Contemplative Consciousness: Weekly Summary

Contemplative Consciousness

Summary: Sunday, January 7-Friday, January 12, 2018

We must discover and accept what unique part of the divine mystery is ours to reflect. The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality, to trust our divine image and grow in God’s likeness. (Sunday)

Contemplation allows us to experience the reality of our participation in God’s nature for ourselves. Once we plug into the Divine consciousness, God can work through us for the good of the world. (Monday)

We are not so much human beings trying to become spiritual. We’re already inherently spiritual beings and our job is learning how to be good humans! (Tuesday)

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to [us] as it is, infinite.” —William Blake (Wednesday)

“Man [sic] is the image of God, and his inner self is a kind of mirror in which God not only sees Himself, but reveals Himself to the ‘mirror’ in which He is reflected.” —Thomas Merton (Thursday)

When we see contemplatively, we know that we live in a fully sacramental universe, where everything is an epiphany. (Friday)

 

Practice: Watching the River

To live in the present moment requires a change in our inner posture. Instead of expanding or shoring up our fortress of the small self—the ego—contemplation waits to discover who we truly are. Most people think they are their thinking. They don’t have a clue who they are apart from their thoughts. In contemplation, we move to a level beneath thoughts and sensations, the level of pure being and naked awareness.

In contemplative prayer, we calmly observe our own stream of consciousness and see its compulsive patterns. We wait in silence with an open heart and attuned body. It doesn’t take long for our usual patterns to assault us. Our habits of control, addiction, negativity, tension, anger, and fear assert themselves. When Jesus is “driven” by the Spirit into the wilderness, the first things that show up are “wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). Contemplation is not first of all consoling, which is why so many give up. Yes, the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.

Many teachers insist on at least twenty minutes for a full contemplative “sit,” because you can assume that the first half (or more) of any contemplative prayer time is just letting go of those thoughts, judgments, fears, negations, and emotions that want to impose themselves. We become watchers and witnesses, stepping back and observing without judgment. Gradually we come to realize those thoughts and feelings are not “me.”

Thomas Keating teaches a beautifully simple exercise. Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. The river is your stream of consciousness. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling or thought. Don’t hate it, judge it, critique it, or move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. When another thought arises—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river. [1]

 References:
[1] To further explore this centering prayer practice, see Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (Continuum: 2006, ©1986), especially chapter 9.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 75; and
Contemplative Prayer (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2007), CDMP3 download.

For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, Contemplative Prayer (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2003), CD, MP3 download
Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003)
Richard Rohr, Just This (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2017)

Image credit: Impression Sunrise (detail), Claude Monet, 1872, Musee Marmottan Monet.
When another thought arises [in contemplation]—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river. —Thomas Keating

The work of the Center for Action and Contemplation is possible only because of friends and supporters like you!

Learn more about making a donation to the CAC.

FacebookTwitterEmailPrint