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Center for Action and Contemplation
Resilience and Growth
Resilience and Growth

Essential Conversion

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Richard Rohr describes how psychology and spirituality affirm the direction of growth. 

In the various schemas of development, psychology and spirituality come together beautifully to show us that our growth is going somewhere. The trajectory is toward union: union with God/Reality, with the self (mind, heart, and body), with others, and with the cosmos. All seem to agree that the beginning levels of our consciousness are dualistic, while the later or deeper levels are non-dual and unitive. The only way to move from stage to stage is basically by some form of wounding, failure, or darkness. All seem to agree that we have to go through a period of unknowing (which sounds like faith to me) to know at a more mature level. [1]  

But when we listen to the news or look around and within our own hearts, doesn’t it seem as if we might be going nowhere? Everyone is on their own to find and create their own personal meaning. It seems we’re all condemned to start at zero, with no shoulders to stand on, which makes the human task quite difficult in our relatively short lifetime. It basically doesn’t work, especially when we’re young and just getting started. In our postmodern age, we have rejected any strong sense of the common good or any Great Tradition. Thus, we are addictively repeating the same patterns that produce trauma, violence, suffering, emotional immaturity, low self-esteem, and far-too-premature deaths.  

For our spirituality to be authentic, we must experience things from the inside out instead of just the outside in. In the materialistic and highly overstimulated culture in which so many of us live, we tend to let others define us instead of drawing from our own deep well. (Please do not hear that in an individualistic way; it is finally the exact opposite—which is truly a paradox.) Indeed, the goal of mature religion is to help us die before we die: die to our small or passing self so we can discover our Big Self. All major religions describe this in one way or another: A false and largely self-constructed identity must be surrendered before the True Self can stand radiant and revealed. Jesus said, “Whoever would save their life shall lose it, and whoever shall lose their life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24), and “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but if it dies, it shall yield a rich harvest” (John 12:24). This is basic and essential conversion. Good religion and good psychology agree.   

Our contemplative practice is a “laboratory” in which we learn to die to our passing identities, emotions, and thoughts so we can receive the always-permanent and perfect mirroring of the Divine gaze. The rest of our life becomes the field in which we live out this participation in Love, bouncing back the gaze of grace to the Other and then having plenty left over for all others besides. [2]   

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 46.  

[2] Rohr, Spring Within Us, 18–19. 

Image Credit and Inspiration: Angelo Pantazis, untitled (detail), 2018, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. We continue down our pathways, step by step, through both the drying and the greening seasons

Story from Our Community:  

I am a caregiver for my child who has autism. Every morning, I pray for miles of patience—compassion and unconditional love, too. When stress surfaces, I sit down to practice stillness. I pray that God blesses me with a strong body, a clear mind, and a resilient spirit in my old age as I continue to be my child’s primary caregiver. I pray that if I should leave the world before my child, God will send an angel who will care for my child with patience, compassion, unconditional love and understanding. 
—Miriam O. 

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