"Periods of unloading and purification of the unconscious ... can be redeeming not just for ourselves, but for others. In other words, as we get well, everybody else in the Mystical Body is going to get better, too. In other words, if we can stop pouring the negative energies of our false self into the universe, the universe is going to improve."
Father Thomas Keating, "The Process of Centering Prayer," from his book Consenting to God as God Is.
Did you miss Minnesota Contemplative Outreach’s annual fall retreat at Christ the King Retreat House in Buffalo, October 14-16? Forty-seven of us gathered in the autumn beauty of Buffalo Lake for extended periods of centering prayer and the expert guidance of Dr. Shawn Kafader. Shawn offered us four conferences on the topic Humility and Our Basic Core of Goodness. During the retreat I grew in understanding that our basic core of goodness is really our humble self. As our humble self expands our unhumble self (or false self) diminishes and we grow in freedom.
Fifteen hundred years ago St. Benedict offered a twelve rung ladder of humility as a guide. For each rung on the ladder, Shawn offered us a set of affirmations as positive practices for the spiritual journey. Let me give three affirmations that are calling to me right now.
I will seek God’s way and not my own. This will take time, but a similar nudge has been pushing at me for a while—seeking God’s way or plan in little things, instead of pushing so hard for what I want or what I think should happen. I anticipate that I might be able to even relax a little if I am serving God’s plan because it WILL happen. I won’t have to scheme and beat my head against the wall. This affirmation has an attraction to it, but I know it will take dedication and grace to live it.
I will live my life as a loved-sinner and see others as the same. At first, I did not like this affirmation. (That was a clue that I should work with it.) During the quiet time following that conference, I looked for a way to try out this affirmation. After a while, it occurred to me to put it together with something I read from Richard Rohr. My adapted saying became “I have nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am—a beloved-sinner—and that is enough.” I think I can grow into this version.
I will learn to listen before sharing my opinion. Shawn told us about a 96 year old man who told his therapist intern that she was the first person who had ever listened to him. Giving someone my undivided attention, listening with my whole being is something I can do. As we practiced it in groups of three during the last session of the retreat, I experienced the warmth and joy of loving and being loved.
It might be wiser start with just one of these affirmations, but I can’t choose which one, so I am going with all three to see what happens. There are at least 40 more affirmations where these came from, and then another retreat next fall....
silver and gold trees
and cold mountains
at the stream swollen gray
quaking willow leaves
tall marshland grasses
splaying in the wind
dried wheats and weeds,
a woman cleared her way
– the path to her home –
with the bountiful
God saw her...
God saw her
among the gold and the green
Based upon The Twelve Degrees of Humility, The Rule of St. Benedict
Posted with permission by Dr. Shawn Kafader, LCPC
Movement One: Our Authentic Search for God
1. The discovery that God is always with us and within us.
“The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” ~Psalm 46:7 and 11
• God is my constant companion.
• All is sacred – God is in all.
• I cannot gain more of God – I have all of God present within me.
• I have no more of God than my neighbor – my neighbor has no more of God than me.
• God is with me – God is within me – God is with us!
2. The discovery that God’s will is best for us.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” ~Mathew 6:10
• I will seek God’s way, not my own.
• God is good and seeks good for my life.
• I will trust God, who created me and blesses me.
• I will abandon my self to God’s plan.
• I will pray, “Thy will be done.”
3. The discovery that obedience to God results in our highest potential.
“He became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” ~Philippians 2:8
• My obedience is an expression of my love for God.
• I will openly listen to God’s Word and the words of others.
• I will honestly receive spiritual guidance.
• I recognize that I do not have all of the answers.
• I am willing to admit that I know I do not know.
• I am aware that I have a false self and desire to live out of my true self.
4. The discovery that life’s difficulties are our greatest teachers.
“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” ~Psalm 30:5
• I believe that God will honor my spiritual perseverance.
• I know and accept the truth the life is difficult.
• I am willing to endure life’s journey without seeking escape.
• I believe that life’s journey has a refining quality for me.
• I embrace the dark night as a part of my spiritual journey.
Movement Two: Our Attentiveness and Obedience to God
1. The deceptions of our false-self must be faced.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature – put on the true self, which is being renewed in the image of its Creator.” ~Colossians 3:5 and 10.
• When I confess my sins, God offers me a fresh beginning.
• There is freedom in sharing with a good confessor.
• I commit myself to the life-long process of dismantling my false self, allowing my true self to emerge.
2. Our status in life must be abandoned.
“If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” ~Mark 9:35
• I will be content with the lowest and most menial treatment.
• I give up my desire for the best of things.
• I give up my desire for privileged treatment.
• I do not expect to be served.
• I will be satisfied with what I am offered in life.
3. Our defense of self and criticism of others must be put aside.
“Be merciful, as God is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” ~Luke 6:36-37
• I am willing to assume an inferior status in life.
• I will begin to hear the insightful criticism of my life.
• I am willing to know that I do not know.
• I am willing to see my life through the lenses of God’s mercy.
• I will live my life as a loved-sinner, and see others as the same.
4. The rule of our community must be accepted, refreshed and practiced.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” ~Psalm 24:1
• I am willing to renew my traditions in fresh ways.
• I am willing to learn the wisdom of my community.
• I am willing to engage in and be formed by spiritual disciplines.
• I will work for the common good of others and all creation.
• I will work for justice for all of God’s children.
• I will live my life out of a generous hospitality.
Movement Three: Our Life-long Response to God’s Presence
1. Be quick to listen and slow to speak.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” ~James 1:19
• I will control my tongue, my speech, my comments and my responses to others.
• I learn to listen before sharing my opinion.
• I will listen for the voice of God in all things.
• I will observe the practice of silence.
2. Be slow to join in laughter.
“A fool raises his voice when he laughs, but the wise smile quietly.” ~Sirach 21:20
• I can have fun in life without making fun of others.
• I can find joy in life, without taking away the joy of others.
• I will live an authentic life, giving up the path of foolishness.
• I will be a fool for my faith.
3. Be gentle in speech.
“In your teaching show integrity, so that your speech cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about you.” ~Titus 2:7-8
• I will speak words of peace.
• I will choose my words carefully.
• I will speak the truth in love.
4. Be true to your true self.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with Christ – we have been freed from sin.” ~Romans 6:6-7
• I will be patient with myself as my true self emerges.
• I will walk through life with a humble attitude.
• I will seek a simple, quiet and serene lifestyle.
• I will seek my unique place within the universe.
Books cited by Shawn Kafader
Matthew Fox - Original Blessing
John Philip Newell - The Rebirthing of God
Joan Chittister - The Monastery of the Heart
Ilia Dileo - The Humility of God
Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove - The Rule of Saint Benedict
Thomas Keating - Intimacy with God
Thomas Keating - The Invitation to Love
Mother Teresa - Come Be My Light
Presence & Action Blog
MN Contemplative Outreach publishes articles written by, and for, practitioners. They are designed to deepen understanding of the Centering Prayer Practice and its power to change lives.