This week we continued our study of the Integrated Life with Sean focusing on awareness and attention. Awareness and attention are cornerstones of an integrated life. Only those things that we are aware of can be integrated. And the things that we pay attention to (whether consciously or unconsciously) drive our lives. Many of us walk through much of our lives unaware and "asleep" to what is really going on in our interior spiritual world. We get so caught up in the "noise" (schedules, to do lists, jobs, relationships, etc.) that surrounds us or what is spinning in our heads (what to do about those schedules, to do lists, relationships, etc) that we never "wake up" to the life in God that is ours.
We often instinctively react to the world and others around us based on messages we received and believed when we were young. Oftentimes those messages were simply false ("you aren't good enough, you're ugly, you're not important, you need to be perfect, God only approves or loves you when you are good", etc.). The problem is that often these messages repeatedly play in the background of our minds and we aren't even aware of them. However, when a circumstance comes up, say you make a mistake at work, the messages start playing ("you're not good enough" or "you're stupid"). Then our attention fixates on that message and we are sucked in, unaware of our true nature; believing old false messages.
God, however, invites us to live a new way. He invites us to tune into an entirely different message. It's the message that God starts off with in Genesis 1. After God creates humankind, He proclaims that we are "very good!" (Gen. 1:31). Somehow, unfortunately, that innate "goodness," along with God's unconditional love for us, got distorted. Personally, I believe much stems back to our believing the same lie that "Adam and Eve" believed (Gen 3). It's the subtle, implied lie, "if God loves you, why would He..." In the story of Adam and Eve it was "if He loved you, why would He withhold the fruit from this tree from you?" In our personal stories, we are tempted by, "if He loved me why didn't God heal, give me the job, find me a spouse, take away my family, etc.?" The list can be endless. While some of what we face in this life can be brutal and hard, the truth is God's love and acceptance of us never wavers.
Jesus' incarnation, life, death, and resurrection are more about God awakening us to the fact we are loved than some payment of our "sins" (John 17: 23, John 3:16- For God so loved...) Romans 8 tells us that absolutely nothing can separate us from God's love. It is a given. Period. Now our reflexive feelings, awareness, and attention will attempt to pull us away from that truth- that is just how it is with us humans. However, with God's help and practice we can begin to be aware of and refocus our attention (our thoughts) on that which is true and good (Phil. 4:8). As we allow God to refocus our awareness and attention we find that our hearts and minds are at peace. And we know at a gut level that we are loved by God. Oftentimes we won't have more answers to our "whys." But we will know that God stands in solidarity with us in our unique pains and joys.
Reflect this week:
"You know, all mystics -Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, no matter what their religion -- are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But, tragically, most people never get to see that all is well because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare." Anthony DeMello