By Kathy Keary
Part 3 of 3. All the parts are here.
We now turn our attention to the taming of our false self as a path to rediscovering, reclaiming, and embracing once again the innocence, goodness and love of our true self. James Finley in his book, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere eloquently describes this process of transformation:
No one knows what first stirs in the tombs of those awakened by God’s incessant call. The first moment of conversion (metanoia) is the hidden gift that can, as with Paul, knock us to the ground, or as with Augustine, move us to tears by the song of children and a word of scripture. Or, as is often the case, this call of God is like a gradual subtle stirring that grows within us, perhaps unnoticed, like a small flower unfolding in an enclosed garden
God plants this seed. It is he that makes it grow, but he does so only with our cooperation. We must help to bring about this awakening within us.
So what steps can we take to cooperate with God’s grace? A prayer life that includes silence is paramount. In the stillness, grace fertilizes our soul making it possible for us to bear fruit. In the quiet, the still, small voice within can be heard by the ear of the heart. Resting in the divine embrace connects us with the heart of God allowing us to discern the inner whisperings.
As mentioned in our article, The Fruits of Contemplation, in the prayer of silence, centering prayer, we consent to the presence and action of God in the depths of our soul. Availing ourselves to the practice of resting in God allows the Holy One to sand our rough edges taming our false self allowing the true self, the person we are before God, to present itself.
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In the article, The Source of Our False Self, we noted that falsity develops at an early age as we develop defense mechanisms to cope with the challenges of life. I have personally found centering prayer to soothe deep wounds. like applying a gentle salve to heal emotional pain. This healing promotes the manifestation of the true self.
If you are emotionally weighed down, I refer you to our series, Focusing: Listening to the Wisdom of the Body for Healing. Focusing is a contemplative practice in which one listens to the wisdom of their emotions as revealed in their body and care for them in a life-giving way. Emotional healing allows room for the true self to be revealed.
Introspection is another way to cooperate with God’s grace. Review the exaggerated needs listed in the article, Source of Our False Self, to determine which one is showing up in your thoughts, desires, motivations, and conduct.
Awareness is the first step to silencing our egocentric behavior. At the same time, be assured that our false self will typically not be totally eliminated on this side of eternal life. Be encouraged though by the words of Richard Rohr in his book, Immortal Diamond: The Search For Our True Self: “In the great economy of grace, all is used and transformed, and nothing is wasted. God uses your various False Selves to lead you beyond them.”
The practice of discernment is another way to participate in the purification of your false self. A routine examination of conscience will bring to the foreground improvement opportunities. You may find it helpful at the end of the day to reflect on times during the day when you sense you were acting out of your true self and moments when the false self took the lead. Our conscience is very telling. We know in our core when we have messed up. Own it and make a plan to change your approach.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Yes, prayer is yet another way to cooperate with the grace poured out by our Heavenly Father. Ask God to open your eyes, ears, and heart to your falsity and the effect it has on your relationship with God, others, and all of creation. Pray for the courage and strength to walk in the ways of the Sacred One.
Transformation is a lifelong journey that mirrors the paschal mystery. It is in dying to our false self that we are born into the fullness of life. The words of James Finley, a student of Thomas Merton, always brings a smile to my face:
When Merton told me that “one thing for sure about heaven is that there is not going to be much of you there,” he was, I think, referring to the mystery that even now we are in God’s kingdom. And that even now we can begin to realize it if we but die to egocentric self-seeking and seek God’s will with a pure heart.
A good indicator that we are on the right track is if we experience the fruits of the spirit in our lives and share those fruits with others to build up the kingdom in the here and now. Authentic spirituality always includes sharing God’s love with others — a love that was implanted in our souls when we were created — a love waiting to be rediscovered, reclaimed, and embraced once again.
Note: New articles in this series are posted to the website every Monday. The full series can be found here: An Invitation to Something New: The Contemplative Life. On Thursday’s we’ll send an email to remind you of the articles.
[Kathy Keary, a Precious Blood Companion and spiritual director, holds a master’s degree in theological studies and is a graduate of the Atchison Benedictine’s Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]
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