It’s been a full summer. June and July took me to some extraordinary places and the meeting of incredible people—many of whom have expanded my sense of family: a speaking tour in South Africa; the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday celebration in LA; and Richard Rohr’s CONSPIRE conference, followed by board meetings at the CAC in Albuquerque.
Traveling for work is not my natural mode of operation. I’m a homebody. I like the comforts of what’s familiar and routine. So I’ve come to understand the call to travel for the purpose of my work with Gravity, as an act of service, a holy sacrifice, or a cheerful gift. I’m glad to give of myself in this way, but it requires more of me than my work at home (and makes it more difficult to post to my blog!).
Traveling to speak and teach takes me out of my comfort zone, which is challenging, but in a good way. It stretches not only my abilities by my spiritual sensibilities, causing me to grow; and subsequently expands my capacity to trust–trust in the God who is larger than my limitations and resistance.
When I travel for work, the gifts of discernment that are exercised one-on-one in spiritual direction work in Omaha, are challenged to be exercised on a larger scale—with groups and sometimes masses of people. When I’m challenged, I grow. If I have capacity for depth of presence and keen awareness in spiritual direction settings one-on-one, can I exercise those same gifts on a larger scale? When I say yes to an invitation of this nature, I’m saying yes to letting these gifts and capacities grow.
Likewise, my vulnerability toward caring about what others think of me is easier to manage in one-on-one or smaller settings at home. One the road, that vulnerability is magnified and put the test. Once again I am invited to trust God in greater degrees. Trust that I’m responding to a call, to a need. Trust that God will provide what’s needed for this more challenging endeavor.
And most importantly, I’m invited to let go of “I.” It’s not about me after all!
Freedom comes when we can finally let go of being the chief actor in the story of life.
You see, it’s when we get so preoccupied with “I” that we limit what’s possible.
How often have you been faced with a challenging opportunity and you go round and round in a conversation in your head about how you’re not up to the task? The ego is so very limiting.
Spiritual practice, in particular, Centering Prayer, has exposed my own egoic consciousness.
Egoic consciousness is the “operating system” as Cynthia Bourgeault likes to call it, that is limited to subject-object awareness. There’s nothing wrong with it. It helps us live in linear time and space. But it’s limited. And unfortunately we tend to be addicted to it.
A practice like Centering Prayer helps us get unattached.
Over time, through Centering Prayer, I’ve developed some distance and detachment from subject-object awareness. In the space created by that distance and detachment there arises a greater field of perception—objectless or non-dual consciousness. It’s what is left when subject-object fixation drops away.
And why does this matter? Why is non-dual perception important? Oh! For so many reasons:
- When” I” am no longer the subject, comparing, separating, and judging the world around “me,” God actually becomes the subject.
- When God becomes the subject, “I” can more easily let go of control, melt into God, if you will.
- When “I” melt into God, the life of God flows more freely in and through me—it’s no longer damned up by my constant attention on self. (Life of God flowing through? Think fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control. Think compassion, forgiveness, peace and justice.)
- When “I” am no longer the center of my attention, my attention is held by something greater. This is the Ground of Being that we are all being held by and invited to participate in. It is the place of connection. It is the Kingdom of God, it is participation in the Life of Christ. It is freedom to live and move and have being in this free-flow experience we call life. It is deliciously marked by freedom from fear and anxiety, and freedom to be courageous and bold.
This is contemplative life at its best.
Essentially, non-dual consciousness is moving into union with God. I like how Bourgeault puts it: “What we’re talking about in Union is the collapsing of what caused separation in the first place.”
Contemplative spirituality is not about quiet, reflective, peaceful, simple living.
The contemplative is about a change of consciousness, awareness, perception.
Jesus described it as a regime change (Kingdom of God), a change of posture (“Unless you become like a child.”), and a rebirth (“Unless you are born again.”). The apostle Paul described it as a “spiritual revolution” and a “renewing of the mind.”
I am not changed and the world is not changed by doctrines, dogmas and belief systems that are dependent on subject-object awareness (egoic consciousness). Yes, these can be helpful in pointing us to God. But contemplative spirituality is what helps us enter into the very life, presence and being of God. And only the life of God, flowing through us can heal us and our world.
- What does your comfort zone look like? Describe it.
- When most recently were you invited out of your comfort zone? How did you resist? What messages were played in your head?
- If you said yes to going out of your comfort zone, what happened? How did you grow? What gifts, qualities or abilities were expanded in you?
- Do you have a regular contemplative prayer practice? If not, what’s holding you back?
*header image by pippalou at www.morguefile.com