Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 22. Spirituality in Everyday Life
Spiritual practice is not primarily an inward thing but rather fidelity to one's commitments in daily life. If we are to transcend the human condition, the pathology that "we have come to full reflective self-consciousness without the experience of intimacy with God," we must recognize the desert we are in.
The divine remedy for this illness is contemplative prayer, which includes "solitude, silence, simplicity, and a discipline for prayer and action." There are ways we can work this prayer into our daily lives; this creates a neutral space in which we can decide what to do rather than play the same old emotional tapes.
Dismantling the Emotional Programs
The emotional programs were developed by repeated, usually unconscious, acts. They can be undone by consciously repeated actions. First, we try to notice the emotions and the associated events and memories that disturb us. This can lead us to the emotional program at the source. If we then deliberately let go of the desire, we have undermined the emotional program. Little by little, this addresses the root of the problem, and "when the root of the problem is healed, the afflictive emotions no longer go off in response to the frustration of our emotional programs for happiness."
Moving Beyond Group Loyalty
As we learn to take personal responsibility (mental egoic consciousness) for our decisions and actions, we move away from the cultural conditioning of mythic membership consciousness.
The Active Prayer Sentence
The active prayer sentence is a short prayer of 6-12 syllables. The idea is to repeat the prayer as often as possible whenever we are not engaged in an activity that requires our full attention. Examples include the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" as well as
Oh God, come to my assistance!
Oh Lord, make haste to help me!
Our help is in the name of the Lord.
"Once worked into the subconscious memory, this new 'tape' tends to erase the prerecorded [emotional program] tapes already in place" and so "reduces the force of the upsetting emotions."
"Compassion for ourselves is an important disposition because all of our emotional programs are in fully in place by the time we are four or five, certainly by the age of seven or eight, and hence are not our fault." Though they may have helped us get through childhood, as adults they cause pain and damage to ourselves or others.
Sometimes this damage cannot be undone. In such cases, we ask God to help us reduce the consequences and bring about change in ourselves so that it may not happen again. This may require facing the afflictive feelings, staring them down, instead of trying to avoid them. "The radical healing is the acceptance of the situation, because in some way God is present there."
Guard of the Heart
"Guard of the heart" is the practice of letting go of emotional disturbances before they even start. Obviously this requires great self-discipline. Three ways of practicing guard of the heart include immediately giving up, relinquishing, the disturbing thoughts to God; concentrating on what we were doing before the thought appeared; and avoiding the thought by taking up some prearranged project.
Lectio divina is a way of reading scripture and deeply reflecting and spontaneously praying on it, leading to contemplative prayer. Another way to link scripture to the activities of our daily lives is to keep "minute books" in which we record favorite passages. Then, during idle moments of the day, we can read a few lines.
Joining a Support Group
Since silence is a kind of liturgy, and for purposes of encouragement, it is good to gather periodically with others to share contemplative prayer.
A commitment to the contemplative dimension of the gospel "addresses the whole of our being and activity, whatever our states of life may be. . . . When we begin the spiritual journey in earnest with a program of centering prayer as a path to contemplation, we are initiating a dynamic that involves our personal responses to Christ and affects our whole lives." The Holy Spirit calls us to move beyond selfishness to service and to join with others in addressing the local and world problems of our time.