A Riverbed of Mercy

For Father Richard, emotional sobriety is found when we experience life from our True Self: 

There is something in us that is not touched by coming and going, by up and down, by for or against, by totally right or totally wrong. This part of us is patient with both goodness and evil, exactly as God is; it does not rush to judgment or demand closure now. Rather, it stands vigilant and patient in the tragic gap that almost every moment offers.

God-in-us is a riverbed of mercy that underlies all the flotsam and jetsam that flows over it and soon passes away. Vast, silent, restful, and resourceful, it receives and also releases all these comings and goings. It is awareness itself (as opposed to judgment), and awareness is not the same as “thinking.” It refuses to be pulled into emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation.

St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1682) writes, “Always visualize [the] soul as vast, spacious, and plentiful . . . The sun at the center of this place radiates to every part. . . . God has given [it] such dignity.” [1] This is your soul. This is God-in-you. This is your True Self.  

A person who lives freely from the True Self is present to life and the full range of emotions. Father Richard’s good friend, Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson, writes of the importance of presence: 

For me, presence is a grace offered in each moment. It allows whatever I am feeling to be transmuted into something useful, for myself, for the situation I may be in, and perhaps for some greater good. . . .

Most of my spiritual journey has been about learning how to be present and, from that grounding in presence, learning how to allow love to be what moves me. . . . Presence seems to be something received, that comes to us through a kind of willingness more than through some forceful effort. We come to understand that our will does not operate quite as we might imagine. There is an element of grace, of something miraculous arising in us which gives us the capacity to be awake to our experience.

This is hard enough when conditions are favorable—when we are relaxed and not particularly stressed about anything. However, when powerful emotions arise, it is generally much more difficult to find a ground in us that can be compassionately awake with what we are feeling. . . .

In this sense, we naturally come to understand the importance of practices—contemplation, meditation, and prayer—as methods to cultivate in ourselves a capacity to be with larger emotions and bigger triggers in our lives. As I often tell my students, “Practice when it is easy and it will be there for you when it is hard.” [2]

[1] Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, First Dwelling, chap. 2, trans. Mirabai Starr (New York: Riverhead Books, 2004), 45. 

[2] Russ Hudson, “The Role of Anger in Spiritual Work,” Oneing 6, no.1, Anger(Spring 2018): 70, 71. Available in print or PDF download

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2013), 23.

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