Staying Watchful — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Staying Watchful

Spirituality of Letting Go: Week 1

Staying Watchful
Tuesday, August 30, 2016

We cannot attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness. Little do we realize that God is maintaining us in existence with every breath we take. Each time you take another breath, realize that God is choosing you again and again—and yet again (Ephesians 1:4. 9-11). We have nothing to work up to or even learn. We do, however, need to unlearn some things, and most especially we must let go of any thought that we have ever been separate from God.

To become aware of God’s presence in our lives, we have to accept what is often difficult, particularly for people in what appears to be a success-driven culture. We have to accept that human culture is in a mass hypnotic trance. Plato already said this, as most religions do at the higher levels. We are sleep-walkers, “seeing through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Wisdom teachers from many traditions have recognized that we human beings do not naturally see; we have to be taught how to see.

That’s what religion is for, to help us let go of illusions and pretenses so we can be more and more present to what actually is. That’s why the Buddha and Jesus both say with one voice, “Be awake.” Jesus talks about “staying watchful” (Matthew 25:13, Luke 12:37, Mark 13:33-37), and “Buddha” literally means “I am awake” in Sanskrit. Jesus says further, “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Luke 11:34).

We have to learn to see what is already here. Such a simple directive is hard for us to understand. We want to attain some concrete information or achieve an improved morality or learn some behavior that will make us into superior beings. We have a “merit badge” mentality. We worship success. We believe that we get what we deserve, what we work hard for, and what we are worthy of. It’s hard for Western people to think in any other way. But any expectation of merit or reward actually keeps us from the transformative experience called grace.

Experiencing radical grace is like living in a different world. It’s not a world in which I labor to get God to notice me and like me. It’s not a world in which I strive for spiritual success. It’s not a cosmic game of crime and punishment. Unfortunately, many of the world’s religions at the lower levels do teach that, even if indirectly. Many religious people are afraid of gratuity. Instead, we want God for the sake of social order, and we want religion for the sake of social controls. God cannot be seen through such a small and dirty lens.

Gateway to Silence:
Let be. Let love.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999, 2003), 29-30, 159-160; and
The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis (Sounds True: 2010), disc 2 (CD).

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