Thomas Keating (1923-2018)
“God is Already Here”
From the December 2015 Contemplative Outreach Newsletter
We used to think that time and space were limited. But now we know the galaxies are going beyond space as we know it and are going away so fast that in another generation, we are told, their light will no longer be seen by planet earth. They are traveling faster than light, and will soon get so far away that their light can never again get back to us.
So take a good look at the sky. It’s our last chance to see the oldest galaxies. Where are they going?
We don’t know. The realization that we know very little about the universe grows as we experience the presence of God everywhere. When we see God everywhere, we don’t care about knowledge. That divine presence enables us to forget ourselves and enter into collaboration with the creation of the universe. Apparently we have been given an enormous capacity to affect it. We are accountable for everyone else in the human family and for all living things. For all practical purposes, how we treat other people is what we are doing to ourselves.
God is already here. Hence, to search for God at a certain point in our spiritual evolution is a mistake. It is no longer the proper time for that kind of effort. The most productive effort is to accept the endless humiliations of the false self. The spiritual journey is not a career, but a succession of “diminutions of self,” as Teilhard de Chardin put it [Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, scientist, paleontologist, theologian, philosopher and teacher.] This has nothing to do with the neurosis of a low self-image. It is simply the fact that we are completely dependent on the love of God. We are always in the arms of the beloved, whatever we may feel or think.
A new asceticism for people of good will might be the practice of goodness; that is, just being good to everybody. It presupposes the immense evolutionary process from matter in its most primitive form to the transformation of developing human intelligence and freedom into the divine life itself. God, out of his infinite mercy, made himself equal to us in the Incarnation by identifying with the human condition. God makes us equal to him by transforming us into his own unconditional love.
What maintains our growth on the spiritual journey are not ideas but insight. Such are the inspirations of the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit. In prayer, not thinking but being is the primary practice. Thinking about ourselves or the ups and downs of the present moment is not it.
Doing out of the sense of being lived in by God is getting close.
“Notes from a Deep Conversation”
From the June 2015 Contemplative Outreach Newsletter
Without thinking or feeling some emotion, there is just awareness. There is then no desire for bliss, enlightenment, or to teach others. Things are just as they are. In that so-called emptiness, enjoyment arises of itself. As soon as we try to enjoy, the enjoyment ceases. Somehow at the bottom of emptiness (openness, pure awareness), there is enjoyment, fullness, presence and peace.
Bring the same emptiness and freedom to each moment and its content. Then you will be happy even in the midst of suffering. Accept everything and everyone just as they are, where they are, and try to act as lovingly as possible in every situation. Be ready to be led you know not where or when. Hush the discriminating mind dividing things into good or evil for me.
Fear draws us to the center we have created, the ego self. Love expands from our real center, the true self.
One feels the pain of others and must reach out to help them even if they are unaware of their pain. But one is content and at peace because one does not discriminate.
The true self is all the colors of the rainbow and must expand to experience the whole of one’s being. One is not limited to one or two colors. One need not reject any color, but is to become all of them. The more colors one manifests, the more one manifests the Light that we are and the Light that we share. Ladders and stages suggest leaving behind the previous rung or stage. One rather adds new dimensions to what one is, like a tree adds rings.
Take and accept yourself just as you are, where you are. If you are aggressive, lustful, fearful, or shy and passive, notice your feelings before, during, and after each incident, without emotional reactions of blame, shame, anger or discouragement. Let God work with your faults and limitations. Just recognize them and be with them, without trying to correct them directly. As you watch them, feel them, and accept them, their force and exaggeration will gradually diminish.
Keep moving to the center of your being where divine love is and be present to and welcome whatever bodily feeling or emotion that is happening. The present moment contains all we need to be happy. Only our attitudes have to change.
Further Reading & Resources
- Contemplative Outreach
- Father Thomas Keating biography
- Centering Prayer
- Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence – a documentary about Father Keating’s life
- Father Thomas Keating’s Parting Wisdom for a Divided Church and Country, Tim Shriver, America Magazine, November 21, 2018