The Rising Tide of Silence
The life story of Fr Thomas Keating
Contemplation corresponds to meditation. It increases our awareness of the mystery of life. Jesus said in Matthew 6:6: Enter into your inner room and close the door and pray to your Father in secret, and He will reward you. This is an invitation to look inwardly to find God who is transcendent but also immanent. We are here to attain union with God. The Gospel encourages us to grow into divine union and we can grow endlessly. Meditation helps us to access deeper levels of silence. John of the Cross spoke of the eternal Father and the eternal silence.
The more we know about nature, the more we know about the mind of God.
Fr Thomas Keating describes a mystical experience in nature when he became aware of God’s presence in everything. He had a revelation of God's love and he felt surrounded by immense and overwhelming love which was powerful and penetrating. Even the leaves on the trees were waving at God-in-him. Nothing mattered except love. He saw everything as emanating from God, including himself. God is hiding behind things, but is present at the same time. Christ is present in every particle. The ultimate constituency of matter is the Word (vibration). All is part of God. Things are distinct, but they cannot be separated from God just as a dove is distinct from it’s cooing, but it can’t be separated from its cooing. We can’t be separate from the ground of being from which we emerge. This mystical experience lasted about an hour. He knew that this was the real and true reality, and nothing was meaningful compared to this reality. It is the destiny of all human beings. God is the destiny of all human beings: the Source from where we come, and where we will one day return.
Many interesting people visited the monastery, and the monks learnt different kinds of meditation. Over time, they developed the practice of Centering Prayer, during which you let go of all worldly concerns and rest in the presence of God. A 20 minute practice session is suggested – let go – God can take care of the world for 20 minutes! God is manifesting himself in some way and in different ways in different religions. In Centering Prayer we experience oneness. Differences are transcended and embraced. Love, compassion and forgiveness are the basis of all religions. Everything is a manifestation of the One Source. All are invited to participate joyfully in the light and love of God. We are growing up in God. Evolution is the birth canal into divine life.
The spiritual journey is a journey to our own heart. When we find ourselves, we find the heart of everyone, and God uses us as a vessel to love.
Everybody needs time to reflect and be free from oppressive thoughts and anxiety. We need to take a break from ourselves. We need to release our cluttered minds and rest in the Presence of That Which Is. Turn towards God and allow and receive His divine love to flow towards us. Centering Prayer helps us to cultivate interior silence and enter the spiritual dimension of our being. We open to God and we open to our deep self. This is very healing and allows deep layers of our psyche to be released.Our shadow self or dark side of our personality can be so painful that we hide it from ourselves. We don’t want to acknowledge it within ourselves so we project it onto others. We hide it in the dark, and pretend that it doesn't exist. We must not be afraid to allow it to come into the light for this is how healing happens. God loves us through and though all our faults. We do not need to earn His love. All we need to do is accept His love. We are our hardest critics. Centering Prayer changes the way we perceive life. We become more aware of our own humanity and all our struggles and in so doing, we become broader and more compassionate toward the struggles of other people. We start to know the presence of God within ourselves, and in so doing, we can see the presence of God within others.
Fr Thomas Keating faced many hardships, challenges, sorrow and suffering. He turned the whole Trappist orientation from aestheticism to contemplation. This was not easy and it caused conflict and trouble and splits within the community between progressives and conservatives. Fr Thomas Keating resigned as Abbot and left the monastery. This was a very painful death-like experience for him. Trail-blazers are usually ahead of their time, and it is often only after people have left, that we see clearly the great gifts they brought to our lives. We have to suffer loss and have death-like experiences in order to rise anew and experience resurrection. As in Baptism, we commit to the death of the false self and descend into the purifying waters. The struggle is to be more available to God and to let go of obstacles to our spiritual growth. Eventually we will come to know selfless love, joy and peace beyond understanding.
Fr Thomas Keating was 84 years old when he helped co-found Contemplative Outreach to make Centering Prayer accessible to a worldwide audience. Being Abbot had become a cage. Now the cage was gone and he was free to follow the move of Spirit. His orientation shifted from monastic life to sharing Centering Prayer with people. He recalled a student asking him if we should breathe in God and breathe out sin. He replied it was better to breathe in God and breathe out love!
The aim of Centering Prayer is not just to become a better human being – even though this may be highly desirable to our family and friends! But to become a divine being. Let go into the silence. Silence is God’s first language. If you just keep quiet for long enough, you will find this out! Centering Prayer is a relationship with God. One begins to see that God is in everybody and one begins to see the goodness in everything. One becomes awake to the mystery of God and His inconceivable love, tenderness, sweetness and intimacy. One feels held, embraced, kissed by God. One starts to look at life from God’s point of view, and accepts reality as it is, because everything is God manifesting. The only requirement to experience these wonderful things, is to consent to say: ‘YES!’
[THE RISING TIDE OF SILENCE was screened at a Centering Prayer Renewal Day held at Belvedere Anglican Church earlier in November. It will be screened again next year as part of our desire and intention to bring the practice of Centering Prayer to the Garden Route via workshops and retreats = exciting = watch this space!]
Carol Richter (group facilitator), Lucas Timmers (books), Lorraine Barrett (secretary), Bernadette Wigmore (hospitality portfolio), Anne Stambolie (treasurer), and Leela Verity (regional chair / co-ordinator and newsletters)
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Preview of DVD:
A Rising Tide of Silence