Fr. Keating recommends studying the beatitudes. The beatitudes, especially poverty of spirit, seem to stand out in the heart of his writing. It seems to me I can take satisfaction in my gifts, even the gift of Centering Prayer, and it needs a poverty of spirit. This poverty is like learning to be without regards to myself or with self-reflection. This poverty is like having an identity that is not concerned about my self-worth. It seems to me my spirit needs no thought of being thanked or repaid, even no regard for appreciation. This poverty is like breaking down my pride and allowing the unfolding of the Divine in my spirit.
This poverty of spirit seems to allow the virtue of humility to be there, especially when my pride thinks it is making good things happen. My pride is like vainglory and it can take special satisfaction in my virtue of being well-intentioned. My pride wants me to call attention to my generosity. I truly like being repaid for being generous. My pride is like a hidden “goodness” within, calling attention to my selflessness, being humble, being self-sacrificial and then wanting to be repaid for being generous. Yet in all reality, my pride is a fundamental denial of the loss of contact with Being and the loss of contact with real love.
Fr. Keating’s words remind me to not be overly affected by my experiences and once again learn to be present. Yet my experiences fill me with pride and I suspect this is my wanting to fill up my nothingness with pride. There is even a side of me that wants to sustain a particular identity, like an image or idea of myself. Yet it seems if I am true to this diamond within, I need poverty of spirit for the richness of God to flow within and without my creating anything about who I am. This simply resting in the ground of Being appears to be the source of everything, even who I am.
Poverty in spirit seems critical in Centering Prayer and this poverty can be communicated in how I flow with life, feeling calm and balanced, regardless of the ups and downs. Poverty of spirit seems to be the key and just learning to be relaxed with the energies of life without trying to control any of it. Poverty of spirit, from Centering Prayer, communicates the need to be present and awake, yet at a place where identity and self-worth do not arise. This poverty feels like freeing the self from experiences, so pride does not need to make things happen.
The freedom to be is like being truly free of an unbound state, such as with my pride. Moving this pride is an enormous accomplishment and everything in life is changing because of it. This shift in my center is a profound reorganization. It is like being in self-possession and learning to self-surrender to this poverty of spirit. There is no self-consciousness and alienation here. It is like effortlessly being so human and so receptive it makes my body shake and tremble inside. When all is said and done, this Centering Prayer is a gift, just as our Supreme Being is a gift to each of us, just as each of you are a living reminder of this gift.
Sydney S. Orr
Pendleton, Oregon (USA)