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Center for Action and Contemplation

Stream of Consciousness

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Stream of Consciousness
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Most of us have lived our whole lives with a steady stream of consciousness, with a continual flow of ideas, images, and feelings. And at every moment of our lives we cling to these thoughts and sensations, so much so that I don’t have the idea; the idea has me. I don’t have the feeling; the feeling has me. We have to discover who this “I” really is, the one who has these always passing feelings and thoughts. Who am I behind my thoughts and feelings? The fixed point that watches things pass through me—is the real ME! Learn how to abide there in peace.

I’m sure that most people in the Western world have never really met the person they really are. We have to find a way to get beyond our self-image and our ideas about who we are. We have to discover the face that we already had before we were born, who we were in God all along, before we did anything right or wrong. This is the first goal of contemplation. This “I” is capable of union with God.

Imagine a river or stream. You’re sitting on the bank of this river, where boats and ships are sailing past. While the stream flows past your inner eye, I ask you to name each one of the “vessels” or thoughts floating by. For example, one of the boats could be called “my anxiety about tomorrow.” Or along comes the ship “objections to my spouse” or “I don’t do that well.” Every judgment that you pass is one of these boats. Take the time to give each one of them a name, and then let it move on.

For some people this is a very difficult exercise because we’re used to jumping aboard our boats immediately; in doing so, we give them “gas”! As soon as we own a boat and identify with it, it picks up its own energy. We have to practice un-possessing, letting go, detaching from our thoughts and feelings, or they own us. With every idea or image that comes into our head, we have the opportunity to say, “No, I’m not that; I don’t need that; that’s not me.” This frees you to intentionally choose your divine identity instead.

Some of the boats that are accustomed to us jumping aboard immediately head back upstream and return, trying to catch our attention again. Some people feel the need to torpedo their boats. But you must not attack, hate, or condemn any idea or thought; that would merely be your perfectionistic ego trying to “win.” This is basic training in nonviolence. You must not hate your soul. The point is to recognize thoughts and feelings and to say, “That’s not necessary; I don’t need that.” But do it very amiably. If we learn to handle our own souls tenderly and lovingly, then we’ll be able to carry this same loving wisdom into our other relationships. A thousand seeming “distractions” are now a thousand opportunities to choose God instead. So there is really no such thing as a distraction! Why didn’t someone tell me that as a novice?!

Gateway to Silence:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 2:5

Adapted from Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015), 83-84.

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