Thomas Keating is a Cistercian priest, monk and abbot. He founded the Centering Prayer Movement and Contemplative Outreach. He has written many books. This one I am about to quote from is called “Invitation to Love: The Way of Christain Contemplation”
“Contemplative prayer is addressed to the human situation just as it is. It is designed to heal the consequences of the human condition, which is basically the privation of the Divine presence. Everyone suffers from this disease. ……..our fragile egos desperately see other means of shoring up our weaknesses and defending ourselves from the pain of alienation from God and other people….
The disease of the human condition…the false self….when sufficiently frustrated, is ready to trample on the rights and needs of others, as well as our own true good, in order to ease it’s own pain or to obtain what it wants. By dismantling the emotional programs, we are working to heal the disease and not just the symptoms. The emotional programs were developed by repeated acts. With God’s help, they can be taken down by repeated acts.
A good practice for daily life is the deliberate dismantling of our chief emotional programs for happiness. By noticing the emotion that most often disturbs us and the particular event or memory that triggered the emotional upset, we can usually identify the program at its source. If we then deliberately let go of the desire to avoid something or to have something, we have made a choice that undermines the habitual emotional rection….”
For example, in today’s world, shopping and eating are often used to block pain or emotional disturbance. If a person gets upset, they may eat or shop or both to relieve the discomfort or pain. Keating is saying that rather than avoid the pain by using food or purchasing, bring awareness to our pain, sit with it, invite God in and sit quietly in meditative silence. This way we are healing the hurts, not just tempoarily placating them.
Hope this sheds some light on emotional reactions and a way to heal them. Meditation is extremely powerful because when the mind starts thinking and re-hashing events, the practice of the mantra allows us to let go and to not attach emotionally, psychologically to the thoughts and pain that follows. Also, in Christian meditation, sitting in God’s presence implies that you are in the presence of the greatest of all Healers. Most faiths have similar teachings and are quite united on this.
I often think that meditation is one way we may heal the world because, if one person at a time, we learn to let go of negative thoughts and emotions, not ignore them but just note them and watch them float away, not attach to them, then we reduce the reactivity and violence in the world. It ‘s a grand hope, I know.
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