Part of why I sit alone and listen to my thoughts is sort through them, pray about them and discern which ones are authentic to my “real relationship” (with God) and which are ego posturing (reflect as it were, examine my life). Ego posturing includes those thoughts which could be perceived as coming from others; but in truth, these are my projected thoughts (I own them). In solitude, I allow my mountain of hatred to show itself. I patiently write down all its grievances against “them” and then find a spiritual remedy.
On the one hand, my ego hammers me un-mercilessly and endlessly with hatred for “them.” On the other hand, the Holy Spirit has given me one “real relationship” with God and is teaching me to live that reality.
This morning, two things happened. A) I realized how full of hatred my lifelong quest for enlightenment has been and how I need to think about what I really do want in the now; which is of myself and not what someone else said. B) I read something in the ACIM text which was beautiful. Yet I knew I was not capable of that thought pattern. But the reading was a tool to unleash a long list of hatreds and grievances which I could give to the Holy Spirit for healing.
“Think but how holy you must be from whom the Voice for God calls lovingly unto your brother, that you may awake in him the Voice that answers to your call! And think how holy he must be when in him sleeps your own salvation, with his freedom joined! However much you wish he be condemned, God is in him. And never will you know He is in you as well while you attack His chosen home, and battle with His host” (26.IX.1).
The brief story of my enlightenment goes like this:
1. Early in my 20s I was reading John of the Cross and his description of the infusion of love and the flight of the soul. I was also reading Thomas Merton and his descriptions of contemplation and what he got out of it. I wanted that personal ecstatic feeling.
2. As I got sober in my mid-20s in AA, I encountered descriptions of the spiritual experience and conscious contact with God. Again, there was the ecstatic release from reality and the ensuing divine wisdom and peace (so I thought). I definitely wanted the escape from reality. I was an emotional basket case.
3. Towards my late 20s, I got involved with some new age spiritual material and followed for a year a man who talked about finding your higher self. I kept going to workshops, doing the meditations and hoping to connect with this higher self. I hoped that I would finally feel loved. I became angry that I never got that feeling and upon discovering my next phase, I quit the meditation.
4. My next phase involved sex and motorcycles. The high point was a hope of love mixed with orgasm. I found a good looking lover and we rode our motorcycles to Madison County Iowa. We commenced to play “The Bridges of Madison County” (a romantic book I had read). The romance was euphoric for a weekend, but we had not the makings of a relationship. In this phase were two other guys I dated for long periods; but I never found that man who would sweep me off my feet, bring me to a castle and I would live safely, in luxury, and in love forever.
5. Then my enlightenment quest got serious because I discovered Zen meditation or Zazen. I began to practice diligently, again hoping for a moment of enlightenment. Zen “sitting” led me to a Christian form of contemplative prayer called Centering Prayer. I found myself back in the same boat as step 1 (above) hoping for the flight of the soul into “contemplation.”
6. Contemplation led to me seeking out a contemplative religious order and attempting to join. I thought that the only way to achieve what I wanted was to live in a monastery and follow a path. I thought that the others ahead of me on the path had found what I was seeking. It turns out not, but I did try to join with every fiber of my being. I practiced “lectio divina,” adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Eucharist, and the Divine Office five times a day. The ecstatic flight of my soul never happened. I became enmeshed in emotional dependency as my daily life began to revolve around the approval of my superiors. I thought mystical union might happen after I made monastic profession, so I practiced people pleasing as much as possible in order to be approved for the mystical marriage. God had other plans for me and I found myself back in the world.
7. As I took up secular life, I felt less than the nuns and was determined to make a spiritual success of myself without the convent and without a guru. I spent hours a day in contemplative sitting. I fasted. I studied spiritual texts from all corners of the globe and prayed with them. I ran ultra long distances because I had read of the spiritual experiences of ultra-marathoners. I wanted to hear an intuitive voice from within who could solve my problems and be the end of the quest.
8. After a few years, I discovered A Course in Miracles and this became my primary spiritual text. I no longer want enlightenment as an ecstatic escape. I no longer want enlightenment in order to be as good as famous authors or vowed religious. I no longer want enlightenment because I am jealous. I no longer want enlightenment so I know God loves me. Enlightenment is not my focus. I want to sort through my hate and have the Holy Spirit heal it; in other words, be free of ego. I want to honestly perceive Christ in my brother; in other words, be free of ego.
God has given me a gift. I want to remember Him and accept His gift in this life. In the mean time, I seem to need to wade through a mountain of negativity. I return several times a day to the contemplative silence and listen to the Voice. IT helps me return to the present where peace is and all my grievances are seen for delusions which can be denied. Realizing my grievances are ego lies, I am able to see glimmers of holiness in my brothers. I can grasp this holy reality for at least awhile. Without going to the silence, I would forget it entirely.
I can’t explain to you why I don’t just instantly accept the Holy Spirit’s healing and never return to my ego hate. I face this insanity in myself and bring it out to the Holy Spirit. Evolved or not, this is where I am at.