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Seekers of Ultimate Mystery

--by Fr. Thomas Keating (Jan 09, 2012)


Every seeker of Ultimate Mystery has to pass through interior death and rebirth, perhaps many times over.  Our contemporary world desperately needs persons of boundless generosity who dedicate themselves to great ideals and who wish to transform themselves and contribute to the transformation of the world.  A great vision is what gives ordinary daily life its direction and invests it with purpose.

Seekers of Ultimate Mystery have to share in the agony of our time.  Only trust can make this experience transforming for themselves and for others.  As the sense of alienation from Ultimate Mystery, from human values, and from oneself is very deep in our time, so also participation in that experience is bound to be very deep.  It may involve an inner poverty so intense and so complete that no word can describe it, except “death.”  But this spiritual death leads to an inner resurrection of one’s true self that can move not only oneself, but the whole human family in the direction of transformation.  From this perspective, the spiritual journey is the very reverse of selfishness. It is rather the journey to selflessness.

What needs to be emphasized by seekers today is the contemplative dimension of human nature, whether they identify the aim of their search as liberation, transformation, enlightenment, nirvana, divine union or whatever. […] The growth of the contemplative dimension leads to the stable perception of the presence of Ultimate Mystery underlying and accompanying all reality as a kind of fourth dimension to ordinary sense perception.  To dispose oneself for this awareness, one needs a discipline that engages all the faculties and a structure appropriate to one’s life circumstances that can sustain it.

To begin with, one needs to cultivate a practical conviction of the primacy of being over doing.  Our society values what one can do and this becomes the gauge of who one is.  The contemplative dimension of life is an insight into the gift of being human and inspires a profound acceptance and gratitude for that gift. […]

Our culture is at a critical point because so many structures that supported human and religious values have been trampled upon and are disappearing. To find a way to discover Ultimate Mystery in the midst of secular occupations and situations is essential, because for most people today it is the only milieu that they know.  Humanity as a whole needs a breakthrough into the contemplative dimension of life.  The contemplative dimension of life is the heart of the world.  There the human family is already one.  If one goes to one’s own heart, one will find oneself in the heart of everyone else, and everyone else, as well as oneself, in the heart of Ultimate Mystery.

– Fr. Thomas Keating in Contemplative Outreach newsletter, June 2010


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6 Previous Reflections:

 
On Jun 21, 2012 Mizuki wrote:
In order to have a contented and happy life, we have to get through a lot of things. By having somebody besides us make us more motivated. But, what that I should do if there are nobody want to be with and I'm feel lonely. 

On Jan 12, 2012 Dinesh Mehta wrote:

 Audio clip from this week's circle of sharing ...

 

 



On Jan 9, 2012 Ricky wrote:

I just finished watching IAM, the DOC, by Tom Shaydac, for the second time when I read this passage.  I would suggest this is a film that needs to be seen by many more people than have seen his earlier works, such as Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura-Pet Detective.  In this documentary he reveals that while he is mindlessly going through his life and being steeped in the extremely competitive nature of Hollywood, he suffers a significant trauma, and through the rehabilitation process, ‘wakes up’ and begins to ask the big questions, similar to those listed in the highlighted paragraph at the end of the reading.  He interviews many scientists, religious figures, and writers and thinkers of our time, and the answer begins to evolve for him.  We are hardwired to be cooperative, not competitive.  We are hardwired to love exponentially, not to hate.  We are hardwired to share and think of what’s best for everyone and e  See full.

I just finished watching IAM, the DOC, by Tom Shaydac, for the second time when I read this passage.  I would suggest this is a film that needs to be seen by many more people than have seen his earlier works, such as Bruce Almighty, Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor, Ace Ventura-Pet Detective.  In this documentary he reveals that while he is mindlessly going through his life and being steeped in the extremely competitive nature of Hollywood, he suffers a significant trauma, and through the rehabilitation process, ‘wakes up’ and begins to ask the big questions, similar to those listed in the highlighted paragraph at the end of the reading.  He interviews many scientists, religious figures, and writers and thinkers of our time, and the answer begins to evolve for him.  We are hardwired to be cooperative, not competitive.  We are hardwired to love exponentially, not to hate.  We are hardwired to share and think of what’s best for everyone and everything, not be dominant and exploitative.  Through this journey, he finds the answer of the deep connection and interconnection our life here represents, and how significant we each are in our ability to affect the world around us and within us.  Our very existence here is part of a dance, a celebration, a responsibility, and a continued mystery.

The young culture I live in consistently contradicts the conviction of cultivating being over doing, and this message is deeply engrained in the lives of the students I teach.  The students feel pressure about good grades, and miss out on the evolution of the learning process.  They are expected to be the best in the class or in the school to go on to college and beyond, to be a doctor, lawyer, or CEO, all the while enduring the message that who they really are is never good enough.  They are expected to know what they want to ‘do’ with the rest of their lives early upon entering school.  There is implied a real need to claw your way to the top by whatever means necessary, and if you don’t reach the top, you have failed in some way.  What they have been led to believe by current society is that their value is measured by the doing.  In fact, most students I meet are completely disconnected to the ultimate mystery, and the ones who arrive in my yoga classes are now suicidal, depressed, anxious, disillusioned, frustrated, hurting, and desperately seeking the answers that deep down they have a sixth sense about; and they continue to endure being bombarded by mixed messages.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important to have focus.  But the focus I help students connect to has to do with being the best they can be, even when that best shifts from moment to moment.  When students begin to ease up, they begin to experience joy.  We discuss the Toltec ideals of being impeccable with your word, not making any assumptions, not taking things personally, and always doing your best, which changes.  We also focus on being the change we wish to see, and they are reminded every day that they can have enormous affect on the world around them just by how they think, how they care about others, and how they cooperate.

If I can make a plea to any adult reading this, I implore you to help guide the little ones around you to begin to connect to the ultimate mystery, to listen to the whispering of their deepest inner self, to act on what they know to be true and to help them release the strangled hold society has on them that their worth is wrapped up in the title they hope to achieve.  Please remind them with your actions and your words that they are exquisite just the way they are.  They will respond, I promise.

 

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On Jan 6, 2012 Edit Lak wrote:

Okay.. Interesting.. “To transform oneself is the contribution to transforming the world”?.. For me this entire passage is a mystery, not only in words so much, even-though it does play on words, but more-so of the conceptual  understandings .. Every paragraph is a debate waiting to happen...  Okay, so let’s go with it.. I would think  to cultivate conviction is to plant ‘hope’ and from that being of hope comes the conviction of ‘self’ as to the growing of self, and that bloom of self, the true-self just does  and does so naturally because it genuinely wants to, without any prodding or questions needed.. The true-self ‘real spirit’ just does, it doesn’t need to be a part of a fold to be accepted, because it already is accepted by own self, that’s the comfort...  So to cultivate anything ‘healthy’ and real - is to grow self first.. One would think!!!..  Self has no master, it does  See full.

Okay.. Interesting.. “To transform oneself is the contribution to transforming the world”?.. For me this entire passage is a mystery, not only in words so much, even-though it does play on words, but more-so of the conceptual  understandings .. Every paragraph is a debate waiting to happen... 

Okay, so let’s go with it.. I would think  to cultivate conviction is to plant ‘hope’ and from that being of hope comes the conviction of ‘self’ as to the growing of self, and that bloom of self, the true-self just does  and does so naturally because it genuinely wants to, without any prodding or questions needed.. The true-self ‘real spirit’ just does, it doesn’t need to be a part of a fold to be accepted, because it already is accepted by own self, that’s the comfort...  So to cultivate anything ‘healthy’ and real - is to grow self first.. One would think!!!..  Self has no master, it doesn’t need it as self is endless in growing and doing and doesn’t need to be told...

Hmmm, Life, wow..As I get older and work through my own ignorance’s, my own egoness, my own illnesses, these are the things that partly unfolding some mysteries, through that and the interconnection to other people.  I ‘hope’ I am becoming my true self, as I shed my skin that I don’t buy into any political arena’s, just for the sake of it, other than wanting the greater good of all. I don’t just accept something because someone pretty or handsome has said it, because I want the better good for all,  I don’t  just accept some so called wise words because it was said, because I want the better good for all in ‘life’ . But one thing I do know is when the mystery is solved, everyone will have the better/greater good for all..  Until then, I will just keep on trying and trying to ‘be’ what I can be, and help, and if I fail at things then I’ll just keep on trying some more .. That is the dimensions of my past and future contemplations – to just try and be me -faults and all.... 

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On Jan 6, 2012 Shariq wrote:

Thank you for sharing this inspiring clarity from Fr. Keating, it conveys beautifully what is felt deeply and yet quite difficult to express in words. Indeed, human family is already one, as it is so spiritually as well as genetically: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0603/feature2/images/mp_download.2.pdf. Perhaps, path to awareness of our being one family, now more than ever, may lie in our being able to bring together what we can seek spiritually with what we can seek empirically. This is how I envision Gandhiji may have pursued his own inner journey as a scholar-practitioner of his Swagyanic truth. He had inquired and reflected on spirituality, literature, politics, economy and science, among the areas that he was drawn to, and then to have synthesized these into practices of his own by creating his life journey as an experiment with truth to cultivate the promise of his practices to realize his potential for serving others with what he was uniquely blessed with. The fact that  See full.

Thank you for sharing this inspiring clarity from Fr. Keating, it conveys beautifully what is felt deeply and yet quite difficult to express in words. Indeed, human family is already one, as it is so spiritually as well as genetically: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0603/feature2/images/mp_download.2.pdf. Perhaps, path to awareness of our being one family, now more than ever, may lie in our being able to bring together what we can seek spiritually with what we can seek empirically. This is how I envision Gandhiji may have pursued his own inner journey as a scholar-practitioner of his Swagyanic truth. He had inquired and reflected on spirituality, literature, politics, economy and science, among the areas that he was drawn to, and then to have synthesized these into practices of his own by creating his life journey as an experiment with truth to cultivate the promise of his practices to realize his potential for serving others with what he was uniquely blessed with. The fact that the essence of Gandhiji’s practices bring together reason with contemplation in seeking truth is not new though it remains largly under explored horizon of human potential that may possibly hold the ultimate gifts to the seekers of ultimate mystery!  Gandhiji’s holistic inquiries into truth included his awareness of implicit sense of beauty in truth as well, as he said in response to the question - Is there truth in a sunset or a crescent moon that shines amid the stars at night?:  Indeed, these beauties are truthful, inasmuch as they make me think of the Creator at the back of them. How else could these be beautiful, but for the Truth that is in the center of creation? When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. I try to see Him and His mercies in all these creations. But even the sunsets and sunrises would be mere hindrances if they did not help me to think of the soul is a delusion and a snare; even like the body, which often does hinder you in the path of salvation.” [Source: Teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, edited by Jag Parvesh Chander, 1945, p. 29]

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On Jan 6, 2012 Conrad wrote:

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  Keating is truly wonderful. Elsewhere he stated: "God's first language is silence.  All else is a poor translation."I find his notion of contemplation to mean awareness of one's present experience.  I've heard of people who are so presently aware that they are "no one, going nowhere."  That has the same meaning as being at one with everything.I personally have difficulties with differences.especially a difference between being and becoming since me and everything else changes so rapidly.  Because of very rapid change, I barely know anything other than that I am presently calm and peaceful with my limited awareness.  My limited awareness gives me great gratitude for being alive. I cultivate a limited awareness through meditation moving towards the being of anything I do or don't too can be a meditation. the ultimate mystery for me is awe-inspiring which generates wonder.  All it also gives me  See full.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond.  Keating is truly wonderful. Elsewhere he stated: "God's first language is silence.  All else is a poor translation."

I find his notion of contemplation to mean awareness of one's present experience.  I've heard of people who are so presently aware that they are "no one, going nowhere."  That has the same meaning as being at one with everything.

I personally have difficulties with differences.especially a difference between being and becoming since me and everything else changes so rapidly.  Because of very rapid change, I barely know anything other than that I am presently calm and peaceful with my limited awareness.  My limited awareness gives me great gratitude for being alive. I cultivate a limited awareness through meditation moving towards the being of anything I do or don't too can be a meditation. the ultimate mystery for me is awe-inspiring which generates wonder.  All it also gives me a warm feeling.  The noticing that this is it is helpful also noticing that it is helpful to forgive yourself again, and again, and again.Warm and kind regards to everyone.

 

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