A New Beginning?

I had an extraordinary experience on my walk yesterday!  I listened to the Thomas Keating audio program called Gift of Life.  It has been sitting neglected on my computer for a few years, and I rediscovered it yesterday under God’s guidance because I was ready (there are no coincidences!).  I listened to it for the first time, and was blown away!

Over the last few years, I’ve had a growing interest in death, which interest I’ve found understandable in light of my age, my awareness of shrinking opportunities in life, my desire to reach some sort of contentment, my desire to lay to rest lingering regrets, and my desire to avoid the experience of pitiful frustration that I infer my father felt at his end.  But all this can be understood as a preoccupation with psychological issues, things to be “resolved” before death, the latter being conceived, implicitly at least, as a kind of barrier or cessation, like the closing of a door. 

The Keating program casts death in a more profound and compelling context — death has the potential to be the culmination of a life-long process of growing closer to God — the deepening of a relationship that is a birthright — the end of a separation that began at or before conception.  One could describe life as a delusional separation from others, the world and God; and the spiritual journey would be a progressive overcoming of this delusion.  We, ideally, grow closer to God, and that process culminates in the triumph of death. Keating was a mystic and he is not stating specific claims about what “happens after death” — even the formulation of that issue has built into it two dubious concepts:  the notion of separable events (“happens”) and the concept of time (“after”).  Both are likely heuristic devices relevant only during the temporary separation called “life”.  These are all my words, grounded in my excitement in response to Keating.  But this represents a profound reframing of what I think I’m doing!

As I contemplate resolutions for the new year that begins in a few hours, I feel driven to honor the integrity of that future me in future time, albeit so close.  This commitment serves as a warning to avoid an imperious specification of narrow commitments that may express more of a desire to control than a desire to enter into the essential humility of surrender to God’s unfolding guidance.

I must commit to surrender to what is worthwhile within the context of Eternity.  But, if I am to be truly growing into the realization of Wisdom I do not yet possess, it would be an act of selfish violence to attempt to impose a specific form on that which will unfold under God’s guidance.  The best I can do, and the essential, is to commit myself to be available — and, to that end, to commit to the avoidance of temptations.  Within the established context of my life and habits, this is a tall order. It is clear to me that the essential requirement is a commitment to certain hygienic mental and spiritual habits conducive to the spirit of spiritual vulnerability that feels essential to allowing God to work — towards me, through me, beyond me.  I remain my own, and God’s, worst enemy.

So, what is hygiene?  There’s a list of monastic labels that seem to invite my exploration and deeper commitment:  integrity, fidelity, assiduity, reverence, compunction.  If I can progress in understanding, practicing and embodying these qualities, I may perhaps, at the very least, open my heart to be available, more so than previously, to the action of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps this sounds pretentious, which is exactly the opposite of what I think I am called to seek.  In the end, and all along the journey, the most essential characteristic is humility.

God, grant me humility and the perseverance needed to work according to Your Will in whatever direction You would have me go.

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