The Inner Witness
Monday, October 10, 2016
We each carry a certain amount of pain from our very birth. If that pain is not healed and transformed, it actually increases as we grow older, and we transmit it to people around us. We can become violent in our attitudes, gestures, words, and actions.
We must nip this process in the bud by acknowledging and owning our own pain, rather than projecting it elsewhere. For myself, I can’t pretend to be loving when inside I’m not, when I know I’ve thought cruel, judgmental, and harsh thoughts about others. At the moment the thought arises, I have to catch myself and hand over the annoyance or anger to God. Contemplative practice helps me develop this capacity to watch myself and to connect with my loving Inner Witness. Let me explain why this is important.
If you can simply observe the negative pattern in yourself, you have already begun to separate from it. The watcher is now over here, observing yourself thinking that thought—over there. Unless you can become the watcher, you’ll almost always identify with your feelings. They feel like real and objective truth.
Most people I know are overly identified with their own thoughts and feelings. They don’t really have feelings; their feelings have them. That may be what earlier Christians meant by being “possessed” by a demon. That’s why so many of Jesus’ miracles are the exorcism of devils. Most don’t take that literally anymore, but the devil is still a powerful metaphor, which demands that you take it quite seriously. Everyone has a few devils. I know I’m “possessed” at least once or twice a day, even if just for a few minutes!
There are all kinds of demons—in other words, there are lots of times when you cannot not think a certain way. When you see certain people, you get afraid. When you see other people, you get angry. For example, numerous studies show that many white people have an implicit, unacknowledged fear of black men. Thank God, most of us are not explicitly racist, but many of us have an implicit and totally denied racial bias. This is why all healing and prayer must descend into the unconscious where the lies we’ve believed are hidden in our wounds.
During contemplation, forgotten painful experiences may arise. In such cases, it helps to meet with a spiritual director or therapist to process old wounds and trauma in healthy ways.
Over a lifetime of practice, contemplation gradually helps you detach from who you think you are and rest in your authentic identity as Love. At first this may feel like an “identity transplant” until you learn how to permanently rest in God.
Gateway to Silence:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Mary and Nonviolence (CAC: 2002), CD, discontinued.