Matt Sholler asked me to write a bit about the connection between the emotional sobriety I wrote about last time, and our ongoing message of contemplation. That is easy to do.
You see, contemplation is not first of all about being religious, introverted, or pious—it is about being emotionally and mentally honest! Contemplation is an alternative consciousness that refuses to IDENTIFY WITH or FEED what are only passing shows. It is the absolute opposite of addiction, consumerism, or any egoic consciousness.
Egoic consciousness is the one we all normally operate with, until we are told there is something else! Every culture teaches egoic consciousness, but just in different ways. At that level it is all about me, my preferences, my choices, my needs, my desires, and me and my group as the central reference point. Most people do not even know there is another way of thinking or feeling. It was religion’s job to tell them about a different kind of “software,” and the original word for it was simply prayer. But even the concept and practice of prayer became captive to the voracious needs of the ego. Even prayer became a way to get God to do what we wanted. You know that is true!
So a lot of us started using the word contemplation so people might know we are talking about a totally different operating system, different software where the private self is not the center of attention and interpretation. This is the “grain of wheat” that Jesus says must die “or it remains just a grain of wheat.” But if it dies, “it bears much fruit”! (John 12:24). Mature and contemplative religion has always known that we need a whole new operating system, which Paul called “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16) or a “spiritual revolution of the mind” (Ephesians 4:23).
Only with this new mind can we also develop a new heart, too, and a new emotional response to the moment. When it is not all about me, as we learned on our initiation day (“YOUR LIFE IS NOT ABOUT YOU!”), we can see from a new, much deeper, and broader set of eyes. Very soon our responses are much less knee-jerk, predictable, and self-centered. Only contemplative prayer touches the deep unconscious, where all of our real hurts, motivations, and deepest visions lie. Without it, we have what is even worse—religious egoic consciousness, which is even more defensive and offensive than usual! Now it has God on its side and is surely what Jesus means by the unforgiveable “sin against the Holy Spirit.” It cannot be forgiven because this small self would never imagine it needs forgiveness. It is smug and self-satisfied.
Brothers, if we are to be elders, we need to learn and practice this new mind or there will be no lasting initiation, no real change, no authentic encounter with ourselves, God, or anybody else. Find your own practice, and learn a new mind. Contemplation really is the change that changes everything.