Deep Therapy through Contemplative Prayer

One of my most important thoughts over the summer, during my CPE program, has to do with the word “subconscious.” (Even my sister Libby pointed out to me that this word occurs on my blog, no insignificant fact for a Boulter.)

Think about when you are just beginning to fall asleep. Have you ever noticed that all kinds of strange, expansive thoughts & images pop into your mind, apparently at random? For example as I am falling asleep I might sense such bizarre images in my mind as some acquaintance whom I have not seen for weeks walking past me, or perhaps a scenario in which I am talking before a crowd of people about some topic, say blogging or eating your vegetables, or I might have a scene in my mind which is an adaptation from some movie like Finding Nemo (all recent examples).

Where do these thoughts and images come from? It is not as if I consciously or intentionally constructed them. It seems like they just emerged on their own. But did they? No: they are all formed from the “raw material” of my experience. Whether it is a new acquaintance or some movie or some life theme or some group of people or some place, the content of these images comes from my experience. And this means that what I experience matters. It is not neutral. It is not insignificant. It affects me, and it affects me deeply.

Two implications flow from this realization:

1. Destructive habits damage the self very deeply.
2. We must engage in healing practices which will address this damage, whether self-inflicted from a destructive habit, or ways in which we have been abused or victimized by others. Contemplative prayer is just such a practice, and perhaps one of the most important ones.

Related here is Thomas Keating’s  identification (in his The Human Condition) of three areas which impact how we develop our false and / or true selves: survival and security; affection and esteem; power and control.

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