Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
True Self/Separate Self
True Self/Separate Self

Trusting a Deeper Aliveness

Friday, September 4, 2020

True Self/Separate Self

Trusting a Deeper Aliveness
Friday, September 4, 2020

I believe a regular practice of Centering Prayer is one of the most effective tools we have for discovering our True Self. Sitting in silence, we become adept at compassionately observing our separate self at work, as it tries to maintain control of the inner narrative. Ultimately, however, with our genuine intention and attention, our True Self is revealed, present to the Presence of God. CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault describes how this happens:

When we enter [into contemplative prayer], it is like a “mini-death,” at least from the perspective of the ego. . . . We let go of our self-talk, our interior dialogue, our fears, wants, needs, preferences, daydreams, and fantasies. . . . We simply entrust ourselves to a deeper aliveness, gently pulling the plug on that tendency of the mind to want to check in with itself all the time. In this sense, meditation is a mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death, in which the same thing will happen. There comes a moment when the ego is no longer able to hold us together, and our identity is cast to the mercy of Being itself. This is the existential experience of “losing one’s life.”. . .

Just as in meditation [and contemplative prayer] we participate in the death of Christ, we also participate in his resurrection. . . . For twenty minutes we [i.e., our ego or separate self] have not been holding ourselves in life, and yet life remains. Something has held us and carried us. And this same something, we gradually come to trust, will hold and carry us at the hour of our death. To know this—really know this—is the beginning of resurrection life. . . .

Virtually all the great spiritual traditions of the world share the conviction that humanity is the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity. There is a “self” and a Self, and our fatal mistake lies in confusing the two. The egoic self . . . is in virtually every spiritual tradition immediately dispatched to the realm of the illusory, or at best, transitory. It is the imposter who claims to be the whole. This imposter can become a good servant, but it is a dangerous master. Awakening—which in Jesus’ teaching really boils down to the capacity to perceive and act in accordance with the higher laws of the Kingdom of Heaven—is a matter of piercing through the charade of the smaller self to develop a stable connection with the greater Self . . . becoming intimate with our spiritual identity, the sense of selfhood carried in our spiritual awareness. . . .

Through meditation [like Centering Prayer] it gradually becomes ingrained in us that “losing one’s life,” regardless of the action that may ultimately be required of us in the outer world, entails first and foremost a passage from our ordinary awareness to our spiritual one, because only at this deeper level of non-fearbased, wholistic perception will we be able to understand what is actually required of us.

Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening (Cowley Publications: 2004), 81, 82-83.

Image credit: Room in New York (detail), Edward Hopper, 1932.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love—outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. —Thomas Merton
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.