always suggest that we’re not doing enough, not measuring up to our great potential, not converting the world, if that’s what we’re after, not being the president of this multinational, if that’s what it is, not being the abbot of this monastery; if that’s what it is. The false self is the most deceitful of all creatures. It easily adjusts itself to any state of life whatsoever. And so, it graciously changes its clothes, its address, the furniture ... anything else ... as long as you don’t ask it to change itself. But, I’m sorry to say, it does not drop dead upon request.

When the False Self System  hears that we have heard the great call of the Gospel to change, and we resolve, now, to adopt the principles of the Gospel, and we’re not going to give into these security trips, these ego trips, these power trips, the emotional centers just say, “Ha. Ha Ha. Just try it, brother!” Then, then you’re in the spiritual combat, because what you want to do, you can’t do. And so, you experience with Paul who describes it magnificently: “What I want to do, what my mind approves, I don’t do. What I hate doing, what I don’t want to do with my will and good judgment, I find myself doing.” That’s the exact description of what happens when you start taking yourself in hand, confronting the fixated, emotional patterns of a lifetime and trying to change them. It’s a job, but it can be done. It’s not done by pursuing extremes, but by the patient effort to dismantle the emotional centers, one by one. Fortunately, if you can determine what the biggest one is in your personal history and work at that, all the others diminish because they’re all interrelated.

Stay tuned for more next week.  

-Anne

 

March 25, 2018

Father Keating continues to discuss the Evolutionary and Existential psychological models he has explained in the last sessions.  He further develops how the Evolutionary model relates to our spiritual journey in that although the Evolutionary model (Uroboric, Typhonic, Mythic Membership and Mental Egoic) illustrates the stages of human development, humans realize through personal experience that it is not as straight forward as perceived in the model.   Instead, there is a sense of something missing, a sense of just not quite ever feeling at "home".   

He says "The reason why we feel incomplete, afraid, terror stricken, in need of immortality symbols of property and possessions to shore up our fragile self-identity, is precisely because we feel that something is missing in our lives that we have no way of obtaining.  And that which we are lacking is the sense of oneness with the Ultimate Mystery of the universe, with reality, with God."

The Garden of Eden, or intimacy with God, is not a place, separate from us, but deep within us; it is a "state of soul, a state of mind, a state of consciousness."  The human predicament occurs because we all, from babyhood to puberty, do not realize we are one with the universe and instead perceive ourselves as "an individual psyche in the face of a potentially hostile universe."

Our need for security is huge.  Experiences occur in our early years that result in uncertainty about our assurance of safety and security.  We develop coping mechanisms to preserve a feeling of security which eventually results in inhibiting our emotional and spiritual growth. Using Ken Keyes' language, we create "energy centers" to protect ourselves and these centers develop "into a whole constellation of attitudes, motivations, responses and commentaries on life."  The security center is the first and Father Keating uses the motto "more and better" to show what we do to protect it.

"Esteem, honor, vanity" is the next energy center and if wounded, we experience "emotional frustration" and respond with our own particular "commentary" which helps to increase and support the emotional frustration we experience  Keating compares it to a wheel gathering momentum resulting in an "emotional binge."   He notes "One experiences oneself as kind of stirring the pot of human misery, even though you know it's killing you, you just can't stop"

The third energy center is for "power and control" and we use our reasoning ability to support our desire to control other people and events. Group think is a natural tendency of the human animal and when stuck in "energy centers" we may go along with our "groups" rather than listening to what is honest and what "serves the common good."  Authority needs to be used in the "service of the people it leads . . . and their personal growth and to bring them . . . out of this swamp of dependency on self-centered motivation into the freedom and responsibility and accountability of full personhood and full acceptance of one's place in the mystical Body of Christ, as a living cell responsible for all the other cells, proportionate to the gifts and charisms that God distributes throughout the body of Christ."

Keating shares "The false self system is thoroughly in place when we arrive at the age of reason and so is our group identification."  By now we have ideas of what will make us happy and these ideas are based on the desires of the false self system.  

The amazing thing that happens is God takes human form, through Jesus, and experiences all of what we experience as humans.  Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit for prayer and solitude and "to experience the human condition in its raw nakedness."  Jesus' temptations are 1). Make these stones into bread.  In other words, "put your security in your power rather than in God." and 2). throw yourself off the temple and you'll be worshiped, but Jesus rejects this and again, refuses to "rely on himself rather than on God."  Finally 3). Jesus dismisses Satan when he offers him the whole world if he will worship him.

Jesus gives us a new model to follow when we are in our "interior desert" and we will know the reward that comes from resisting temptations.  "So anybody who is resisting or trying to dismantle the false self system, manifested in these emotional programs for happiness, is in the desert, and is in union with Christ; or, rather, Christ is in union with them, in virtue of the solidarity of the human family and his taking it totally to himself in his Incarnation."  (**This is really cool to remember when one is struggling to change aspects of the false self system and it seems like others don't really want you to change.  You are one in Christ!)

What is the answer for our desire for happiness?  The Beatitudes simply mean "Oh, how happy you would be if . . ." and Jesus outlines what is true happiness.  To be "poor in spirit" is to "forget about security, to be free of it, to put your trust in God."  "Blessed are those who mourn" is to accept our losses and let new life emerge for us.  "Blessed are the meek" is to let go of the desire for power over people, places and things and "Blessed are the peacemakers" and those who "hunger and thirst for justice" is the Mental Egoic level of consciousness, which shows that one has freed oneself enough to reach this level of emotional well being. 

The Retreat Directors suggest that the retreatants spend some time with the Beatitudes.  They also suggest "reading Chapters 18 and 19 in Invitation to Love (20th Anniversary Edition), Chapters 17 and 18 in earlier editions" for further study.  

Blessings-Anne

March 12, 2018

Session 17 continues with Father Keating’s further explanations of the psychological models that illustrate how human kind has developed through millennia and is replicated in each individual as s/he grows from a baby to a child to an adolescent to an adult.  He notes that unfortunately humans have been unable to make “use of the creative power of the brain, which is biologically available, and which automatically evolves with time,” and instead “this enormous energy, this new energy, is used to reinforce the fixations, the attitudes, and the physicality that is proper to these lower brains [Mythic, Typhonic, Uroboric].”  Therefore, we get “stuck” for lack of a better word, because we use all of our energy reinforcing what doesn’t really help us to grow spiritually. 

Keating regrets that we use our lower energies rather than the energy we are capable of using at the Mental Egoic level of development.  Instead of building bridges together, he uses as an example, we search for ways to be more powerful than others and compete rather than cooperate.  Keating believes that as one comes to understand one’s psychological make-up, one can begin to change and grow.

Father Keating explains that the infant is at the stage of Uroboric, and “It is so fragile when it emerges from the womb, that it needs instantly the care that will reassure it that its new world is somewhat continuous with the one it enjoyed in the womb.”  When these needs are not met, the infant is distressed and this results in a “dull, pervasive sense of anger.”   Keating goes on to give an illustration of this with a novice at the seminary who had a skin condition as an infant; his mother said they were told by the doctors to not pick him up. “This is one of the amazing things about the human condition: that the damage done may be nobody’s fault—just the vicissitudes of being a human being.”  

The Uroboric level then is one of the need for security and survival.  As a child grows, the Typhonic level is the development of emotional responses that are appropriate to the situation and then, at the age of 4 to 7, the development of Mythic Membership, or “it is interiorizing the values of parents, peers or the culture, insofar as it filters down, without question. Normally it unquestioningly accepts the information that it’s given and the values and the parents acting as models. the feeling of belonging to the group.”

Every three to four years, there is a biological growth spurt in a human being. Keating notes “From about one to puberty, the biological foundation or ground structure for life as a fully human being is completely established. At least, that’s the blueprint. Other people can interfere with that biological process. And this, along with negative experiences of life, is what produces defense mechanisms coping with difficult situations or emotions in a way that’s inadequate, or in a way that leaves behind stress or tension which makes it more difficult for the brain to unfold towards higher values and twists its energy around so that it uses its increasing brain power and energy, the new brain energy, to reinforce its programs for self-defense, or the programs for happiness that are beginning to develop in compensatory relationship to its grievances with life.”

At the age of fifteen, the human is ready for spiritual growth.  Keating repeats, “The first part of life is to enter into through particular experiences, to develop that self-identity as thoroughly distinct from all the other identities. Then comes the opportunity to translate that experience back into the higher values of the spiritual potentiality of the human being with the new brain, the left hemisphere being the basis for it.”

Session 18  The retreat directors in Session 18 ask the retreatants to comment on their thoughts after reading the psychological models as developed in lecture format by Father Keating.  They use the following quotes to help the retreatants use the information provided by Father Keating to apply what they have read to their own spiritual journey. 

“"The struggle between the old and the new self is a constant theme in the New Testament. The false self easily adjusts to the circumstances of the spiritual journey as long as it does not have to change itself. Thus, it manifests its radical self-centeredness in various expressions of human activity: in material pursuits such as wealth and power; in emotional satisfactions such as relationships; in intellectual goals ... in social goals such as status and prestige; in religious aspirations such as fasting and acts of piety; and even in spiritual commitments such as prayer, the practice of virtue and every form of ministry.

"The Gospel calls us forth to full responsibility for our emotional life. We tend to blame other people or situations for the turmoil we experience. In actual fact, upsetting emotions prove beyond any doubt that the problem is in us. If we do not assume responsibility for our emotional programs on the unconscious level and take measures to change them, we will be influenced by them to the end of our lives. As long as these programs are in place, we cannot hear other people and their cries for help; their problems must first be filtered through our own emotional needs, reactions and prepackaged values. No amount of theological, scriptural or liturgical study can heal the false-self system, because as long as our emotional programs for happiness are firmly in place, such studies are easily co-opted by them. ...

"Jesus appears in the desert as the representative of the human race. He bears within himself the experience of the human predicament in its raw intensity. Hence, he is vulnerable to the temptations [and yet shows us how to confront them]."
-- Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ

This is the time of fulfillment. 
The Kingdom of God is at hand. 
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
-- Mark 1: 15

Emerging from the forty days of confrontation, Jesus' first words were about repentance

A Meditation

"Christ began his teaching not with any literal commandments but with a psychological idea -- the idea of metanoia which means change of mind. ... This word, metanoia, awkwardly translated as repentance, means a new way of thinking about the meaning of one's own life. ... That is its starting point: to feel the mystery of one's own existence, of how one thinks and feels and moves, and to feel the mystery of consciousness, and to feel the mystery of the minute organization of matter. All this can begin to effect metanoia in a [person]. The contrary is to feel that everything is attributable to oneself. The one feeling opens the mind to its higher range of possibilities. The other feeling closes the mind and turns us downwards through the senses."
-- Maurice Nicoll, The Mark 


"The heart of the Christian ascesis -- and the work of Lent -- is to face the unconscious values that underlie the emotional programs for happiness and to change them. Hence the need of a discipline of contemplative prayer and action."
-- Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ
 

Blessings-Anne

 

 

March 4, 2018

Session Fifteen of the Spiritual Journey retreat focuses on the question, “Where are you?” as Father Keating continues to look at psychological models to help us understand our unconscious motivations to enable us to free ourselves from them. 

Keating returns to the model of Mythic Membership and notes that in this evolutionary stage, people connect most with the groups to which they belong; this can be family groups, national, ethnic or religious groups for example.  As long as people use these groups to determine their values and perceptions, they are unable to free themselves from personal responsibility which is a “characteristic of the Mental Egoic stage.”  Keating states that the Mental Egoic stage is the evolutionary model that we are called to in our current time, yet the earlier stages continue to break through in us depending upon what is happening in our lives.  When stressed, in crisis or when the unexpected occurs, these are gifts to help us notice our response and what evolutionary stage we respond out of.

The Gospel calls us to inner freedom, an inner freedom represented in the Mental Egoic stage of evolution because “Freedom is the name of the game in the Gospel—inner freedom, not permissiveness or license, but the freedom that can take responsibility for our emotions, our actions, our decisions, and our response to Christ.”

Keating goes on to explain that as adults, we can continue to grow until reaching the Mental Egoic stage, in which we take personal responsibility for our thoughts, actions, beliefs etc. and using this, we become better attuned to the sufferings of others and how we can be of help.  As we continue to grow in the spiritual journey, we get closer to the Intuitive stage in which we realize we are all in unity with others and begin to act through these beliefs, “It’s solidarity with other people, especially those in their need, that is the beginning of the movement into the Intuitive level which perceives the deeper synthesis that is present in superficial structures; and can synthesize and draw insights beyond the usual level of rational thinking and doing.”

Keating reiterates that Centering Prayer can lead us into contemplative life “which . . . offers us the possibility of perhaps inconceivable and unimaginable freedom and growth, union and unity with the Ultimate Reality or the Ultimate Mystery, whom in the Christian tradition we call God.”

Session Sixteen of the Spiritual Journey retreat focuses on the question “Who are you?”  and Father Keating relates the treatises of Tielhard de Chardin who wrote that the human race is ready to move to its next level of evolution beyond the biological of “grow and multiply.”  This makes the “new thrust or focus of evolution on the human being and its capacity for wholeness . . .”

Father Keating notes, “That puts a great human focus on the main issue or obstacle to moving on in evolution to this focus on higher states of consciousness and the capacity to see God in everything, to respond to every situation according to God’s will rather than our inclinations or our particular cultural inclinations.”

The next part of this session is too difficult for me to summarize so I am just going to copy it for you.  Here it is:

“We really see ourselves then as a macrocosm in which all the major expressions of God’s creation are somehow united in a single consciousness which itself then is capable of enormous growth beyond anything that we can imagine. And so, as Jesus prayed, “that they maybe one even as we are one” suggests a oneness and unity that is almost infinite or can’t be beat, to put it that way. The question: What is a human being? Or, more specifically “Who are you?” begins to emerge into prominent light and each one of these realities requires our consent to open to the next possibility. Here’s one example of how theology is enriched by science. If we now know that the human species has a oneness that transcends all differences and that we really are everybody else as well as ourselves and that when we greet someone we’re really greeting ourselves on one level. Besides that; everybody has the divine presence in them and is saturated with God. We know as Teilhard says every sub-atomic particle is Christ and we’re trillions of them. Our very bodies are just saturated with Christ all the time and manifesting in all the organs in more specific ways. All reality can be subjected to quantum physics, and so on. Is God manifesting or close to us or relating to us in everything that happens and in everything that we meet? And to live in that world is a very different situation from one of competition and of goals that are really based on infantile programs for happiness such as the three first energy levels of security, power/control and affection and esteem.”

Keating concludes noting that God is trying to take us to a new place, one in which we relate to God on a whole new level.  God is asking us to accept ourselves as love and to be one with God.

Resources for this week: You may wish to read the Introduction and Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in Invitation to Love (20th Anniversary Edition) and the Introduction through Chapter 6, in older editions. 

Amazing!!  -Anne

February 25, 2018

February 25, 2018

Session Thirteen is the next segment of the Retreat offered through Contemplative Outreach in conjunction with Spirituality & Practice.   The Retreat now begins to take us deeper into the spiritual journey by helping us to understand, through psychology, how our “emotional programs for happiness” lead us into emotional turmoil.  Father Keating has done “seminal” work using several models of psychology to help us understand the human condition and how it affects us and how we can use this knowledge to help ourselves on our spiritual journey and help others as well.  From the retreat, “Fr. Thomas' intention is to help us understand why we need healing and what needs to be healed; in other words, what is being transformed. In Invitation to Love he says the primary goal of this teaching is "practical: to provide a solid conceptual background for the practice of contemplative prayer and the spiritual journey for our time. “

In Romans 7:15, St. Paul notes, “What I do, I do not understand. 
For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.


We have all had this experience in which we said something we wished we had not, or took actions we regretted later and often we ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?”  Father Thomas helps us to understand ourselves in this next segment of the retreat by sharing several models of Consciousness development.  He explains in Mystery of Christ, “  "The Gospel calls us forth to full responsibility for our emotional life. We tend to blame other people or situations for the turmoil we experience. In actual fact, upsetting emotions prove beyond any doubt that the problem is in us. If we do not assume responsibility for our emotional programs on the unconscious level and take measures to change them, we will be influenced by them to the end of our lives."

Here is an outline of the Evolutionary Model that Father Keating explains in the 30 minute video for this Session.

1. Uroboric: Immersed in nature, food, water, shelter and prompt fulfillment of needs, no separate self consciousness  

2. Typhonic: Magical, emotional, hunting culture (clan), formation of body-self. 

3. Mythical membership: Verbal, socialization, farming culture, city-state, nation/race

4. Mental-Egoic: Rational personhood, full reflective self-consciousness, cooperation, industrial technological society

5. Intutitive: Sense of oneness with the cosmos,  of belonging to the human family, inclination to serve rather than to compete

Keating explains that archeologists, anthropologists, historians and other scientists have contributed to this understanding of human development and it begins 4 to 5 million years ago.  The first stage is the longest stage, lasting about 5 million years, and it is called Uroboric, which means reptilian.  The human at this stage of consciousness is concerned with food, shelter and the prompt fulfilling of needs.  There is not separate consciousness from other humans or animals; at this stage, the human is immersed in nature and doesn’t see herself as a separate entity.

The next stage of consciousness is labeled Typhonic, which means half human, half animal and still, the human is most concerned with the fulfillment of instinctual needs.  There is a glimmer of a separate self during this stage, “And a Typhonic consciousness emerged, which is the emergence of a body self from nature. This is the first really significant distinction of self-identity.” There are two significant aspects of the Typhonic stage, “one is the inability to distinguish imagination from reality, the difficulty to distinguish the part from the whole.”  This stage lasts about 200,000 years and Father Keating notes how long it takes for consciousness to develop. 

Around 50,000 BCE, language was developed and things begin to change more rapidly.  This stage is called Mythic Membership and the most notable aspect of this stage is the importance of the group to humans.  The beginnings of the typical hierarchy we still see reflected today in governments and organizations begins in this level of consciousness.  Here is a brief summary from Keating, “The Mythic Membership level of consciousness is identified by anthropologists as emerging somewhere from twelve to ten thousand BCE. This is the development of the city state, a period of socialization. And the great factor that seemed to bring that about was the discovery of farming. And farming over against hunting means you now have a surplus and can plan the future and some people can have the leisure to give their attention to religious ritual and exercises, to money matters, to planning for the future, to storing up resources, and enjoying the possibility of a future. All of these revolutionary developments in consciousness brought about a gradual stratification of society, with kings and nobles and patrons and clients and slaves, and, not the least, soldiers.”

The final evolutionary stage in this model is labeled the Mental Egoic.   In this stage, rational or logical thought begins to appear and is valued over the previous stages of thought.  Therefore, although this is positive in many ways, the mind begins to be valued over the body and what we now perceive as “masculine thought” is given more value than what is perceived as “feminine” which is more body/nurturing aspects.

Keating concludes his explanation of the evolutionary model by noting “There is a further stage of consciousness—the Intuitive—which is a beginning to access the spiritual level of our being and it may be expressed by psychic gifts; but more importantly, it’s expressed by insights into the sense of belonging and unity with God and with the universe. In the view of this Evolutionary Model then, it proceeds beyond the stage in which is the common level of consciousness now into possibilities of growing even further.”

Finally, Keating explains that Ken Wilbur has looked at all of these evolutionary stages and researched how each human being goes through these stages in a lifetime, or is given the opportunity to go through these stages.  He notes “And that insight might be put this way: that each of us from the time of conception until about fifteen or sixteen passes through each level of consciousness that the human family as a whole has been through or still lingers in, because not everybody has climbed these stages.”

Humans can move back and forth between stages, depending upon what is happening in their lives and they can get stuck at a certain stage also.  Keating concludes “There is in us, then, both the values and the dis-values of each one of these levels. Ideally, the process would involve integrating all that was good at the previous level of consciousness into the new level which usually provides a higher synthesis and a greater range of awareness and growth. At the same time if there’s a fixation emotionally at one of these early levels, then the fixation is not integrated and then accompanies you through the rest of life. As one’s intelligence, perhaps spiritual life, physical nature grows, there remains the unintegrated value system from one of the previous levels of consciousness that is obviously not only inappropriate, but introduces a kind of civil war or pathology that is translated into the afflictive emotions of anxiety, turmoil, uncontrollable anger, lust, and the other afflictive emotions that we’ll be discussing later when we look at the Existential Model.”

Resources for further study refer the retreatant to read the Introduction and Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in Invitation to Love (20th Anniversary Edition). 

Whew!  -Anne

February 19, 2018

I am actually going to cheat a bit and just copy and paste the Introduction to this week's retreat postings as we are having a PAUSE.  The first part of the course is completed, with an introduction to Centering Prayer, people trying it and then writing about their experiences in the Discussion Board.  I have been quite interested in how people's experiences in the retreat are so similar to what people share during the Introductory Workshops.  It is a similar path it seems and all we have to do is take the first step to begin it.  Not too much to ask.  

From the Retreat: Today, as we prepare to close the first part of our course, we pause and reflect, we breathe in and out: What have we heard? What has spoken to our heart? What do we wish to carry forward?

A Meditation

"For the yearning for truth burns in the human soul and finds satisfaction whenever truth is finally met. This yearning is a flame that cannot be extinguished. ... The human soul hungers to know who God is, just as a child wants to know his own father and mother.

"... By its very nature, the contemplative life ... inflames the soul's thirst for truth. Indeed, there is no contemplative grace bestowed unless a soul plunges deeply into a craving for truth. Over the course of time, the contemplative becomes a soul consumed by a desire for truth. Every falsity and artificial mask, every compromise that leans aways from truth, every contrived and convenient interpretation that strays from truth, is inimical to contemplative life.

"This is not all surprising, nor does it require strenuous effort. The turning each day to what is real and true becomes a natural impulse for the contemplative precisely because God is ultimate reality and truth. The degree to which our soul lives in truth, in even the simplest of daily tasks and endeavors, conquering pretension and egoism, confronting the truth of our absolute dependency on God is simply an indirect preparation and readiness for all deeper relations with God."
-- Donald Haggerty, The Contemplative Hunger

+

"The purpose, then, of silence, is to give an opportunity for the longing for God to break through the crust of the false self and our defense mechanisms so that we can be motivated by that hunger and that love to pursue the transformative process untiringly."
-- Thomas Keating, "The Pursuit of Happiness" video segment from Session 2

February 11, 2018

The first session for this week, which is actually Session 9 of the retreat, is entitled Prayer as Relationship.  Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler discusses the relationship that is developed as one sits in silence with God.  She says " We are called to “Be still and know that I am God.” Being still is the main clue … it’s a little secret … of how to be in relationship with God."

Fitzpatrick-Hopler notes that our lived experience is usually 'doing a lot, moving around, thinking, talking, hoping, dreaming, but always wrapped up in ourselves and our own thoughts."  But with Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God" we have a better understanding of how to be in a deeper relationship, to be still, so that we can Know God.  

She gives the progress of relationships that we have with others.  "Each level of relationship moves with your commitment and your consent to take the next step. As we go from acquaintanceship to friendliness and then movement into friendship or that trusting relationship which is a little deeper and a little bit more of a commitment. As we move into the intimacy, a very deep commitment, one of oneness or being, being together. We think again of being still."

Fitzpatrick-Hopler discusses how we grow and mature and how our relationships change and we are changed through our relationships.  This is a great paragraph that moves to the next point she makes so I'm just going to copy the whole thing here. 

"So, in that inner room what are we doing? We’re being still and we’re getting to know God. And we are getting to know ourselves in relationship with God as well. We learn how to be with God. We learn how to be with ourselves. As one of the benefits of it, in a sense, we learn how to be with one another. We learn how to be with one another in love as well. There is a lot of training that goes on in this inner room. And it all happens in the silence of transmission. The heart to heart experience of being one. The willingness to allow ourselves to open. To open and say yes from the very moment we enter."

She concludes with her belief that learning how to be in relationship with one another is something that we are called to learn on this earth, perhaps the one reason we are here and we learn how to be in relationship through being still and coming to know our God.  Fitzpatrick-Hopler says "And, we get out of the way of ourselves and we allow God to train us in what true relationship is."

The Second Session for this week, or Session Ten, is Father Keating talking about types of prayer and the benefits of centering prayer for us.  He lists the types of prayer as follows "The idea of prayer as relationship emerges as the essence of the practice, which can then be expressed in many different ways. The classical ways of praying are petition: asking for things; adoration: responding to God’s transcendence and goodness; and responding in gratitude to the good things we receive from God or the good things we hear about in scripture. A desire to express trust or love in this mystery that is laid before us in scripture or in some other way. Prayers are any of these things."

As he describes centering prayer, he relates the experience that will happen for us as we continue in this practice of silent prayer.  "Little by little we enter into prayer without intentionality except to consent. Consent becomes surrender. And surrender becomes total receptivity, as this process evolves. And total receptivity is without effort—it is effortless. It is peaceful. It is free."

When we pray in silence, in what is named centering prayer, Keating helps us to know, "All judgment, all that kind of reflection, is not appropriate for the time of Centering Prayer, which is a time of sharing one’s pure being with God. It is not time for action. It is a time for receptivity. It’s a time for consenting to whatever IS at this present moment. It is an exercise of the present moment; of being with God totally in the present moment."

And lastly, Keating reminds us of how wonderful God believes we are and we come to know this as we get to know God.  He explains, "All you have to do is stop being who you think you are and you couldn’t be more delightful . . .You don’t have to create the beauty—you’ve got the beauty. You don’t have to create the freedom— you’ve got it. You don’t have to create the image of God in you—you have it. You don’t have to win over God’s love—you have more than you know what to do with. You don’t have to become more beautiful because nothing could be more beautiful than your own, particular uniqueness."

Nice, right?  How come more people are not flocking to learn more about this wonderful prayer?  

No resources listed this week.  Take care-Anne

 

 

February 4, 2018

This Week's first session featured a young Father Keating explaining two different models that explain people's views of God, the Western model and the Scriptural model. 

Individuals who perceive within the Western Model see God-as- outside-of-self and the self-outside-of-God and external acts are more important than are interior acts.  Here is more aspects of the Western model of Spirituality: 

1. The self-initiates all good and God rewards us.  2. Reward is in heaven rather than love of self and neighbor here and now.  This was manifested by external works.  3. Getting guarantees of future rewards rather than receiving love of God in this life and serving others in need

The Scriptural model is almost 180 degrees from the Western model.  Characteristics of the Scriptural model follow: 

1.  Internal actions more important 2. Self in God and the Spirit of God within us. Emphasis is on listening and responding to the Spirit 3.  Emphasis is on effort and the journey to unite ourselves and to love God here right now. 4.  God is in us through trust and faith and love.  This cultivates love of God here and now and not in the future.  This model is not interested in the future. 

Father Keating believes the Western Model is an immature model of spirituality.  He sees this model as seeing God as Judge and being afraid of God.  He prefers people understand that the "fear of the Lord" actually implies great Trust in the Lord.  He notes that the "Fear of God=Have a right relationship with God and that is Trust and Responsibility.  This grows in the service of God" and one feels more united with God and desires to serve others.

Father Keating wants us to "Trust in God and don’t be anxious about the future. "  Centering Prayer helps us to trust in God as we "Rest in God."

The Second Session of the Week focused on the traits of the Spiritual Journey.  As we work through our journey we are always wondering Who is God?  Life is a mystery to us, but our brain gives us the capacity to have a relationship with God. 

Keating notes, “That brings me to just point out, that in the spiritual journey, there is a time for different spiritual experiences. It follows a certain order; it’s not entirely chaotic, although we may experience certain parts of it as that way.”

Often, there is a community, exoteric worship that occurs.  Then devotion to saints, then angels and then a brotherly attitude toward Christ.  A sibling relationship.  Then move to a spiritual marriage and more like an intimate relationship.  Then the Trinity, closeness to each of the aspects of the Trinity.

This is a love that is being given all of the time.  A divine river that flows between the three aspects of the Trinity.  One enters into the flow of divine life.  One’s life needs to be flexible to change.

Keating relates that we eventually become aware “So, mysterium tremendum is a factor, you might say, in the process of surrender—surrender to a mystery that is not understandable to us—but seems to be calling us or determined to share with us the beauty, goodness, freedom, compassion, forgiveness of God as something totally gratuitous.”

This requires us to have a 180 degree shift in how we relate to God.

“Traditionally meditation in its conceptual form, which we call contemplation, mostly in the Christian tradition, is perhaps the easiest way to access the spiritual level of our being or the Ground of Being out of which we came.”  This is the divine energy of creation.   Everything is carefully balanced.  As we live we go through this process and it happens to us; we don’t do it, but it happens to us.

Resources: You may wish to read Chapter 2, "Attitudes Towards God" from Intimacy with God by Thomas Keating.

I loved this week's offerings because it helped me identify where I am on the spiritual journey.  I have experienced many of the aspects that Father Keating talked about and so enjoyed realizing I am one of many on the same path.   -Anne

January 21

January 21, 2018

Session three and four of the Spiritual Journey presented through Contemplative Outreach and Spirituality and Practice are a return to the beginnings of our centering prayer practice.  Session Three provides an excellent meditation by Julie Saad, taken from her reading of Open Mind Open Heart, as an entrance into our 20 minutes of quiet of Centering Prayer.  She reminds us “Deep prayer is the laying aside of thoughts. It is the opening of mind and heart, body and feelings—our whole being— to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions.”

As we settle quietly, we open ourselves to the spiritual level of our being.  Saad reminds us “We surrender to the attraction of interior silence, tranquility, and peace. We do not try to feel anything, reflect about anything. Without effort, without trying, we sink into this Presence, letting everything else go by.”

And Saad takes from Keating’s Open Mind Open Heart in this meditation “This Presence is immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring, yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal. I know that I am known. Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence. It knows everything about me—all my weakness, brokenness, sinfulness—and still loves me infinitely. This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing—just by its Presence. It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, “A Meditation” from Open Mind, Open Heart Page 2 of 2 seeking no reward, boundless in compassion. It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize.”

In addition, in Session Three and Four, a video by Father Keating is also presented.  In the video, The Method of Centering Prayer, Father Keating provides a teaching on the Four Guidelines of Centering Prayer:

The Four Guidelines for Centering Prayer

 1.    Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.
2.    Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within.
3.    When engaged with your thoughts,* return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4.    At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. 

*Thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.

This is the suggested method we follow as we sit in prayer.  He emphasizes that Centering Prayer is a relationship with God, so the method is suggested, and not rigid, just as we would experience in any relationship with another.  Keating goes through each of the four guidelines and emphasizes the divine presence and action within which we consent to as we sit Resting in God. 

Keating encourages us to have a positive attitude toward our thoughts as we pray.  We will have thoughts and when we notice them, let them come and let them go with a smile.  He says “This prayer is totally non-violent” which gets a laugh from the audience. 

He addresses our difficulty with thinking while in prayer and says “The whole thrust of the prayer is to stop thinking. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to have thoughts, but notice this delicate distinction. We’re not going to think about the thought. You can have all the thoughts in the world go by, and they won’t interfere with the prayer. It’s only when you start thinking about the thoughts, feeling, that you interrupt your original intention of just being totally open to God, and that calls for some response to reaffirm your original intention, and to get back to where you started.”  This is when we return to our sacred word.

Keating illustrates the level of our awareness with a chart showing the top of a stream, which is our normal way of thinking, when “We’re kind of absorbed, or dominated, in our ordinary psychological life, by the objects of events and people, and our emotional reactions to them.”  Then as we sit in prayer we are able to let go of the thoughts that go by at the surface level of our awareness and we begin to go deeper.   In time, we are able to let go of the thoughts easier and we are able to open ourselves to deeper levels of our awareness, to our “spiritual level” which, according to Keating “you’re really not aware of most of the time except at the peak experience, or when life, or tragedy, or something brings you to that place.”

Keating teaches “The purpose then, of the Centering Prayer, is to move from this level to this level. And indeed, not to stop there—because the human being has greater depths than that—but to move even deeper, to the level of the true self, which is our participation in the divine life, and the Divine Presence itself as the source of our being at every level.”

In the next video, Keating goes over some things that may happen while we sit in centering prayer.  He discusses how our bodies hold past memories and emotions that have not been processed during our normal activities of daily living.  He says “You may also notice a few physical symptoms that are surprising the first few times you do this, like a little pain somewhere in the body, or an itch, or a twitch, or a tick. This is simply some little emotional knot stored in the body from earlier times that is close to the surface of your awareness and that uses this rest just enough to unwind the knot, so it appears as a little discomfort.”

Keating goes a bit further noting “The body is the storehouse of emotional undigested material or emotions that were not processed, so it’s the place where unprocessed grief is lurking.”  This is called a psychological-evacuation process which we may have avoided because “Thinking is a marvelous way of not facing the real issues of life. . . but that constant interior dialogue, it’s like a wall of protection against the unconscious.”

He concludes with “When this is broken down regularly by two periods a day, you gradually develop the habit of listening to the body a little more and, sure enough, the body begins to tell you what’s there and it’s unbelievable what’s there waiting to be processed.”

After listening to the videos I was curious about what people would contribute in the Discussion.  The retreatants discussed difficulty with sitting down twice a day for centering prayer and making time for two sessions of the prayer.  They also wrote of the frustration of “thoughts” during the prayer time and others wrote about the experiences of personal unloading of the unconscious during the prayer and their experiences.   One of the retreat directors wrote in the discussion that she “so resonate(s) with the title of this session, ‘Trusting the Process.’ To Trust the One who brings me TO the feeling/thought/situation/body sensation will see me THROUGH the feeling/thought/situation/body sensation is a core issue for me. “

I hope you enjoyed the summary of this week’s Spiritual Journey.  -Anne

 

 

January 14, 2018

I am honored to be the “educational coordinator” for Central Illinois Contemplative Outreach (CICO).  As part of my responsibilities, I am participating in the online yearlong retreat “The Spiritual Journey, Formation in the Christian Contemplative Life” offered by Contemplative Outreach in conjunction with Spirituality and Practice.com (https://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/2018-spiritual-journey-online-program?utm_source=CO+Constituents&utm_campaign=d1ecd578ff-Nov+enews_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b11e0b2045-d1ecd578ff-309497573&mc_cid=d1ecd578ff&mc_eid=897f7434f4).

The reason for this blog is to share with the CICO community the ideas and resources I am learning about as I take part in the “Spiritual Journey” retreat.

The online sessions of the Retreat are posted twice each week and my plan is to summarize the main points of the retreat offerings and to give you the resources recommended.  In this way, I hope to provide you with ideas and resources for your own “spiritual journey.”  

The First Session

The first session focused on orientation to the retreat online site, a “how to” guide for retreatants, showing how to log in, how to maneuver through the retreat links, and how to join the discussion group that serves all the retreatants.  It also asked all of us to post an introduction of ourselves and an intention for the year.

There are over 300 people taking this online retreat, from countries such as Ireland, Norway, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the good ole USA.  Amazing.  The shortened version of the intention I posted is “to learn.”

Father Keating shared a blessing for the retreat and noted, “God’s divine therapy speaks directly to our needs as our individuality and personality is developed.”  Part of Father Keating’s blessing was “Dear Lord, I believe and trust in your incredible love for me that heals the wounds of a lifetime - body, soul, and spirit - and which calls us into a share of your divine life, even in this world.  May this course we’re taking . . .  help us to face what needs to be healed and also create the longings in us for deeper and deeper communion and union with yourself, dear Lord. “ 

Mary Dwyer, one of the retreat directors, gave a 10-minute video on “What is Centering Prayer and How Do We Do It” so you can see the retreat is for people in all stages of their journey. 

The Second Session

The Second Session provided a video of Father Keating discussing “The Pursuit of Happiness.”   It was an excerpt from an interview “Heartfulness: Transformation in Christ” by Betty Sue Flowers talking with Father Keating.

Keating begins with the powerful message, “Happiness or the desire for happiness is itself an infallible sign of God’s presence.”  He notes that we pursue what we perceive as our “needs” by going in the wrong direction, through our false self because this is the only way we know how to satisfy the longing for “something more.”  We don’t realize that we are trying to satisfy our desires for safety and security, affection and esteem, and power and control with methods that will not fulfill these desires but they are the only methods we know.   When failure is the end result, this is the beginning of “repentance” or “changing the direction in which we look for happiness.”   We must be willing to alter how we usually think.

Flower asks Keating, “Then how do we get to the prayer, ‘Thy will be done,’ which really does, then, enable us to see the help that is already there?” 

“By Silence” he affirms.  And not through our efforts, but through the grace of God.  Keating says that we think we can find happiness through our own efforts, but instead,  

"Effort is designed not for success, but to find out that that it doesn’t work.  That’s its chief contribution to the spiritual life.  Now, as soon as you let go of this, even a little bit, a crack occurs in our consciousness and some of the divine presence insinuates itself. The purpose, then, of silence, is to give an opportunity for the longing for God to break through the crust of the false self and our            defense mechanisms so that we can be motivated by that hunger and that love to pursue the transformative process untiringly.

From this perspective, it’s easy to negotiate the entire spiritual journey, because all you have to do is accept it. It already is. It’s been done. It’s accepted. It’s been communicated to us. It’s put into our hands. It’s put into our mouths. It’s poured into our souls by the Holy  Spirit. And the only request is to let God love us this much with this much absolutely free and undeserved and unmerited gratuity."

Additional resources suggested for this week:

1. The brochure “The Method of Centering Prayer”

2. Open Mind, Open Heart, the Introduction and chapters 1, 2 and 9 from the 20th Anniversary edition, or the Introduction and chapters 2, 4 and 10 from older editions. 

I hope this week’s summary provides you with the assurance of God’s Great Love for Us.

-Anne Colloton