Is Life becoming unmanageable? Are you looking for and seeking God, but not experiencing God as God truly is? Do your relationships with family, friends and others seem to lack depth? Are you running out of steam? My recent answer to all of these questions was a reluctant "yes". I confess I love to create, implement and be a part of all the busy externals. But with that "yes" I knew I must take time to sit back and evaluate my "doing"
In daily life the Spirit is speaking in various ways. Christ is present under different disguises... The mystery of Christ is at work in everything, however humble or humdrum. Our response can be inspired by the false self or by the Spirit.
--Awakenings by Thomas Keating
Having been a Centering Prayer daily practitioner for the past twenty years, my first priority had been to seek a deeper relationship with God. Yet my actions were not bearing fruit and I was out of harmony with God, myself and others. I was trying to cram too much "doing" into my life. Impatience, shortcuts and tiredness had crept into the "doing". Everything had become unmanageable. This has happened before, but each time I learn something new and now the true self calls me up short again before I go too far.
I order myself to "slow down" without success. But this takes more than my own "self-sufficiency" so I begin to probe with God’s help by asking myself things like: How much do I want to slow down? Do I think my contributions to the kingdom are so very important and necessary? Are my desires for accomplishment, approval, esteem, and recognition getting out of hand? Am I too caught up in indulging my own fantasies? I conclude that the false self is pulling the wagon again and I am loosing a sense of God's presence.
But, how badly do I want to slow down? I even need God’s help for gaining a greater desire to overcome such busyness. What are my fears around slowing down? Things won’t get done? There won’t be enough money? I won’t be as highly valued? Would I feel guilty slowing down and saying "no"? Maybe I’d be left out I might even miss out on something.
A second fruit of the night of spirit is freedom from the domination of any emotion…This takes place not be repressing or unduly suppressing unwanted emotions by sheer will power, but by accepting and integrating them into the rational and intuitive parts of our nature.
--Invitation to Love by Thomas Keating
When Jesus calls us to "wake up", he is calling us to a new awareness. Because we know that we carry much of our human suffering in our body, the body becomes a helpful tool for calling attention to what we need to "let go" of.
So begins a process that comes out of our Centering Prayer midst the daily activities. Stop for a minute and notice the energy in the body; where is it? How intense is it? Where are the tense places in my body? How does it vary from activity to activity? I noticed that I was preparing meals with a ferocity that scared a well peeled carrot. I was looking at the new spring season without smiling back. I was listening to a friend without really hearing. With such awareness, I can begin to use the welcoming prayer at the moment I notice these things or I can take time later on to recall these feelings and pray. "Welcome pain, welcome tension, welcome confusion. Let us get to know each other? Let’s not continue this battle."
I am slowing down the multi-tasking, but my thoughts are still running the show. Push! Push! Push! Repetitious mental lists recycle only to lodge more discomfort into my well being and my other relationships. What are my emotions doing? Fear speaks, "You might not get everything done that you said you would". Sadness hovers over the lost times I might have enjoyed more had I not been so busy. Once again "Welcome fear, welcome sadness I will not resist you." I want to feel you and be aware of you so I do not have to react to you so spuriously. As I become more acquainted with all the parts of this "doing" I begin the next part of the Welcoming Prayer:
The Welcoming Prayer
May I let go of the desire for approval and affection.
May I let go of the desire for power and control.
May I let go of the desire for security and survival.
May I let go of the desire to change the situation.
From Contemplative Outreach LTD
Carolyn Young is a member of the Minnesota Contemplative Outreach Committee