Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - The Human Condition
Who are you? That is the great question of the second half of the spiritual journey. All of us come into this world as little bundles of emotional needs, of which we can identify three in particular: security and survival, affection and esteem, and power and control. Without these needs being met in some degree, infants would withdraw in depression and apathy and eventually die from psychological starvation. Hence the significance of these basic human needs and the extraordinary effect that the providing or withholding, real or imaginary, of the biological needs has on the rest of our lives.
The energy that we put into trying to find happiness in fulfilling these emotional needs tends to increase with time.
The painful sense of early rejection may be repressed into the unconscious, where it continues to affect how we react to daily life on the ordinary psychological level is normally one of being dominated by external events and our emotional reactions to them. Some of this is conscious, but much of it is rooted in the unconscious. This is the illness of the human condition from which we all suffer. Daily life constantly triggers events that frustrate our emotional programs for happiness. Then such afflictive emotions as fear, anger, and discouragement arise automatically. The fact that we experience anxiety and annoyance is the certain sign that, in the unconscious, there is an emotional program for happiness that has just been frustrated.
Human nature is so designed that our imagination and emotions work together, like the interaction of the wheels of an old clock. As soon as we start to be upset by an emotion, the imagination immediately responds by calling up the pre-recorded tapes that are appropriate to the level of intensity of the emotion. This is happening to us everyday to some degree, from the fairly mild to the very extreme. Our unconscious value systems are often challenged by some particular event or person. Immediately we are in the midst of an intense interior dialogue as well as emotional turmoil.
If we don't reverse the process, then every time that cycle occurs, we are "reincarnated" in the same emotional programs for happiness and their inevitable frustrations. Is this the way to lead a human life? It is into this situation that Jesus arrives on the scene with his exhortation to repent, to change our conscious and unconscious motivations; to change, in short, where we are looking for happiness. We need the divine therapy. The divine therapy, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is based on the realization that you know where you are and that your life is unmanageable.
We may be able to lead a relatively normal life, but there is no experience of the true happiness that comes from letting go of the obstacles to the awareness of the divine presence. Spiritual awareness is designed by God to become our normal awareness. To what might we liken our awareness in ordinary daily life? It is like being at a good movie where we identify with the characters on the screen. We may even forget that we are in the movie house. In similar fashion unless our selfish programs for happiness have begun to be dismantled by a spiritual practice or discipline, we are not aware that events and people or our plans and memories are dominating our awareness from morning to night.
Suppose that through a practice like Centering Prayer, which prepares us for contemplation, the primary locus of the divine therapy, we take half an hour every day for solitude and silence, just to be with God and with ourselves (without knowing yet who that is) As a result of that deep rest and silence that come through such a practice, our emotional programs begin to bre relativized. They were designed at a time when we didn't know the goodness and the reassurance of God's presence. The presence of God is true security. There really isn't any other. Divine love is the full affirmation of who we are. Interior freedom is the gift of God as we let go of our attachments and aversions, our "shoulds," and the emotional programs of happiness that we bring with us from early childhood and that area totally impracticable in adult life.
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 contents. This 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.
Reference: The Human Condition : Thomas Keating
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