PRAYER: The Contemplative Life by Thomas Keating

The Contemplative Life by Thomas Keating

From The Transformation of Suffering

Everybody who does centering prayer always asks, How can I be a contemplative in everyday life, with its noise, turmoil, and constant interruptions?  How can I be interiorly quiet when the world is getting noisier and the pace of life faster?

The answer is to slow down and pray more.  Prayer has the great advantage of giving us a perspective on what we have to do.  If we practice contemplative prayer every day, we find that we have more time for everything else.  This is because we were doing a lot of things that we don’t really have to do.  Contemplative prayer cultivates the gift of discernment.  Spiritual discernment is not something we have to try to do; it arises spontaneously as one of the fruits of the Spirit communicated to us during contemplative prayer.

The greatest source of security, independence, and true love is the firm conviction that the Divine Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – dwells within us all the time, twenty-four hours a day, under all circumstances, and is totally available to us.

In every circumstance, however tragic or horrendous, difficult or trivial, this presence is always there.  That means that the Spirit is counseling us in what to do in difficult situations, and that the Father is always present, holding us in an embrace of infinite tenderness and empowering us to manifest his presence in every moment.  The chief job of a Christian is to manifest divine love in everything we do.  The Spirit patiently guides us step-by-step through our whole lives in the course of our spiritual journey, inviting us to look at what was good in our life and to reinforce it, and to allow what was not so good to be put on the junk pile.  As God works back through our personal history, he comes to early childhood, where most of the problems actually began.  These problems we have either repressed into the unconscious or developed compensatory activities to deal with.

But as the Spirit brings us close to the source of our difficulties, and as we become aware of specific traumatic experiences – such as rejection, abandonment, loss of a parent, persecution by peers, disappointments, failures – it can seem to us that we are getting worse.  Of course, we are not really getting worse.  We are just finding out how badly off we always were.  The purpose of this process is to see how we can free ourselves from childish influences that stick to us like molasses on a piece of clothing.  Therefore, our spiritual practice is to work with God dwelling within us, with incredible closeness, tenderness, and love.  God never punishes us in this process of purification.  In fact, God is only concerned for our healing.  His will is to communicate the maximum amount of divine love that we can possibly receive.  And if we fill that up, God enlarges our capacity so we can receive still more.  God is not interested in judgment for or against anyone, but in communicating the gift of his own being to everyone.

When we look at the cross, we are really looking at God the Father giving himself away to us in the person of his greatest treasure, namely, his son.  It is as if the Father is saying: I’m giving you my son as the proof of how much I want to give myself to you and to bring you into the fullest possible share in my divine life. 



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