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Center for Action and Contemplation

True Conversion Never Stops

Friday, February 10, 2017


True Conversion Never Stops
Friday, February 10, 2017

A consistent practice of contemplative prayer is essential for rebuilding Christianity from the bottom up. Over time, repeated, faithful practice sets us on a new foundation. Actually, it was always objectively there, but we were not awake to it and actively drawing upon it. Contemplation helps us to naturally tap into “the mind of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 2:16). This new perspective and foundation allows us to see things for what they really are—and for what they are not. It is indeed a radical perceptual shift, metanoia, or conversion. For most of us, conversion is not a one-time event; it happens again and again throughout our lives at ever new levels of insight. I am almost 74, and it still seems like a daily event.

Contemplation helps me begin to enjoy all things in themselves rather than in terms of their usefulness, importance, or threat to me. “I” stop being the significant reference point for everything—or anything. This awareness gradually deepens on the cellular level, impacting my breathing and all my senses. The thinking level will normally be the last to “fall” because it overstates its own importance and represses the other sources of knowing. That’s why most resistance to God, most ideological agnosticism and atheism, is expressed in very heady and highly theoretical language.

From this mature and wide awareness, I can later do what needs to be done, but my contentment is not dependent upon my actions or their outcome. There is less and less room for compulsivity, fanaticism, trumped-up excitement, or even hopelessness. If I am personally identified with my private viewing platform, every event has the power to snag, grab, and control me. This could be called unawareness, the unawakened state, or blindness. Through contemplation, I stop labeling, ranking, and categorizing people and things and just see them without letting them “possess” me.

This is presence, or what Simone Weil (1909-1943) would call “absolutely unmixed attention.” [1] Such simplicity of vision brings quiet joy and contentment. Equanimity is the very nature of the soul. Jesus called it the peace the world cannot give nor take away (see John 14:27). I am now on a solid viewing platform, above the low level excitements (positive or negative) of the small self. Now I can begin to see things in their infinite character. This is the beginning of nondual thinking—the mind of Christ. As Paul put it: “Be renewed by a spiritual revolution, so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way in the goodness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24, JB).

Henceforth, I am a living paradox: at one and the same time utterly connected to everybody else in a compassionate, caring way and absolutely free to be my own self. My identity comes from within. I will want to love and serve others, but I do not use them or need them to define myself either positively or negatively. This is surely the freedom of the children of God (see Romans 8:21, Galatians 5:1).

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

[1] Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, trans. Arthur Wills (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1952), 170.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 136-139.

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