Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Emotional Sobriety
Emotional Sobriety

A Riverbed of Mercy

Monday, June 20, 2022

For Father Richard, emotional sobriety is found when we experience life from our True Self:

There is something in us that is not touched by coming and going, by up and down, by for or against, by totally right or totally wrong. This part of us is patient with both goodness and evil, exactly as God is; it does not rush to judgment or demand closure now. Rather, it stands vigilant and patient in the tragic gap that almost every moment offers.

God-in-us is a riverbed of mercy that underlies all the flotsam and jetsam that flows over it and soon passes away. Vast, silent, restful, and resourceful, it receives and also releases all these comings and goings. It is awareness itself (as opposed to judgment), and awareness is not the same as “thinking.” It refuses to be pulled into emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation.

St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1682) writes, “Always visualize [the] soul as vast, spacious, and plentiful . . . The sun at the center of this place radiates to every part. . . . God has given [it] such dignity.” [1] This is your soul. This is God-in-you. This is your True Self.  

A person who lives freely from the True Self is present to life and the full range of emotions. Father Richard’s good friend, Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson, writes of the importance of presence:

For me, presence is a grace offered in each moment. It allows whatever I am feeling to be transmuted into something useful, for myself, for the situation I may be in, and perhaps for some greater good. . . .

Most of my spiritual journey has been about learning how to be present and, from that grounding in presence, learning how to allow love to be what moves me. . . . Presence seems to be something received, that comes to us through a kind of willingness more than through some forceful effort. We come to understand that our will does not operate quite as we might imagine. There is an element of grace, of something miraculous arising in us which gives us the capacity to be awake to our experience.

This is hard enough when conditions are favorable—when we are relaxed and not particularly stressed about anything. However, when powerful emotions arise, it is generally much more difficult to find a ground in us that can be compassionately awake with what we are feeling. . . .

In this sense, we naturally come to understand the importance of practices—contemplation, meditation, and prayer—as methods to cultivate in ourselves a capacity to be with larger emotions and bigger triggers in our lives. As I often tell my students, “Practice when it is easy and it will be there for you when it is hard.” [2]

[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, First Dwelling, chap. 2, trans. Mirabai Starr (New York: Riverhead Books, 2004), 45.

[2] Russ Hudson, “The Role of Anger in Spiritual Work,” Oneing 6, no.1, Anger (Spring 2018): 70, 71. Available in print or PDF download.

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 23.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Carrie Grace Littauer, Untitled 8 (detail), 2022, photograph, Colorado, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Untitled (detail), 2022, New Mexico, used with permission. Arthur Allen, Untitled 6 (detail), 2022, photograph, France, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: As we learn the art of detachment, we see the simplicity and truth of each passing moment: anger, resentment, excitement, a tree, bark, marbles in the dirt.

Story from Our Community:

I reached an emotional bottom when I separated from my first husband. I felt torn apart and hollow. By God’s grace, I found a community to share the depths of my despair. With their love and support, I not only regained my life but also learned how God’s love flows through his people. I have felt love in my life, given and received, since that time.
—Susan P.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.