By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

Theme:
Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

Summary: Sunday, October 25—Friday, October 30, 2020

To begin this second week exploring Thomas Keating’s final poems, I offer a basic overview of the stages of spiritual development that Thomas so authentically modeled in his life and teaching. (Sunday)

All emotional drama has dropped out, since there is no longer a fixed point of selfhood to be “happy” or “unhappy” about a situation. Time no longer rushes on into the future, but rests comfortably in a more spacious now.  —Cynthia Bourgeault (Monday)

When there is no fixed point of reference to “take it home to,” to make it about “my experience of “I AM,” then there is only the bare “I AM.” —Cynthia Bourgeault (Tuesday)

The contemplative state enables one to rest and act at the same time because one is rooted in the source of both rest and action. —Thomas Keating (Wednesday)

We are neither isolated nor helpless but immersed in a great web of belonging in which divine intelligence and compassion are always at our disposal if our courage does not fail us. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Thursday)

The only path forward for the survival of our species and perhaps even our planet is a path of nonviolence, of contemplation and action prioritizing justice and solidarity, an affirmation of Oneness and the interconnectedness of all things, which science confirms, and spirituality has always known on its deepest level. (Friday)

 

Practice: Centering Prayer

Both Thomas Keating and Cynthia Bourgeault have made great contributions to the Christian contemplative tradition, perhaps most significantly through their dedication to the practice and teaching of Centering Prayer. To close this week, Cynthia offers further instructions on Centering Prayer.

Since [Centering Prayer] works entirely with “intention, not attention” (as Thomas Keating repeatedly emphasizes), there is no focal point for the attention, not even the breath or a mantra. Practitioners must learn early how to maintain their attention in (or more often, return it to) that inner, undifferentiated state. Anything that serves as an object for the attention, no matter how pious or holy—a vision, intercessory prayer, an itch on your nose—is considered in this practice to be a “thought” and must be let go of. As practitioners gradually learn the art of withdrawing energy from all objects of attention, they are at the same time (and largely unbeknownst to themselves) developing an inner capacity to distinguish by feel the difference between attention in and attention on. Letting go is first and foremost a gesture—a subtle inner drop and release—and every opportunity to practice it strengthens the patterning. . . .

Like most beginners, I thought that the aim in Centering Prayer was to let go of my thoughts so that God could “fill” me with [God’s] presence. One day I suddenly realized that the God story was the sideshow and the letting go was the main event. That was when the practice flipped for me, as I recognized that thoughts were not the obstacle; they were the raw material, as every opportunity to practice releasing that focal point for attention deepened the reservoir of “free attention” within me and strengthened the signal of the homing beacon of my heart.

Sooner or later a tipping point is reached . . . when the strength of this signal becomes stronger than the attraction exerted by the thoughts. When a thought arises at the surface of the mind, a countering pull from the depths becomes so strong that letting go is effortless; in fact, it is impossible to do otherwise. At about this time, typically, one also begins to experience this “tug” outside of the prayer period itself, as events of daily life offer themselves as reminders of (rather than distractions from) the deeper yearning of the heart. . . .

[Centering Prayer’s] great strength as a practice is that it begins to build (or quicken) within a person a new center of gravity through which that traditional cul-de-sac of most witnessing practice—the mind spying on itself—can be surmounted by a new ability to remain rooted in being through sensation, not reflection. This is a huge milestone. It begins to approximate the capacity for that ancient desideratum of the Song of Songs: “I sleep, but my heart is awake” [5:2]. All that now remains is to transpose the usual seat of one’s identity from the narrative self to this native ground of witnessing presence.

Reference:
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala Publications: 2016), 87–88, 89–90.

For Further Study:
Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

Thomas Keating, Consenting to God as God Is (Lantern Books: 2016). From Keating’s introduction: “This book is addressed primarily to people with some personal experience of the spiritual journey and especially to those engaged in some form of contemplative service.”

Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: ©1994, 2009).

Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel, 20th anniversary ed. (Continuum: 2006).

Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self: A Contemplative Journey (Shambhala Publications: 1984, ©1982).

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

Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2015).

Spirituality, Contemplation, and Transformation: Writings on Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating and others (Lantern Books: 2008).

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

The Freedom of Consent
Friday, October 30, 2020

Over the past two weeks Cynthia Bourgeault has generously shared her thoughts on the poems and spiritual legacy of Thomas Keating. Today, I (Richard) want to emphasize Thomas Keating’s final message, the subject of Cynthia’s commentary in yesterday’s meditation. I have edited the text very slightly for greater clarity.

Perhaps it was his many decades of “consenting to God’s presence and action within” that allowed him to glimpse a new world. Thomas’ final message was the following:

Dear friends: In the universe, an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us. . . . It’s a time of enormous expectancy and possibility.

We are called to start—not with the old world contracts, now that we know that they are all lies—but [with] what we know as the truth. . . .  So I call upon the nations to consider this as a possibility: that we should begin a new world with one that actually exists. This is the moment to manifest this world, by showing loving concern for poverty, loving appreciation for the needs of the world, and opportunities for accelerated development. We need to find ways to make these really happen. I make this humble suggestion, that now arms-making is of no significance in the world. It hinders its progress.

This will allow and offer the world the marvelous gift of beginning, [of] creating, of trusting each other, of forgiving each other, and of showing compassion, care for the poor, and putting all our trust in the God of heaven and earth. I leave this hope in your hands and hearts, coming as a real inspiration from the heart of God. What does [God] care about who has this or other lands, when the power to begin with the truest history is coming from religion as expression of the Source that has been realized for centuries? Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Indigenous, and Christianity—all religions—oneness is their nature. Amen. [1]

Richard again: In this injunction to the world, Father Thomas Keating says what he has been given to know. The only path forward for the survival of our species and perhaps even our planet is a path of nonviolence, of contemplation and action prioritizing justice and solidarity, an affirmation of Oneness and the interconnectedness of all things, which science confirms, and spirituality has always known on its deepest level.

I think the real purpose of the spiritual journey is to expand people’s ability to do good by liberating them. This is what Jesus did, after all—free people from their pain, their sin, their “uncleanness,” and even their deaths. Then he sent them back to their families and to society to live in relationship and live lives of freedom and wholeness. As a devoted student of Jesus and lover of God, Thomas Keating did the same through the gift of Centering Prayer; he helped people connect to an inner stillness and experience of God that liberated them from egoic strongholds—so they could become free and whole. His final words help us imagine the possibilities for ourselves and our world.

Reference:
[1] Thomas Keating, Fr. Thomas Keating’s Last Oracle (Contemplative Network: 2020), transcription (October 2018), YouTube video.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

Everything Matters
Thursday, October 29, 2020

Only the Divine matters,

And because the Divine matters,

Everything matters.

                                                                 —Thomas Keating, “What Matters”

The simplicity of the final poem in The Secret Embrace speaks eloquently of what I (Richard) know more deeply to be true with every passing year. It’s the incarnational message at the heart of the Gospel: everything belongs! It is a Christ-soaked universe. As we near the end of this series, Cynthia Bourgeault shares her understanding of Thomas Keating’s final legacy to us.

In October 2018, two weeks before he died, Thomas Keating emerged briefly from four days in what appeared to be a coma to deliver an extraordinary final message beamed straight to the heart of the world. [1] Acknowledging that “an extraordinary moment of civilization seems to be overtaking us,” he urged the human family to scrap old approaches based on religious or political dogma and “begin a new world with one that actually exists,” a world whose truth is guided by “silence and science” and whose heart is revealed in a universal resurgence of human compassion and creativity. “We need to find ways to make these really happen,” he said. “I leave this hope in your hands and hearts coming as a real inspiration from the heart of God.”

Two momentous years later, his words seem more prophetic than ever.

Of the many insights Thomas Keating has given us in these poems, two gifts stand out in particular. The first is that he has completely reframed the traditional Christian notion of God, offering us a powerful new roadmap with which to make spiritual sense of our contemporary world. In this short poem of eleven laser-like words, Thomas smashes through centuries of theological barricades separating God from the world and contemplation from action, offering instead a flowing vision of oneness within a profoundly interwoven and responsive relational field.

To have this universal wisdom affirmed so forcefully by one of Christianity’s most revered elders creates a powerful new incentive for a compassionate re-engagement with our times. Practically speaking, the map affirms that our actions, our choices, our connections bear more weight than we dare to believe. We are neither isolated nor helpless but immersed in a great web of belonging in which divine intelligence and compassion are always at our disposal if our courage does not fail us.

The second gift awaiting us in these poems is their powerful reaffirmation that the access route to all new beginning comes by leaning into the diminishment, stripping, and emptiness. Not by trying to distract ourselves, anesthetize ourselves, or use our spiritual tool kit to re-establish the status quo. New beginning is intrinsically disorienting and anguishing; it builds on the wreckage of what has been outgrown but not yet relinquished. As the veils are lifted and our familiar reference points dissolve, it is only on the timeless path of surrender (a.k.a. “letting go,” “consenting to the presence and action of God”) that we find our way through the darkness and into the new beginning. Godspeed and know that we travel the path together!

References:
[1] Thomas Keating, Fr. Thomas Keating’s Last Oracle (Contemplative Network: 2020), transcription (October 2018), YouTube video.

Excerpted with permission from Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

Epigraph: Keating, “What Matters,” The Secret Embrace (Temple Rock Company: 2018), poem VIII.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

An Interspiritual Guide
Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Our true nature is stillness,
The Source from which we come.

. . . .

The deep listening of pure contemplation
Is the path to stillness.

All words disappear into It,
And all creation awakens to the delight of
Just Being.

                                                       —Thomas Keating, “Stillness”

From Richard: In the title of my book Dancing Standing Still, I was trying to capture the harmonious balance between action and contemplation. If we try to move without being attuned to the music of God and our True Self, what we do will not be beautiful, helpful, or possibly even worth doing. And, of course, we cannot follow the “tune” of either of those sources without aligning ourselves with them through committed practice. Cynthia Bourgeault interprets this poem by Thomas Keating in that light, though she says it much more eloquently than I.

This poem seems to meet people wherever they are, from beginning meditators to folks who’ve been on the path for decades. Thomas returns once again to his earlier assertion that silence is not simply an absence. On the contrary, it is personal, intimate, filled with aliveness and subtle relationality. Most of us, I imagine, still use the words “silence” and “stillness” pretty much interchangeably, both designating an absence of external noise and a state of inner emptiness. For Thomas, the two are subtly different from one another—and distinctly different from our usual perception of emptiness.

For Thomas, stillness is not even remotely a void. We tend to think of it as motionlessness, but in a quantum universe whose nature is to be in constant motion it really comes closer to dynamic equilibrium. It is T. S. Eliot’s “still point in a turning world,” [1] the Sufi dervish’s fierce inner repose as the outer world goes flying by, the Buddhist’s “effortless action.” It does not imply lack of motion, but the harmonious balance of opposites. You are neither imposing nor resisting, but simply present, flowing in oneness with whatever is. You are the dancer at one with the dance. You are still.

We have been trained to think that the purpose of stillness is to lead us to “pure contemplation,” long regarded in mystical theology as a highly exalted state. But here Thomas turns the table on traditional theology; in a dynamically interactive universe the purpose of contemplation is to lead us beyond all stages, states, and roadmaps—beyond empty silence and stillness—into that great, flowing oneness which is our own true nature and the true nature of all that is.

Thomas himself specifically comments on this point:

The contemplative state is established when contemplative prayer moves from being an experience or series of experiences to an abiding state of consciousness. The contemplative state enables one to rest and act at the same time because one is rooted in the source of both rest and action. [2]

Flowing oneness again. Flowing out from the Sacred Embrace, “The Source from which we come.”

References:
[1] T. S. Eliot, “Four Quartets: Burnt Norton,” The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909–1950 (Harcourt Brace and Co.: 1980), 119.

[2] Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (Amity House: 1986), 75.

Excerpted with permission from Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

Epigraph: Keating, “Stillness,” The Secret Embrace (Temple Rock Company: 2018), poem VII.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

Falling Away from I AM
Tuesday, October 27, 2020

To be nothing
Is to consent to being a simple creature.
This is the place of encounter with
“I AM that I Am.”

When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,”
Only “I AM” remains.

Then the “I” may fall away,
Leaving just the AM. . . .

                                                              —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”

In her latest book, Cynthia Bourgeault talks about the significant position Thomas Keating held in her life as a teacher and spiritual father [1]. Their relationship makes her reflections on his poetry a poignant example of how to be a compassionate witness to the suffering and transformation of someone we love. Here Cynthia describes Thomas’ journey through all the dark nights a human can experience:

In this poem, one of the last in the collection, there can be no doubt that Thomas Keating is indeed talking about an elusive third dark night, what Bernadette Roberts called “the experience of no-self.” [2] Its radical stripping is far deeper than the dismantling of our “emotional programs for happiness” that occurs in the Dark Night of Sense. It is even deeper than the fruit of the Dark Night of Spirit, which is the dissolution of the separate self into unitive consciousness. Thomas is here alluding to a third and yet more fundamental dissolution: the collapse of the self-reflective mechanism itself, that unique property of human consciousness which makes me realize “It is I who am experiencing this.” Oneness is attained not through an even more intense experience of union, but through a simple suspension of the subject/object polarity that created the perception of twoness in the first place. There is a whole new operating system at work now.

As Thomas writes, “When there is no more ‘me, myself, or mine,’ / Only I AM remains.”

When there is no fixed point of reference to “take it home to,” to make it about “my experience of I AM,” then there is only the bare “I AM.” Then even that may shed its skin. “Then the ‘I’ may fall away, / Leaving just the AM.” . . .

Those who have reflected on the biblical account will quickly catch the double meaning of the repeated use of “I AM” in this poem. It describes not only our own self-reflexive awareness; it is also the name by which God reveals Godself to Moses in the wilderness. “Who shall I tell them has sent me?” asks Moses. To which God replies, “I Am that I Am” [Exodus 3:14]. (In Hebrew, YHWH is the sacred, unutterable name of God.)

Thomas Merton said something quite like this shortly before his own death. He stated,

You have to experience duality for a long time until you see it’s not there. . . . Don’t consider dualistic prayer on a lower level. The lower is higher. There are no levels. Any moment you can break through to the underlying unity which is God’s gift in Christ. In the end, Praise praises. Thanksgiving gives thanks. Jesus prays. Openness is all. [3]

That, I believe, is the real teaching awaiting us in this poem and manifest in Thomas Keating’s own life.

References:
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm (Shambhala Publications: 2020), 173.

[2] Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self: A Contemplative Journey (Shambhala Publications: 1984, ©1982).

[3] Thomas Merton, conversation before his trip to Bangkok (1968), See David Steindl-Rast, “Man of Prayer,” Thomas Merton, Monk: A Monastic Tribute, ed. Patrick Hart (Sheed and Ward: 1974), 89.

Excerpted with permission from Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

Epigraph: Keating, “Out of Nothing,” The Secret Embrace (Temple Rock Company: 2018), poem VI.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

A Silent Love
Monday, October 26, 2020

Nowhere is my destination.
And no one is my identity.

My daily bread is powerlessness.
Temptations can be overwhelming.
Gone is every hope of help.

An abyss opens up within me.
I am falling, falling,
Plunging into non-existence.

Is this annihilation?
Or, is it the path to the Silent Love
That we are?. . .

                                                                        —Thomas Keating, “The Last Laugh”

Cynthia Bourgeault continues to lead us through The Secret Embrace, a book of poems composed by Father Thomas Keating at the end of his life. Today she engages with what I (Richard) believe is one of the most challenging poems in the collection. Cynthia writes:

In both its poetic and spiritual subtlety, this poem, excerpted above, marks a later stage in Thomas Keating’s journey. Though he clearly attained to “unity consciousness” by the final decade of his life, I believe this poem is a living confirmation that, in the words of Christian contemplative mystic Bernadette Roberts (1931–2017), the unitive stage of the journey is itself a passage. [1]

Contrary to what most of the saints and mystics seem to imply, the stage of “union with God” is not a permanent state or a spiritual rank acquired. It has a beginning and an end. In “The Last Laugh” we are witnessing the end of a journey, as the final veil of separate selfhood—“self” consciousness itself—is drawn back to reveal at last the riddle of the true self.

As the poem opens, Thomas is clearly in liminal space, midway between tedium and transfiguration. Dark night and unitive dawn are no longer all that different; reality simply is as it is. All emotional drama has dropped out, since there is no longer a fixed point of selfhood to be “happy” or “unhappy” about a situation. “Nowhere is my destination and no one is my identity,” he remarks simply, and while this may sound awful to our egoic minds, still fixed on defining ourselves by “who we are” or what lies ahead, there is also a solemn freedom here: no longer any buttons to be pushed, no dog in the fight. Time no longer rushes on into the future, but rests comfortably in a more spacious now.

Final union or ultimate annihilation, he wonders. What if they turn out to be the same? The line is pretty startling. “Annihilation” is a very strong word in the Christian spiritual vocabulary. You don’t find it used often, even in classic descriptions of the Dark Night of the Spirit. It is more frequently mentioned within the Sufi tradition, where fana—total annihilation—means something way beyond simply the death of the ego self. It is more like the extinguishing of our most primordial sense of selfhood or “I-ness.” Toward that abyss Thomas finds himself now rapidly plunging.

And then, out of nowhere, the turn . . .

It all begins with that tiny word “or.” Linger over it. It is as sacred and subtle as that moment when outbreath turns back into inbreath and the cycle miraculously begins again.

Or, is it the path to the Silent Love / That we are?

And you realize that the final veil of selfhood is actually a bridal veil, but now you are standing in the nuptial chamber. With a joyful laugh, you let it go.

References:
[1] Bernadette Roberts, The Path to No-Self: Life at the Center (State University of New York Press: 1991). The Preface, Introduction, and first chapter describe “viewing union as a transitional rather than a definitive stage” (p. 7) of mature spirituality.

Excerpted with permission from Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Keating’s The Secret Embrace (2020), online on-demand course. Full details available from Spirituality & Practice at https://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/course/view/10274/thomas-keatings-the-secret-embrace

Epigraph: Keating, “The Last Laugh,” The Secret Embrace (Temple Rock Company: 2018), poem V.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry

Thomas Keating: The Secret Embrace, Part Two

Spiritual Development
Sunday, October 25, 2020

Before we continue exploring Thomas Keating’s poems from The Secret Embrace under the helpful guidance of Cynthia Bourgeault, I want to offer a basic overview of the stages of spiritual development that I have used for years with spiritual directees and in teaching settings. I believe Thomas modeled all these stages, which are not as easy to see in most of our lives.

1. My body and self-image are who I am.

At the most basic level, this is what Thomas Keating called our “programs for happiness.”  These are the needs for security and survival, esteem and affection, and power and control. Though we may “transcend” to other levels, our egoic selves will always “include” these impulses, particularly under stress.

2. My external behavior is who I am.

We need to look good from the outside and to hide any “contrary evidence” from others, and eventually from ourselves. The ego’s “shadow” begins to emerge at this time.

3. My thoughts and feelings are who I am.

We begin to take pride in our “better” thoughts and feelings and learn to control them, so much so that we do not even see their self-serving nature. For nearly all of us, a major defeat, shock, or humiliation must be suffered and passed through to go beyond this stage.

4. My deeper intuitions and felt knowledge in my body are who I am.

This is such a breakthrough and so helpful that many of us are content to stay here, but to remain at this level may lead to inner work or body work as a substitute for any real encounter with, or sacrifice for, the “other.”

5. My shadow self is who I am.

This is the first “dark night of the senses”—when our weakness overwhelms us, and we finally face ourselves in our unvarnished and uncivilized state. The false self has failed to bring us all the way to God or the Oneness we seek. Without guidance, grace, and prayer, most of us go running back to previous identities.

6. I am empty and powerless.

Some call this sitting in “God’s Waiting Room,” but is more often known as “the dark night of the soul.” Almost any attempt at this point to save ourselves by any superior behavior, morality, or prayer technique will fail us. All we can do is to ask, wait, and trust. God is about to become real. The ego, or separate self, is dying in a major way.

7. I am much more than who I thought I was.

We experience the permanent waning of the false self and the ascent of the True Self as the center of our being. It feels like an absence or void, even if a wonderful void. John of the Cross calls this “Luminous Darkness.” We grow not by knowing or understanding, but only by loving and trusting.

8. “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

Here, there is only God. There is nothing we need to protect, promote, or prove to anyone, especially ourselves. Our false self no longer guides the ship. We have learned to let Grace and Mystery guide us—still without full (if any) comprehension.

9. I am who I am.

I’m “just me,” warts and all. It is enough to be human without any window dressing. We are now fully detached from our own self-image and living in God’s image of us—which includes and loves both the good and the bad. We experience true serenity and freedom, but it is quite ordinary and also quite sufficient. This is the peace the world cannot give (see John 14:27) and full resting in God. “To know oneself in God and to know God in oneself,” as both Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Ávila put it.

References:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 164–166.

Image credit: Alta Pink (detail), James Turrell, 1968, installation.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: To be nothing / Is to consent to being a simple creature. / This is the place of encounter with / “I AM that I Am.” / When there is no more “me, myself, or mine,” / Only “I AM” remains. / Then the “I” may fall away, / Leaving just the AM. . . . —Thomas Keating, “Out of Nothing”
Read Full Entry
FacebookTwitterEmailPrint