Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - 2
Through a spiritual practice like Centering Prayer, we begin to experience spiritual awareness. Ordinary life then becomes like a lousy movie where we don't identify with the characters or plot. We can get up and leave-something we can't do in daily life when we overidentify with our ordinary stream of awareness and its c ontents. That is the inner tyranny that opposes true freedom. The freedom of the children of God means we can decide what to do about particular events. We live more and more out of self-actuating motivation rather than the domination of our habitual drives to be esteemed, to be in control, to feel secure.
Centering Prayer and other practices that lead to Christian contemplation move us toward interior freedom. We open ourselves to God and allow ourselves to rest in a silent place beyond thinking, a kind of oasis in a day of emotional turmoil. Even from a purely human perspective, everybody needs some solitude and silence in daily life, just to be human and creative about the way one lives.
This sort of spiritual discipline is a therapy for the tyranny of the false self, not only for our emotional programs for happiness, but alos for our overidentification with family, nation, religion, or group. Of course we owe a measure of gratitude to our nation, religion, and family. But it is interesting that Jesus said that unless we hate our parents, we can't be his disciples.
By this he didn't mean that we should not love and respect them and care for them in their old age, as commanded by the Fourth Commandment of the Torah, but that we should not have naive loyalty to a particular group (even one's family) that disregards injustices that need to be corrected. Sometimes, for the sake of peace or in order to be loved, one sweeps serious problems under the rug instead of dealing with them in honesty and truth.
Once a regular practice of Centering Prayer has been established, we move normally in each period of prayer toward a place of rest where our faculties are relatively calm and quite. Thoughts are coming downstream, but as we learn to disregard them, we begin to enjoy a sense of the divine presence.
Beyond our thinking and emotional experience is the deeper reality of the spiritual level of our being. It is another way of knowing reality that is unlike ordinary psychological awareness. As a result, not only is the mind quite and at rest from the ordinary concerns of daily life, but the body also begins to rest, a rest that is deeper than sleep.
Repressed material in the unconscious is vigorously defended by our various inclinations and biases, especially by our emotional investments in particular programs for happiness rooted in the unconscious. Where it may remain unknown by the victim unless deep psychotherapy or contemplative prayer loosens up the defence mechanisms.
Centering Prayer is not an end in itself, but its deep rest loosens up the emotional weeds of a lifetime. When our defences go down, up comes the dark side of the personality, the dynamics of the unconscious, and the immense emotional investment we have placed in false programs for happiness, along with the realization of how immersed we are in our particular cultural conditioning.
Everybody is culturally conditioned to some degree. Even the greatest saints only reach a certain degree of freedom from cultural overidentification. That overidentification is challenged in Centering Prayer. We spend the first part of our lives finding a role-becoming a mother or father, a professor, a doctor, a minister, a soldier, a business person, an artisan, or whatever. The paradox is that we can never fully fulfill our role until we are ready to let it go.
Whoever we think we are, we are not. We have to find that out, and the best way to do so, or at least the most painless way, is through the process that we call the spiritual journey. This requires facing the dark side of our personality and the emotional investment we have made in false programs for happiness and in our particular cultural conditioning.
Rest in Centering Prayer provides us with profound healing. To be really healed requires that we allow our dark side to come to full consciousness and then to let it go and give it to God.
The divine therapy is an agreement that we make with God. We recognize that our ideas of happiness are not going to work, and we turn our lives over completely to God.
Reference: The Human Condition: Thomas Keating