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Letting Go of Our Very Selves

Self-Emptying

Letting Go of Our Very Selves
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The great task of religion is to keep us fully awake, alert, and conscious. Staying awake comes not from willpower but from a wholehearted surrender to the moment—as it is. If we can truly be present, we will experience what most of us mean by God (and we do not even need to call it God). It’s largely a matter of letting go of resistance to what the moment offers or of clinging to a past moment. It is an acceptance of the full reality of what is right here and now.

To be truly conscious, we must step back from our compulsive identification with our isolated selves. This may be the most difficult “letting go” of all, for the idea of our individual “selves” is the primary illusion of our lives. But pure consciousness is never just “me,” trapped inside myself. Rather, it is an observing of “me” from a distance—from the viewing platform kindly offered by God (see Romans 8:16), which we call the Indwelling Spirit. Then we will see with eyes much larger and other than our own.

Most of us do not understand this awareness because we are totally identified with our own passing thoughts, feelings, and compulsive patterns of perception. We have no proper distance from ourselves, which ironically would allow us to see our radical connectedness with everything else. Such radical connectedness is holiness itself.

Some degree of detachment is absolutely necessary to get started spiritually. “Detachment, detachment, detachment,” taught Meister Eckhart (1260–1328). [1]

When we meditate consistently, the sense of our autonomy and private self-importance—what we think of as our “self”—falls away. Little by little, it becomes unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that we usually think of as our only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of our mind.

Through regular access to contemplation, we become less and less interested in protecting this self-created, relative identity. Please do not attack it; that’s just negative energy. When we do not feed it, it calmly falls away and we experience a kind of natural humility.

If our prayer goes deep, “invading” our unconscious, as it were, our whole view of the world will change from fear to connection, because we no longer live inside our fragile and encapsulated self. Nor do we feel a need to protect our small and fragile self.

In meditation, we move from ego consciousness to soul awareness, from being fear-driven to being love-drawn. That’s it in a few words! Of course, we can only do this if Someone Else is holding us, taking away our fear, doing the knowing, and satisfying our desire for a Great Lover. If we can allow that Someone Else to have their way with us, we will live with new vitality, a natural gracefulness, and inside of a Flow that we did not create. It is the Life of the Trinity, spinning through us.

References:
[1] See Meister Eckhart, Misit Dominus manum suam (Sermon on Jeremiah 1:9–10) for “When I preach, I am accustomed to speak about detachment.”

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017), 31–32, 53–54, 66–67.

Image credit: Ajanta Caves (detail mural of the Buddha), Aurangabad, Maharashtra State, India.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: When we meditate consistently, a sense of our autonomy and private self-importance—what we think of as our “self”—falls away. Little by little, it becomes unnecessary, unimportant, and even unhelpful. The imperial “I,” the self that we likely think of as our only self, reveals itself as largely a creation of our mind. —Richard Rohr
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