Fr. Thomas Keating, the Trappist monk, said “Discernment is a process of letting go of what we are not.”
“Discernment” is yet another word, similar in meaning to enlightenment, awakening, salvation.
All of these words point to the process of “letting go,” as Keating puts it, “of what we are not.”
What are we not?
You are not your thoughts. Which is why you and I must make it our daily practice to be the observer of our thoughts…what is called in the East the “witnessing presence.”
Does this seem hard to understand?
Perhaps this will help. When I speak of observing the mind, the image that comes to my mind is that of a loving adult who is watching the antics of a grandchild as he or she is playing on the family room floor.
Think of your thoughts as that of the little child. The mind as the family room floor. And, you, the deeper you or, if you prefer, the higher self within you, as the adult observing the dance of thought on the floor of your mind.
Why should you remind yourself that you are not your mind…your thoughts?
So that the mind will not take you over. Most of life’s happiness, or lack of it, takes place between your two ears. That is, inside the head. Which is why President Abraham Lincoln purportedly said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Separating yourself from your thoughts is a process that will take a lifetime to perfect. Which is why Saint Paul said, “Think on these things” (Phil. 4). Which is also why Jesus said, “…out of the mouth, the heart speaks” (Lk 6:45).
I thought about this yesterday when, in response to the Supreme Court’s action of striking down the “Defense of Marriage Act” thus opening the door to the recognition of “same sex” marriage, the Representative from our state of Kentucky, commented that this action takes us a step closer to the “union of humans and animals.”
What is in someone’s mind who would liken the Supreme Court’s decision to the “union of humans and animals?”
Do you wish to be “saved,” as I was asked often by the religious people in my childhood? They meant by this, “Do you want to get your sins forgiven and so go to heaven when you die?”
I now gratefully understand that salvation is so much more than this limited view of salvation. Or, enlightenment. It is, among other things, freedom from the prison of one’s mind. Freedom from the defilement of one’s life by what goes on inside the head, according to Jesus.
You are not your mind.
You are not your body either.
When you understand this, you can accept the changes you see as your body ages…and marches…toward death. Until you understand it, you are lost, as is our culture, in trying desperately, but unconsciously, to preserve the body. You are lost in your love of it…what others think of it…you pamper it, fret over it, think more highly of it than you ought, even despise it.
Which is the case with so much of the shallow Christianity in our world. The Jimmy Swaggart’s, Kenneth Copeland’s, and a host of other Christians have convinced many that, when the New Testament speaks of “flesh” it is referring to your body and that your body should be despised and rejected, as if there is something sinful or wrong with it.
This is so unfortunate. There is nothing wrong with your body. There is everything wrong, however, with your attachment to it, as well as your attitude of revulsion toward it. Which is just a back door way of remaining attached to the body.
Pay attention to your body. Listen to your body. It is one of the portals into the Divine Presence. God speaks to you through the intelligence within the human body…through the voice one hears inside the body. And, sometimes, through the body.
Just do not be attached to the body.
It is not who you are. It is instead your temporary dwelling.
My house at 3105 Meadowlark is not my home. The house is the temporary dwelling place wherein I, and my family, experience home.
Separate yourself from your body. That is, take care of it…listen to it…learn from it…enter into Presence through it but do not despise it…do not worship it. Do not, as so many mistakenly do, remain so attached to it that you’ll spend thousands of dollars trying to dress it up, stretch out its wrinkles, pull it, remove fat from it, and all in the ego-driven attempt to hide the reality of death from yourself.
Know, my friend, that your salvation, your enlightenment, your spiritual awakening is, as Thomas Keating reminded us, “the process of letting go.”
Let go today. Let go of your worries. Let go of your fears. Let go of your anxieties…your depressive thoughts…your hurts…even your hopes.
Let go of everything. Attachments only hinder your progress.
And, oh, by the way, what does it mean to “let go?”
It means to BE a person of faith. Faith isn’t holding on to “beliefs.”
Your beliefs are just another attachment.
Faith is letting go.
Letting everything go.
When you let go of everything, you make the paradoxical discovery, you have everything.
I cannot explain this. All I can do is invite you to see for yourself.
You, my friend, will have to decide whether you will let go.