Questions of Suffering, the ego, surrender and the contemplative mind.

Suffering is part of life. Carl Jung said that many problems are unsolvable, so they are simply outgrown.

I think that is true of our COVID problem. We have now outgrown it after 12 months of trying to solve it. As we mature we hope we see problems as they are, and not how we FEEL they are. We grow and mature if we surrender to God. The problem is that complete surrender is against our human nature. It flights or fights. It’s in survival mode, not resignation. I think we have learnt a little about how to resign to the lockdown. An incentive was the fact that if we breached the rules hefty fines would ensue. We didn’t want to be locked down, we cried, we prayed, we complained we got angry but eventually, we resigned ourselves to the enviable and learnt to live like monks.

Modern contemplative, Richard Rhor states that people form their identity in the first half of life by distinguishing themselves from others, not needing to know who you are, but an attempt to say who you’re not.

Richard points out that we create an image like a container, we grow in it, defend, and argue why it’s the best and many of us get stuck there. It’s a private salvation container that must fall apart id we are to become self ware- it’s called the cross. Usually when we are in the second  half of life, we have the time, space and maturity, to become more self-aware.

If you’re not taught to endure suffering, failures, losses when young one may never learn it. Those who don’t learn it check out of life, addictions etc, etc. We need to accept that Suffering is part of life. Yet our culture does not embrace that, we rail against it. We develop a worldview that is primarily for our comfort. We believe something is desperately wrong if we suffer in some way. However, Gods’ way is not ours as we read……

Philippians 3:10 King James Version (KJV) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.

Developing a  contemplative mind is an absolute assault on the worldview that culture imposes upon us. Because it is a different mind. contemplative mind  considers all possibilities, ready to make changes and to admit failures.

The failure of liberalism is trying to critique the mind, this is what is called the calculative mind. The Bible calls it the mind of the flesh. The apostle Paul calls it the old man. It is the egocentric mind that interprets everything in the sense of personal advantage. Usually with short-term effect. It says what’s in it for me, how would this situation be to my advantage what can I get out of it.

If you read everything from that small worldview, and read everything methodically, I don’t think you going to see things in any new way. You may move along with the political spectrum from left to right to write and to left. But Jesus teaches us a different way of seeing, a different perspective, a different advantage point, and a different starting point. Einstein said that the problem cannot be solved by the same mind/ or consciousness that caused it. It reads everything in terms of personal advantage and cause and effect.

The word contemplation became popular through the works of Thomas Merton which is reasonably recent. In the fifth 50s and 60s. A lot of people use the word meditation which is the same thing. The word that most Christians are familiar with is the word prayer. 

But the word prayer has a different connotation to us here in the West than in the East where it originated from. In the West, prayer became something functional, something that produced an effect. It became – what’s in it for me! This is due to the idea that the ego is the centre of their universe. For example-

  • It’s all about me.
  • If I get offended I’ll sue somebody.
  • If someone hurts me I’ll take revenge.
  • If I don’t get what I want only to react in some way.
  • If I can’t resolve the conflict ill just cut the people off.
  • If something, someone has something that I want; then I go out and get myself in debt to better it.

Western culture has taught us that – it’s All about me the egocentric me. Sadly, this attitude has overlapped onto Christianity in a huge way. Individualism rules and reigns in Christianity in the West. That’s why a lot of people could not cope with lock down and bulked at the rules. They wanted to do things their way, to benefit them. They did not think of the others they could unwittingly pass the virus to.

But this is not what Jesus intended and it’s certainly not what he taught. As soon as you make prayer an exercise to get something it puts you in charge. However, Jesus does say ask and it will be given. We must be aware that this is from a humble and obedient submissive attitude towards Jesus Christ in the first place. This is nothing new it’s the same overall old mind or consciousness how can I get God to do what I want him to do.

That’s how most people approach prayer is about egocentric consciousness, I will try to get what I want to get from God. It is the way of the world; it is worldly values seat in our culture and has always been there but just manifests itself according to popular culture at the time. In this way instead of being a transformed mind or consciousness, we remain egocentric and try to manipulate God and everyone else and we think we did okay.

That’s why Christianity is in dire straits today because it’s not transforming people as the Bible clearly states that it should and does. It’s just giving people a form of religiosity to be in charge and control, it still the ego/natural/fleshly/false self.

And what Jesus always talked about was the transformed self (John 3). The apostle Paul uses that wonderful phrase it’s no longer either their lives Christ lives in me. It’s a different I, it’s a different sense of self. So, saying it’s not my ego-self or my false self that lives but Christ who lives in my true self. It is not my egocentric self that lives Christ that lives within my true redeemed self. As long as you’re operating from the egocentric will, you’ll never be free, and meditation/ contemplation would be almost impossible to maintain.

The ego-self can be pious, religious, be theologically sound, may even be a church leader in some way, but never totally free because operating in the small self. The result? Religion has always performed two very important but two very different functions.

It is used to create meaning the separate self. It offers mixed tales stories narratives truths, Rituals and revivals used together, helps the separate self to have meaning and to endure, slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ And that’s okay that’s how you get started and as a psychologist say you’ve got to have an ego to be able to get rid of one. You’ve got to have the self to move beyond the self.

But most religions stop at that first function simply giving you a positive self-image. And Christians rarely move beyond this first stage and it’s perhaps they don’t think there’s anything else beyond it. This satisfied with the fact there are a religious personal moral person or dedicated person with values upright good standing in a community. And most people do not go beyond that. But this kind of religion does not raise or transform the consciousness of the person it does not deliver true freedom where one can let go and let God. This type of religion does not transform or fully satisfy the true self, it fortifies the self-comforts the self and even deceives this true self into thinking you are okay – I’m okay.

Prayer Changes You

Whereas underneath

there is this innate satisfaction and unrest and in a yearning something more and not knowing what it is. Christianity is the best thing in the world and the worst in the world. Why? Religious often people think they are right, and they start from that vantage point. And when one thinks one is right their narrow-minded intolerant of others and egocentric.

With Egocentric people its difficult to get to know them because the ego is so sure that they are right and I will protect that at any cost, even the cost of hurting others and that’s where spiritual abuse occurs and that why I wrote a Master of Art thesis on that subject as it’s so common in the churches- but that’s another subject.

Rhor continues to say if the egocentric self is warm and fed and think it is right then they are convinced that they saved. But what does save mean?

Most people think that being saved is a ticket to heaven. Something that is not here now but will come one day. It’s always in the future. It’s by the sweet by and by. If I am religious enough, good enough, say the sinner’s prayer, and I do the right thing then I’ll get to heaven and that means that I’ll be saved. Does it?

This point of view comes from a punishment and reward system. If I play the game right I will be rewarded. Is about the works that I can do, and God will be pleased, and I’ll get into heaven. And that point of view has absolutely nothing to do with transformation, absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. This, unfortunately, is most Christians point of view, but Jesus had something completely different in his mind when he spoke to Nicodemus and we read in John chapter 3. Please turn to it and read the whole chapter. By faith we are saved it’s not a work of ourselves. Through contemplative prayer/meditation, we come into fellowship with God and not in fellowship with own ego. We learn to be patent, to wait upon the Lord to renew our strength and then we will mount up with wings of Eagles and then and only then will we run and not be weary and then only then will walk and not be faint. So, waiting upon the Lord, confessing our sins and repenting (turning away from sin) is the basis of our contemplation. God is in the business of transforming you because He loves you. It starts with the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus. Mindful contemplation is a life’s style will help with this and therefore this website exists.

 Romans 12:2 New International Version

Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing, and perfect will.

I want to share with you how and why I started to do mindful journaling in this post. This is not the whole story but a snippet from my new book about Holistic Living, which features Mindfulness and issues around mental health. I am in the process of writing it. It will be published and made available to you later in the year – so keep a lookout for that! If you struggle to make self-care a priority or do not know how to start your mindfulness journey, check out my course, which will be available in the Summer of 2021- subscribe free to this blog to get updates on this! Regardless of where you are on your journey, I hope you will find something useful here- if so, please let me know down in the comments.

I am in the process of writing my new book about Holistic Living, which features Mindfulness and issues around mental health. It will be published and made available to you later in the year – so keep a lookout for that! If you struggle to make self-care a priority or do not know how to start your mindfulness journey, check out my new course, which will be available in the Summer of 2021- subscribe free to this blog to get updates on this!

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Paula Rose Parish

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