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Monday June 17 – The Essence of Contemplative Life
Small is the gate
and narrow the road
that leads to life.
- Matthew 7: 14
In this Spiritual Journey program, we are learning that there is not a prayer life and a regular life. There is only one life, the contemplative life, in which prayer becomes life and life becomes prayer. 

In today's video, Fr. Thomas says, "The chief act in contemplative prayer is the consent of the will to God's presence and the surrender of ourselves." So too in our Work on ourselves, we engage with this two-part practice.
Consent: In the Work of Inner Christianity we practice aligning our will to what is higher (Self-remembering). The Work idea of "will" is upended from our ordinary notions of it. Instead of a disposition of force and control to get our way (willfulness), Work Will engenders willingness and active receptivity.
"Our ordinary concept of Will is a set jaw, a stern resolve and so on. Actually, it is a new emotion, a new insight, very quiet and without violence. [Will] is like seeing the solution to a mathematical problem. … It unites separate things, it arranges in right order, and so creates something new. It contains the idea of new possibilities. … It has to do with … a certain kind of active patience towards the … unsolved situation. … G. once said that 'patience is the Mother of Will.' … Things apparently diverse can be brought into some unity of meaning. It is like asking and waiting."
- Commentaries, "Commentary on Will," July 22, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 480
Surrender of ourselves: Fr. Thomas suggests that all that has to be done is to not do "the things that are separating us from the sense of God's presence." The Work helps us; we are able to let go of old beliefs, attitudes and behaviors by holding them up to the light of self-observation and coming to understand that they are not "I."
"Will in the Work-sense … depends on getting under influences higher than oneself. Will is not self-will. … [B]efore you can have Will in a real sense, you must feel your own nothingness — that is, the nothingness of your own personal and vanity-aims. [Mr. O.] was asked: 'How can you feel your own nothingness?' He said: 'Apart from many other things, there is one way: Like what you dislike.' Is it not strange that Real Will depends on going in a direction that has nothing to do with one's own wishes?"
- Commentaries, "Commentary on Will," July 22, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 480
We may dislike making mistakes, being wrong, being seen as flawed. Yet in the Work we tell on ourselves — we reveal to our friends in the Work the parts of ourselves that do not wish to be seen in order that we may know that these "I's" are not the fullness of our true identity. Through the progressive action of the Work and Centering Prayer, we are graced with, as Fr. Thomas says, "an invincible conviction" of God's presence and love. We become free to risk showing up just as we are — free to live fully and unreservedly into our lives — the lives that we were born to live.
Fr. Thomas' account of the two nuns with very different experience of contemplative prayer is illustrative to those of us in the Work who might be tempted to compare ourselves to others. In the contemplative life, judgments begin to relax as we begin to trust the inherent perfection of God's unfolding in ourselves, in others, and in all creation.
A Meditation
"When we truly love something and, thereby, become one with it, it is because we see its intrinsic perfection. In fact, its 'faults' are part and parcel of its perfection, for all that we see in the universe is in the process of becoming. In that process, its perfect evolution is part of that perfection. Thus the half-unfolded flower is not an imperfect flower that needs defense. On the contrary, its blossoming is proceeding with precise perfection according to the laws of the universe. Likewise, each and every individual on the planet is unfolding, growing, learning, and reflecting that same perfection." 
- David R. Hawkins, M.D. Ph.D., Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender
To Practice
Video Reflections: View the video excerpt "The Essence of Contemplative Prayer." This excerpt is about 20 minutes in length. You will find the video and transcript here.
Examen: Fr. Thomas emphasizes that it is "commitment to the journey and fidelity to the practice" that lead to pure faith — the conviction that this particular contemplative life is unfolding in perfection. What are your struggles when it comes to faithfulness to the practice of Centering Prayer and the Work? How can the understanding and cultivation of Work Will come to meet you in these struggles?
Resources for Further Study:
  • Commentaries, "Commentary on Will," July 22, 1944, Vol. 2, p. 480 and in The Mark, "The New Will," by Maurice Nicoll.
  • Chapter 20 "The Essence of Centering Prayer," and 21 "A Pure Faith" from Invitation to Love, Chapter 19 in older editions.
  • An archive of previous emails may be found here
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