The Holy Spirit is God’s very own life shared with us and residing within us (see John 20:22). When we pray, we are steadfastly refusing to abandon this Presence, this True Self, this place that already knows we are beloved and one with God. But our false “contrived” self is so needy that we must practice living in this presence through conscious choice (“prayer”) at least once, but preferably many times, every day. Contemplative prayer is “our daily bread” that keeps us nourished so we can dare to believe the Gospel, to trust the Divine Indwelling, and to remember our God-given identity. Gradually, we learn how to abide in this spacious place more and more, how to draw our strength, dignity, and solace from this Stable Source. When we live from this place of conscious unity, we are indestructible.
The True Self cannot really be hurt or offended. The false self–our egoic identity–is offended every few minutes. But if we notice when we take offence, and what part of us is offended (always a provisional identity), this will train us to gradually reside more and more in the Big Truth. (Most of John 14-16 circles around this message.) Thomas Keating charts conversion as a series of necessary humiliations to the false self.
In order to fully experience the intrinsic union we already have with God, who is Love, it seems that we need to first be love ourselves in some foundational way. We can only see what we already partly are, which is why I like to call it a mirroring process. Contemplation helps us to rest in this love; as we gradually take on the likeness of love, we will see love over there too. What you see is what you are. That’s why Jesus absolutely commanded us to love. This is necessary for the mirroring process to begin! Our inner state of love is alone able to receive and reflect the ultimate outer Love (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Sometimes people will come up to me and say, “Oh, Richard, you’re so loving!” But I know I’m not–and I know they are! They are seeing themselves in me. Spirit recognizes Spirit. To know the Truth, one must somehow be abiding in that Truth, and the deepest Truth of every human is Love, as we are created in the image and likeness of an infinitely Loving God (Genesis 1:26-27), which Christians call Trinity.
If we are in a state of negativity, what Julian of Norwich calls “contrariness,” we won’t be love or see love. We must watch for this contrariness–we all experience it quite frequently–and nip it in the bud. This contrary self often takes three forms: comparison (common in the female); competition (common in the male); and contrariness or oppositional energy (common in all of us). Our false self is actually relieved and empowered when it has something to oppose. The clearest identifier of untransformed people is that they are living out of oppositional energy, with various forms of comparing or competing, judging and critiquing. As long as we do this, we never have to grow up; we just show how others are wrong or inferior.
The True Self needs none of these games to know who it is. It is a child of God, sharing in God’s own Spirit, and its energy is foundationally positive and generative.