Surrender to Love
By Cissy Brady-Rogers
I posted the following reflection last year on my personal blog. It doesn’t surprise me that I could write exactly the same words about my experience of contemplative prayer today. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye describes contemplation as taking a long loving look. I started Alive and Well to bring together women who want more loving, life-giving ways of relating to ourselves and one another about health, beauty, sexuality and female identity. Our Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being program offers an alternative path to the objectifying narratives played out in popular culture. Because each of us is unique, every woman must find her own inner map to guide her way home to loving and enjoying living in her body, just as she is. Contemplative practices open the eyes of our hearts so we can see more clearly. It takes discipline to keep showing up and doing “nothing” for 20 minutes each day. But for many of us, doing nothing is exactly the path we need to take in order to discover what our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits are really hungry for. I offer my experience with hope that it will inspire you to take a long loving look at your life as well.
Some wise person once said that discipline is remembering what you really want.**
It took a lot of discipline for me to show up and stay for 20 minutes in centering prayer today. In fact, it’s taken a lot of discipline to show up most days these past few weeks.
In one of his daily meditations from the Center for Action and Contemplation this week, Richard Rohr reminded me that the union I desire with God is realized not by trying to achieve it, but by surrendering to it. He said that prayer is surrender.
Centering prayer is a prayer of surrender. As Father Thomas Keating wrote in his book, Invitation to Love, the psychological content of my 20 minutes is irrelevant to the outcome. While I use my centering word to let go of mental material and come back to my center in God’s love, the goal isn’t to not rid myself of awareness, but to surrender myself to God’s presence and action within me.
For me, showing up to centering prayer isn’t the most difficult part. It’s staying still for 20 minutes that I find challenging. The past few days I couldn’t do it. I opened my eyes to see the minutes left on the timer and moved my body about trying to find a more comfortable position. But I stayed present to my intention to surrender. I stayed with myself and God for 20 minutes. I think Keating would say I succeeded!
What I really want is to rest and trust in God’s love. There’s nothing I can do with those 20 minutes that is more essential to my well being or the well being of the world than for me to surrender to God’s love. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, the highest good I can do will come not from me, but from my allowing myself, in obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.
What I really want is to surrender my compulsive need to be active, engaged, doing and producing. What I really want is to strengthen my capacity to just be present with myself. What I really want is for all of my doing, activity, engagement and production to expand love within myself and the world around me.
According to Rohr, Keating, Merton and the teachings of many spiritual traditions, the best thing any of us can do in order to be better lovers, is to surrender to a Love greater than ourselves.
Contemplatives practices teach us to surrender. And they demand discipline.
If discipline is remembering what I really want, then asking myself what I really want is essential for staying with the practice in those moments when I’d rather do something else.
The spiritual path of discipline isn’t about force or willpower. It is a path of surrendering to the “Divine action” within us. As Merton puts it, they free us from the need to prove ourselves so we can be more open to the power that wants to work through us, without our taking the credit.
Remembering what we really want, identifying our “Why” can be an important support for showing up and staying on those days when doing, engaging and producing look so much more attractive.
Why do you want to be more disciplined in your spiritual practice?
**When I discovered this quote 10 years ago on the internet, it was attributed to Albert Einstein. In the meantime, the internet is full of references attributing it to some fellow named David Campbell. Go figure!
Originally posted at cissybradyrogers.com