Hand over the controls
To see truth, says Richard Rohr, we have to hand over the controls to our imagination
The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see, but teaches us how to see what we behold. Contemplation allows us to see the truth of things in their wholeness. It is a mental discipline and gift that detaches us, even neurologically, from our addiction to our habitual way of thinking and from our left brain, which likes to think it is in control. We stop believing our little binary mind (which strips things down to two choices and then usually identifies with one of them) and begin to recognise the inadequacy of that limited way of knowing reality. In fact, a binary mind is a recipe for superficiality, if not silliness. Only the contemplative, or the deeply intuitive, can start venturing out into much broader and more open-ended horizons. This is probably why Einstein said that ‘imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’
But how do we learn this contemplative mind, this deep, mysterious, and life-giving way of seeing, of being with, reality? Why does it not come naturally to us? Actually, it does come momentarily, in states of great love and great suffering, but such wide-eyed seeing normally does not last. We return quickly to dualistic analysis and use our judgements to retake control. A prayer practice – contemplation – is simply a way of maintaining the fruits of great love and great suffering over the long haul and in different situations. And that takes a lot of practice – in fact, our whole life becomes one continual practice.
To begin to see with new eyes, we must observe – and usually be humiliated by – the habitual way we encounter each and every moment. It is humiliating because we will see that we are well practiced in just a few predictable responses. Few of our responses are original, fresh, or naturally respectful of what is right in front of us. The most common human responses to a new moment are mistrust, cynicism, fear, knee-jerk reactions, a spirit of dismissal, and overriding judgmentalism. It is so dis-couraging when we have the courage to finally see that these are the common ways that the ego tries to be in control of the data instead of allowing the moment to get some control over us – and teach us something new! …
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar and an author on spirituality. Just This, his most recent book, is published in the UK by SPCK. This article is excerpted and reprinted from pages seven to 11 of Just This. © 2017, Center for Action and Contemplation. Used with permission. All rights reserved worldwide. www.cac.org
This web post is an extract from an article that was published in the July/August 2018 edition of Reform