Tag Archives: Ego

Meditatio House: Bere Island (Ego) Laid Bare

The house community has just got back from the annual WCCM Easter retreat held on Bere Island, Ireland. Bere Island is located on Bantry Bay about 2 hours south south west of Cork.

Bere Island is a wonderful place to hold a retreat. Its natural pace is slow. Cows have more to say about setting the tone for the island than any traffic. The island is ancient. It holds lightly and faithfully a contemplative spirit.

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We were part of a group of meditators (old and new) who rented three houses located about 15 minutes via bus from the Bere Island Heritage Centre. Fr. Laurence gave his talks at The Heritage Centre. This centre was also where all the retreatants meditated together.

We were on the island for the entire week leading up to Easter. This week is called Holy Week in the Christian tradition. From Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday we lived together, ate together, and prayed together.

As the week went on we all experienced the challenges that new beds, new people, new living space, and communal travel had to offer. Our differing personalities and temperaments began, in their own unique ways, to ‘feel the pinch’ of the conditions we found ourselves in. By the middle of the week I felt thoroughly overwhelmed by it all.

I felt. Who was this I who was overwhelmed by it all? It could be said that this I was my ego, that conscious part of my inner life which was painfully discovering that it could not have the retreat experience on its own terms. The experience became one of rawness. The vulnerability of my ego to too much change too quickly was laid bare, revealed for all to see.

The way my ego wanted to present itself to the world became too hard to maintain. An ‘in control, warm, loving, and quirky’ persona became instead increasingly anxious and rigid. Rather than ‘how can I love these people’, my rationale was fast turning into ‘how can I survive this week?’

As the week went on I could see the people around me start to fray around the edges. Impatience and frustration began to leak into our relating. Psychological subsistence and the cooking roster met head on. The tendency for us all to end up in the kitchen all at once had me exasperated.

Then came a realisation: this was part and parcel of the community experience for the week. Anger and resentment began to rise in me. Ego felt ‘ripped off’, manipulated, ambushed.

By Good Friday I could see a choice before me: participate as practically and as gently as you can or shut down. In a moment of grace, a moment that the practice of meditation quietly prepares us for, I chose to contribute as I could from moment to moment. Inner movements of perfectionism and anxiety (‘You must do more!’ ‘People think you’re lazy!’ ‘You must be liked!’) began to settle somewhat. I began to accept that I could not do everything (and did not need to). As tiredness and impatience increased I began to trust those around me to understand. I began to risk rejection.

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The art of the spiritual life, of a human life growing in full health, is all about the de-centring of the ego, that is, about our attention being more on loving others than being fixated on ourselves. Sometimes this is just too hard, and that is ok. When it’s too hard we have the opportunity to experience the limitations we have at that moment and to mysteriously grow a little more in the grace of compassion that awaits within all of us.

If this growth in graced compassion is too hard to see and accept, that’s ok as well. Sometimes all we have left is the experience of the ego suffering, experiencing fallibility, failure, and limitation. Easter is here to remind us that Divinity is already in this experience, even if we cannot see or feel it.

Dying to egoism and rising to love does involve psychological pain, or suffering. Good Friday too lives on in us. Good Friday, though, is only part of the story.

The good news is that when ego is experiencing this pain, this disorientation, it can be the very time when the divine life can move powerfully for integration and healing. The illusion of control which ego maintains is exposed as a lie. In this experience we have the chance to let go into Love just a little bit more. It can all be a part of the experience that is the integration of ego with the deeper Self in God.

As a part of the retreat experience there were regular periods of meditation. These periods really helped. Attention on the mantra was attention off the experience of being overwhelmed. It is important to note here that attention off this experience of being overwhelmed was not repression of the experience. It was simply attention on the transformative and integrating consciousness of the Risen Christ within us all. The last three days became easier. The experience of love for myself and others began to return.

Then something else happened. On Sunday, as Fr. Laurence read from John’s account of the first Easter morning, a new, subtle, gentle experience of Christ rose into awareness. This experience was the fruit of both the meditation and the struggle of the week. The words of the Gospel story had new clarity. The experience of Christ risen, mysteriously held within the words themselves, was resonating afresh within. Another veil had fallen.

Bere Is 3

I am learning that any growth in the acceptance of Divine Love, so radically and completely given to us at Easter through the death and resurrection of Jesus, frees us to engage struggle with a growing compassion and a gentle curiosity. Growth can be a painful struggle. Peace, joy, and humility are (just some of) this struggle’s fruits.

So then, now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is through him, by faith, that we have been admitted into God’s favour in which we are living, and look forward exultantly to God’s glory. Not only that; let us exult, too, in our hardships, understanding that hardship develops perseverance, and perseverance develops a tested character, something that gives us hope, and a hope which will not let us down, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

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Meditatio House: Disturbance and Stillness

In the sayings of the Desert Fathers there is a story about three friends. All three were not afraid of hard work. The three friends chose three different ways to engage with the world. One chose to work for peace among people who fought each other. One chose to spend his time serving the sick. The third went to the desert to live in “the stillness of prayer” (1).

The first friend found that he could not make peace among others. The second found serving the sick disheartening. After telling each other of their difficulties they decided to visit the third friend. After explaining to him what had happened, the two asked the third for advice.

After a short silence, [the third friend] poured some water into a bowl and said to them, ‘Look at the water’, and it was disturbed. After a little while he said to them again, ‘Look how still the water is now’, and as they looked into the water, they saw their own faces reflected in it as in a mirror. Then he said to them, ‘It is the same for those who live among men [sic]; disturbances prevent them from seeing their faults. But when a man [sic] is still, especially in the desert, then he sees his failings. (2)

The third friend had discovered in the desert that without inner stillness we cannot come to an appreciation of our faults, our shortcomings, the ways in which we fail. As long as these failings go unacknowledged the roots of our failure will undermine efforts for peace and make a compassionate life hard to maintain. The roots of our faults lie within us.

The third friend came to this discovery because he chose an environment free enough of others’ disturbances so that he might experience his own disturbances – both his faults and their roots. He chose to be with God in the tension of this experience. He did not distract himself from this tension. He was honest enough, true enough. With and in this truthfulness the Divine Life was able to integrate and heal his inner life. Rather than experiencing his mind as a bowl of water always disturbed, the third friend came to experience his inner life as stillness.

The roots of our faults could be seen as those wounds, motivations and beliefs we carry within us that contribute to the distorting of both our vision and our action away from love.

To see our faults is to both observe the action and to experience its roots. It is from this seeing that ‘holy tears’, the tears of own existential remorse, can flow.

At first sight this story seems to be about the promotion of living in the desert as the better way. In a world of disturbance, it seems, we cannot come to stillness, much like a bowl of water that is always disturbed.

Perhaps we could see the whole story of the three friends as a story of integration. The first two friends became disheartened with their choices because they were not yet integrated or still enough within themselves. It took the third friend to show them this and to offer them a way.

The way offered was the way of the desert. What is this desert way? It is a way committed to the minimising of external disturbance and distraction so that we may experience our own inner disturbance and distraction. In the honesty of this experience is the promise of healing and transformation – of a coming to stillness. In this stillness there is a clarity and simplicity of vision that has deep roots in Divine Love. In this stillness ego is quiet enough to be a servant of this Love rather than captive to woundedness and disintegration.

Meditaio House is a community committed to this minimising. We value and encourage silence. We have no TV. We regularly meet to practice and encourage honesty – honesty with ourselves and each other. We have guides, mentors that help us in this desert lifestyle. And we meditate. In meditation we gently experience that within us which prevents honesty.

Meditation helps us to live with each other in self honesty. Disturbances happen. The goal is to learn the art of staying in the tension of these disturbances – the present moment of them – without analysis or judgement. This is what the third friend can teach us all. In this present moment there is God and healing. If we can all do this together enough, then as Fr. Laurence said recently – community itself is therapy.

An old man said, ‘The monk’s cell is like the furnace of Babylon where the three children found the Son of God, and it is like the pillar of cloud where God spoke to Moses.’ (3)

Our cell, both of the heart and our physical living space, is the place where we can all encounter God and be purified in this encounter.

In this cell we grow in attention to stillness and the divinity in this stillness. Like Martha in the story of Martha and Mary (Lk10:38-42) we discover ‘the one thing necessary’: the stillness that is the foundation of contemplative action. Action from this stillness is a gift of love to a disturbed world. It is action which is not a striving. It is action as an expression of being. This is the kind of action (action that Chuang Tzu called ‘non-action’ (4)), which the world needs more of today.

Martha and Mary: He Qi

Martha and Mary: He Qi

(1) Benedicta Ward (trans) The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers (1975, 1986), 1.
(2) Ward, 1.
(3) Ward, 25.
(4) ‘Action and Non-Action’ in Thomas Merton (trans) The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965, 1997), 80.


Meditatio House: The Heart Ponders and the Ego Grasps

Each Monday evening at Meditatio House is a time reserved for some teaching about Christian meditation. After the teaching we have a time of meditation, then some questions and/or reflections about our meditation practice.

This regular Monday night pattern was something begun by John Main. It is a good night for anyone new to Christian meditation to visit the house, or indeed anyone inquiring about meditation as contemplative prayer.

Often we have a recorded teaching given by one of the teachers of meditation within the WCCM. This week we heard from a conference given by Laurence Freeman in 1992 at Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky, USA. The conference was released as The Ego On Our Spiritual Journey in 2007. Something that Fr. Laurence said during this conference struck me:

The sayings of the Fathers of the Desert are really a constant commentary upon the dangers of an egotistical spirituality. This is perhaps why St John of the Cross tells us to give up all desire, even the desire for God. Not the love of God, not our innate longing for God which we cannot give up, but our desire for God – the desire to possess, to control, to own, to keep God. In this way of prayer, in the simple ascesis of the single word, we strike at the ‘root of sin’, as The Cloud of Unknowing called it, at the root of our ego. We let go.

There is a distinction going on here between the deep longing of our hearts for God and the ego’s desire to “possess…control…own…” to replace this longing with its own version of longing: desiring. Egoic desiring keeps us attached to the ego, identified with the ego, and focused on it and its needs. If we desire God then we are seeking God on ego’s terms. God becomes just another way to get satisfaction. The longing for God, however, is something ego does not create. As Laurence says, it is innate to us, simply an inherent part of what it is to be human. It is pre-ego. The heart ponders patiently and thoughtlessly in its longing, while the ego can grasp, often with indiscreet calculation.

There is a certain kind of impatience in desiring. Desiring can be the ‘quick fix’ of the human psyche. Often it is all about the satisfaction of the ego’s unmet needs for love, attention, approval – unmet needs that go all the way back into childhood. The desiring around these unmet needs can be powerful, and can at times possess us. In this, desire does not serve love. Desire is all about the satisfaction of these unmet needs in a way that serves ego. This is understandable and part of the human story. There is deep compassion in us for these unmet needs. Life is meant to be so much more than this kind of suffering. Ego wants this suffering gone, but on its terms.

What a contemplative practice such as Christian meditation does is assist in the discovery, through experience, of our deeper “innate longing for God”. To be focused on and attached to ego through desiring is to have little or no attention on the depths of us, where this longing has its source. The fulfilment of this longing deeply heals our unmet needs in ways that ego desiring cannot.

As we meditate attention shifts to the source of longing – our heart. As time passes our desiring shifts as well and becomes more and more a longing for Love. This happens as we encounter at our depths the God of our longing. Our longing is fulfilled quietly and mysteriously by God and in time becomes joy. It is a joy that ego cannot create. It is a joy that rises as God fulfils unmet need with the divine life.

This joy is deep and grows in constancy. It is a joy that finds fulfilment in communal expression (where ever our love life with others is). It is a joy that is not only for us, it is part of the other-centred life of God and our deeper Self. It is not necessarily gregarious; it is however, strong, constant and stable. It is faithful joy. It grows as detachment from ego desiring grows. In this it is a sacrament, an outer sign of the inner reality that our desiring is now more a longing being fulfilled by the divine Love Life.

People and things that were once more the ‘objects of our desire’ instead become the focus and instrument of Love through our own loving. Egocentric desiring, often impatient and needy, becomes the patient, wise, and loving longing of the heart – a longing that is experiencing it’s fulfilment into silence. Silence is the ego-less experience of longing fulfilled. In silence the heart no longer longs.

The root of all sin is ego attachment, ego desiring. As we gracefully detach from ego, ego becomes more and more simply the way our deep Self can relate to others and the world. Awe in the ordinary grows. Compassion flows more easily into action. Other-centredness becomes natural. Unmet needs recede and life takes on a gentle, joyful, grateful, playful way.

So if there is anything that will move you, any incentive in love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any warmth of sympathy – I appeal to you, make my joy complete by being of a single mind, one in love, one in heart and one in mind. Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others, everyone pursuing not selfish interests but those of others. Make your own mind the mind of Christ Jesus. (Phil2:1-5).

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Meditatio House: Leaving Doing Behind

As winter settles in here in London, things are warming up at Meditatio House. With Christmas approaching activity in the community has gone up a gear. We are starting to receive more visitors. Weekends have more things on. Cleaning is happening. Decorations are going up. The food for Christmas is being prepared. Soon I will be an expert in the making of home made sausage rolls.

As activity increases in the house I am more conscious of our action-being balance. Being a contemplative is about being mindful of how we are living the balance between our activity and our being.

Walking Spiral

The walking spiral used at a recent Meditatio House silent day. Photo by May Ngo.

The majority of people today seem to be living actively at the expense of being. Too much activity apart from the experience of being leads to a life where doing dominates. Part of the witness of Meditatio House is to offer an alternative way: the way that is the integration of activity and being.

Contemplative practice is about the facilitation of this integration. Practices such as coming to stillness, de-centring the ego, and giving attention to being – all of these are meant to bring about a balance between being and activity to the point where our activity does not simply serve doing at beings’ expense.

With practice activity can become more an expression of being. In time activity and being can become seamless. The split between action and being (a split that occurs in our consciousness minds) narrows and fades.

Contemplative practice causes awareness to ‘sink’ into being. Because awareness is a part of consciousness, awareness then becomes a bridge of sorts (because of this ‘sinking’) between being and consciousness. We then become, through awareness, more and more conscious of our being. Being can then be expressed consciously in the activity of our lives.  With a practice that fosters a growing awareness of our being in each moment, daily activity becomes expression of being.

In Christian meditation what fosters conscious awareness into being is our attention on the mantra as it sounds within our body and heart. Attention could be described as the ‘pointy-end’ of awareness.

Because the Divine is the source and ground of all being, anyone who is expressing being is also expressing something of the mysterious divine life. Divine Being is the default of all being, regardless of belief.

This phenomenon of action-being integration is similar to the wu wei of Chinese philosophy. Thomas Merton in The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965, 1997) describes wu wei as “perfect action – because it is act without activity.” Merton goes on to say of wu wei

It is not mere passivity, but it is action that seems both effortless and spontaneous because performed ‘rightly,’ in perfect accordance with our nature and with our place in the scheme of things. It is completely free because there is in it no force and no violence. (28).

For me this is another way of describing the expression of being. When freely done there is no force, only expression flowing with and in the energy of life. It is a joy-filled and peaceful happening to express being in action. It is energising because the ego project of survival and control has been put aside. We have forgotten ourselves in a moment of graceful participation in life. The contemplative life, no matter where and how it is practiced, is about these moments in life growing into each other, like ink on paper. Life becomes prayer.

As a contemplative practice Christian meditation is about growing in a consistent attention on being and attention off ego (self-consciousness). Regularity and practice are key because with this attention is re-trained and the mind transformed. The whole of the mind becomes attuned to being. The activity of the body follows the mind and grows in the expression of being at the expense of mere doing. We grow as human beings and become less and less human doings.

Meditatio House is a wonderful place to facilitate this graceful action-being integration:

Firstly, we have our three times a day of meditation. This is the commitment (personal and communal) to faithful attention to being. It is so important to have this routine, especially when things are more active. If we did not, then our day would likely slip further and further into doing. Human beings were not made for excessive doing.

Secondly, we have the community life of the house. So much of this is about growing in self-honesty and trust. When this is happening we are in a better position to discover the ways in which we avoid the pilgrimage into being. Everyone practices an aversion to this pilgrimage because the ego does not want it, and the way invites honesty about why we avoid it. Growth in being allows grace to integrate the whole of us.

Thirdly, Meditatio House is a house of service and hospitality. Here we get a practical experience of just where our being is in relation to the activity we engage in. We walk a line here between looking after others and looking after ourselves. In time we grow in tenderness towards our own inner tendencies. The compassion that we grow in for our selves as we struggle to love with other-centred integrity, becomes more and more available to us as an inner resource for others. In time we discover that this resource of compassion is actually the Divine life within.

The challenge of any life aspiring to contemplation is to discover and cherish ways in the daily round that are about becoming more a human being. Living more humanely is about activity as an expression of being. In this we leave doing behind. Our words and deeds truly grow in goodness.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such ceaseless encouragement and such sure hope, encourage you and strengthen you in every good word and deed. (2Thes2:16,17)

 

 


Meditatio House: True Love and Cardboard Cut-Outs

Many years ago I was given a copy of Charles de Foucauld’s ‘Prayer of Abandonment’. The prayer reads:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, And in all your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my spirit; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, For I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, To surrender myself into your hands without reserve, And with boundless confidence, For you are my Father.

This prayer continues to grate on me to this day: Such exclusive language! This is my life, not God’s! Who is this God, anyway? I’m going to be asked to do something that I don’t want to do! Grate as it has, something deeper in me has refused to endorse the idea of relegating the prayer to the rubbish bin. I still have the original copy given to me. It sits like a thorn in the side of that part of my humanity that stubbornly says ‘I know what’s best for me!’ That part is ego and often ego doesn’t know best.

The prayer has become something of a gauge for me. If I struggle with it then I am, to some extent, out of touch with the True God of unconditional love in the heart.

The heart is where our deep intuitive knowing resides. It is the dwelling of our mysterious true Self. At its centre is the still point of divinity in all of us.

The Eye of the Needle2

To say that I am out of touch with God is another way of saying my attention has strayed from the heart. This is normal, simply a part of the ebb and flow of life.

Many of us are over-trained in an approach to life that gives primacy to rationality at the expense of the heart. Approaching life this way can intensify this out of touch-ness to the point of a lifestyle. Problem solving life cannot replace our intuition. Our essence is not our thoughts. Thinking up a god to believe in will never be the truth of allowing ourselves to experience the reality of Divine Love welling up from deep within us.

It is this God within our hearts, the God of divine love, of wonderful, indescribable tenderness and compassion, the One who cherishes us; it is this God who offers the free service of tenderly and gently revealing to us (again and again and again) our hearts. All we need do to re-find our heart is give attention to this God of and in our hearts. There really is nothing to fear.

And yet ego still fears anyway. This is also normal. Ego can be a chronic controller who fears being controlled; it fears the heart because it means that its version of command-and-control will be exposed as illusory thanks to the experience of heartfelt freedom in love. So too, its ideas of identity and divinity, once exposed to heartfelt experience, can be revealed more as manipulations in the service of egoism.

Sometimes, through thinking too much about God and ‘what God wants,’ I  can contribute to ego forming a certain idea of God, a kind of ‘cardboard cut-out god’ within me. For many years I was fooled into believing that this god was God, and still at times I am fooled into a kind of belief in it. It is an ego construct which ego uses as a way to keep attention away from God and my heart. Through this ‘card board cut-out god’ fear is employed as a way of ‘guidance’. We all have these gods and we can all be fooled by them.

This god is not God. It is not the God of our hearts who wants for us the fulfillment of our heart’s deepest longings. To paraphrase St. Augustine the God of our heart is simply asking that we ‘love, and do what we [most deeply] want’. Fear is not love. When True Love is experienced fear evaporates and our ‘cardboard cut-out gods’ fall over.

How do we come back into contact with this God in our hearts? My consciousness still has attachment to this ‘card board cut-out god’ and sometimes I can’t, on my own, get attention off it. I need help.

Attention. What is needed is a practice through which attention can be trained away from our illusory ‘card board gods’. And that is what Christian meditation does. Regular practice is attention growing in the True God of our hearts, the One who wants to show us our hearts so that we may love and be love in the ways we most truly can and already are.

Here at Meditatio House, through the gift of regular meditation, I am experiencing in new ways the profound effects that the simple invitation to ‘say you mantra’ can have. I am experiencing attention focusing on the mantra more and more consistently. And the mantra is guiding attention ever more deeply and securely into my heart. This is what regular practice does.

Each time we meditate the Love within us gently shifts attention a little more from ego’s sphere of influence. Attention grows roots in our hearts. Strong roots. We experience more and more in the everyday of our lives the quiet freedom of attention lost in God, lost in our being, lost and content in love. At these times the ways we want to love in the world can be seen with the eyes of our heart, with that deep intuitive knowing that rationality cannot be. In time ego accepts this intuition and discernment completes. Intuition (heart) and rationality (head) integrate a little more.

When the ‘cardboard cut-out god’ is active within us, focusing attention on the mantra becomes even more important. At these times all we can do is give and re-give attention to the mantra gently and as best we can in each moment. As we do this, over time, we subtly and gently grow in a full yes to God.

Growing in a full yes to God involves meditating without expectations, without questions, without demands. A yes to God is a yes to Love. A yes to Love is a commitment to listen to Love and be responsive to Love. Our full yes becomes our abandonment to God, to Divine Love, to our hearts. It is the same abandonment that de Foucauld describes in his Prayer of Abandonment. Attention on the mantra becomes this Prayer of Abandonment reduced into a single word: Ma-ra-na-tha. Come, Lord.


Meditatio House: Being and Self-Making

If there is one thing that meditating and living in community can help us with it’s the awareness of just how the ego can move and work within us and our relating. This is certainly the case for any group of people committed to spending time and energy together – husbands and wives, families, work colleagues. If left alone, ego will always be attempting to influence things towards its own self-interests.

Lately at Meditatio House I have been experiencing a heightened sense of my ego as it dips and weaves in and out of perception and action. This heightened sense is the fruit of living as part of a community that values meditation, silence, and the minimisation of distraction.

I can be in a conversation with someone and, before too long sense self-consciousness (or ego) rise in me. This self-consciousness attempts to grasp and influence perception and action in that moment. It attempts this with a movement of emotion and/or with thoughts and images that rise to influence attention back to my inner life at the surface of consciousness. As this happens I can lose touch with a deeper sense of other-centred connection and being. Ego doesn’t want attention to be in these deeper places and away from it. It wants the light of attention to remain on it. An ego too caught in its own reflection can view a lack of self-consciousness as, ultimately, a threat to its existence.

Recently a request was made to do some raking of autumn leaves. I hesitated to volunteer. Why? Who was hesitating? Who was being served by not volunteering? By not volunteering I missed out on an opportunity to be an active community member. I also missed out on a chance to gently, and with grace, act in a way which truly loved everyone (including myself) rather than do what ego wanted (to stay in my room and read a book). As I read I sensed regret.

Because ego can view a lack of attention as an existential threat, it wants to be in the driver’s seat of the inner life to control where attention goes. And it is very effective at claiming attention, often doing so subtlety and anonymously. Ego is a chameleon, always shifting colour and direction, attempting different ways to influence attention for its own end: that it stays as the indispensable centre of our life and relating.

Sometimes ego can be this gentle ‘inner breeze’ subtlety encouraging attention back to itself. Sometimes the breeze blows stronger. At other times it can be like a hurricane using all the energy it has been given as a whirlwind, sucking attention back to the ‘safer’ surface of things.

In the end, though, ego is a kind of illusion, an enigma that requires attention if it is to be seen as existing. While it is, paradoxically, a necessary part of being human, it’s centrality to our psychology is unnecessary.

Theologian Sarah Bachelard* in her book Resurrection and Moral Imagination describes the ego as “the felt need to grasp at our identity for ourselves”, rather than to “discover ourselves given being” by Divine Being (p99, italics added). Ego avoids this discovery because it means the beginning of the ultimate undermining of its attempts at being central to our psychological life. Divine Being-in-Love is becoming the centre at the expense of egocentricity.

The wonderful thing about the discovery of our self as given being by this divinity is that we experience this giving’s free gift. There is nothing to prove. We don’t have to be good enough for it. We are not required to work for it, to maintain the life of this being through effort. Being is not the ego “self-making”. Any “desire to secure our own righteousness” (or worthiness) is foreign to being and completely unnecessary (Bachelard, 98-99). This need to self-make and in doing so prove ourselves as worthy of attention and of love, is a project of the ego.

Life lived in a deeper and growing grounding in the gift of being and the de-centring of ego, frees life to be a loving adventure to be experienced for its own sake. We are here to participate in the great creative adventure of love. We are not here to prove our human life as worthy of attention, as worthy of this love.

The challenge, of course, is that our humanity, from its earliest stages of development, is trained in this lie of unworthiness, of self-justification. We end up making psychological and relational concessions to this lie. The hardness of this lie and the way it is lived wounds us. This wounding requires healing. This healing is a part of the attention’s journey into being.

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Meditation is a wonderful way in which to practice the grounding of attention in the Goodness of God, in Divine Being. It is the giving of attention to the mantra that grounds attention in Being. It is the giving of attention to Divine Being that nurtures the healing process. As we grow in this grounding and healing there is less and less need for us to justify our own existence. We discover that we never needed to and experience our true liberation in Christ.

Faithful practice sees ego becoming less and less opaque. It grows in a subtle, simple, and graced clarity. This allows the bright jewel of being that each of us uniquely is to shine more and more in the world through ego. As this happens a forgetfulness of self-consciousness grows in us. This forgetfulness is a sign that ego is (with grace) letting go of the desire to be at the centre of things, to have attention all to itself. Ego is finally relaxing into being at the service of the divine within. It can function without attention. Humility grows in us.  Our psyche is being healed and integrated.

* Sarah Bachelard is an Australian Anglican priest, a Christian meditator, and the founder of Benedictus Contemplative Church.


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