These things I have spoken to you,
that my joy might remain in you,
and that your joy might be complete.
- John 15:11
As we have seen, the happiness referred to in the Beatitudes is not an every-day emotion — one that is paired with an opposite of sadness, anger, loneliness, or any other negative emotion. True happiness — the happiness that passes understanding — has no opposite. It is God's love, wisdom, mercy and peace that is always present within us and permeating throughout the inevitable difficulties of life, such as illness, unemployment, troubled relationships, alienation from family and loss of loved ones. It may be thought of as an underlying rightness or completeness to all things.
Since we're often not aware of this true happiness, the question arises: How do we access this ever-present joy of God? In today's video, Fr. Thomas uses the familiar language of our external senses to remind us that through the awakening and development of spiritual attentiveness, our internal senses become more and more attuned to the Spirit in all of life. No matter what is happening, we begin to smell, see, hear, touch and taste God's presence and action within our hearts, our lives and all creation.
Some of the practices of the Work of Inner Christianity that help us to develop the spiritual attentiveness that reveals true happiness are:
Attention - Where am I looking? Where is my focus? In the Work, attention is primary. Some examples: In order to increase consciousness, we must read and take in new impressions regarding the Work (Work on the side of Knowledge). As we look outward, we learn to simultaneously look inward to observe our inner life with objectivity and neutrality. Perhaps most important is Self-remembering — choosing by whatever means possible to return our attention to what is higher.
Conscious Suffering - Keeping our attention on what is higher does not mean we deny or repress uncomfortable emotions. On the contrary, when an outward event triggers powerful sensations, negative emotions and destructive thoughts, it is a signal that the time has come for something long buried to be seen, felt and offered up for healing. Now is the time to breathe and fully feel the emotions and sensations, non-identify with the accompanying thoughts (which are usually old stories) and practice Self-remembering. We do not run; we do not fight; instead, with God, we stand and bear what is arising. Through conscious suffering, we surrender to God what has obscured true happiness.
Higher Centers or Real Conscience – These are Work terms for the divine influences that are always with us, but are imperceptible, unless we have "eyes to see and ears to hear" with what the Work calls, "Observing 'I'."
"The development of that inner organ of perception called … Observing 'I' leads to the development of other inner senses that eventually lead us to an increasing sensitiveness to Higher Centers and their continual messages to us. … [W]e are no longer controlled, so to speak, only by outer life as revealed by our five senses but have a source of motive different from the changing scenes of outer life."
- Commentaries, "A Note on External and Internal Attention," Easter, March 27, 1948, Vol. 3, p. 1141
Today's video contains Fr. Thomas' eloquent descriptions of the indescribable, the experiences of deepening intimacy with God as we are drawn upward through the dark nights, through the various levels of consciousness — from attraction to interior silence to the desire to rest in the Presence, to the experience of being embraced by God, when the Spirit pours divine love into our being, to divine union, in which as he writes in Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love, "God arises not only as an irresistible attraction or embrace, but as a unifying presence in our inmost being … When our whole being is rooted in God, we see [God] in everything and everything in [God]."
These spiritual experiences through the spiritual senses open us to an even greater grace, a fruit beyond any experience, of the invincible conviction of always being in God and knowing God in us. Again from Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love, "The divine presence invites us not only to union, but to unity … God, the divine energy, is so powerful and so intimate that no human faculty can perceive it in its purity. But faith receives the grace of divine union by consent. The growing conviction, born of spiritual experience and the purification of contemplative prayer, gradually awakens us to the reality of faith as the narrow way that leads to the pure love of God."
"Do you want to be happy or do you not want to be happy? It's really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear. … Once you decide you want to be unconditionally happy, something inevitably will happen that challenges you. This test of your commitment is exactly what stimulates spiritual growth. … You can be happy having all these things happen to you, and then be happy to die. If you can live this way, your heart will be so open and your Spirit will be so free that you will soar up to the heavens. … This is a beautiful path."
- Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "The Spiritual Senses." This excerpt is about 25 minutes in length. You will find the video and transcript here.
Examen: Reflect on the idea that through conscious suffering can come unconditional peace or happiness — what Fr. Thomas calls the undifferentiated presence of God. How is this being practiced and revealed in your life?
Resources for Further Study:
- Chapters 11 and 12, "The Development of Spiritual Attentiveness" and "The Spiritual Senses" in Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love by Thomas Keating.
- For more on Attention and Higher Centers, read from Commentaries, "A Note on External and Internal Attention," Easter, March 27, 1948, Vol. 3, p. 1141
- An archive of previous emails may be found here.