“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we cannot cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?” Thomas Merton
As we enter this season of Lent, of self-reflection, confession, and reconciliation, we expect to encounter Merton’s “abyss” that separates us from the wholeness which is God’s aim for us.
True-to-being memory is the state of consciousness that makes it possible to face this abyss with the courage to seek God’s help in spanning it to the other side. Each of us is capable of this kind of remembering, but we see it more often in our dreams than when we are awake. For example, when we feel shamed by being dismissed by a colleague or friend, our awake response might be to become combative and defensive, to go on the attack, demeaning the other person to redress our sense of imbalance.
Our dreams that night, however, are likely to be images of our true-to-being memories, with horrific scenes that speak to our deepest fears of abandonment and betrayal that leave us lost, afraid, or free-falling in deep space.
This is an ideal place to begin a Lenten practice, to look at our dream images. Consider journaling these dreams. As an aid to understanding our true-to-being memories, you might find helpful two books on dreams: Inner Work by Robert Johnson and A Little Course on Dreams by Robert Bosnak.
Facing our “abyss” is also aided by the discipline of Morning and Evening Prayer. And, yes, as with almost anything, there’s an app for that. My favorite is a free download “The Daily Office from Mission St. Clare.” This brings up Morning and Evening Prayer services, along with hymns that you can play! Daily scripture readings in these services tend to be longer portions of scripture than we hear on Sunday mornings. These longer passages offer us a wider window through which we can find our own place in God’s narrative. The other helpful piece of keeping the Daily Offices is that our sense of anchoring our days with prayer helps us to understand time as God’s gift to us.
Finally, daily fasting of one meal brings most of us up against the greatest impediment to our true-to-being memories and wholeness by challenging our notions of what we want versus what we need. Some people are hesitant to include “dieting” as a spiritual discipline because they see losing weight as a vain exercise. If you are one of the few who actually does not need to lose any weight, then “fast” from some other pleasure, such as television. But, for most of us, including fasting from one meal a day as a spiritual practice helps to restore our health and refocuses our attention on our bodies as the gifts that they are, and the temples of the Holy Spirit.
“Change your ways, give yourself a fresh coat of paint, convert yourself. Do all this, and you’ll find the Cross before it finds you.” Thomas a Kempis The Imitation of Christ