Father Thomas Keating, who created Centering Prayer, has written about the similarities between human consciousness and a river. As we enter into contemplation or contemplative prayer, our consciousness does not cease–instead it is a flowing river. Thoughts will come down the river in the shape of boats. If we are sitting on the side of our mental river and watching the water flow, inevitably boats will pass. We may even see fleets of boats pass by, and it can distract our river watching or our desire to spiral in and down into our heartspace. What I have noticed in my own jaunts with river watching, is that the same things reemerge.
I wrote about it in my journal this weekend while on retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit,
I think it is interesting that as I get close to Love and closer still to Silence, judgment steps in my path. As I seek to center and to open the gates of awareness and settling into what is–judgment arises. He is cruel, ugly, and wears a black trench coat. In short, he is a smokey thug. I think judgment is closely related to fear–they may even be cousins, ugly, thuggy cousins. I have not been able to banish judgment as of late, so I take him in his greasy coat, I spray paint him red, I origami-fold him into a boat, and I send him on down the river. I like to paint him red so that when he comes along again, I can recognize him and wave from my perch on the water’s edge.
I am able to release judgment into the great beyond because it is not me that is judging others while attempting to dive into the river. Instead, it is judgment coming along as a distraction. I pay him no heed. I have gotten better at waving and noticing. I have found grace in the noticing. I do not allow judgment to transfer his line of thought into my heart while I am seeking God’s.
What a wonderful release to sitting in silence and seeking God through contemplative prayer. I am not responsible for judgment, but I can paint him a pretty color…
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