Story 95125

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On my way to discovering my "true self," a wonderful professor of mine from Kent State University, Jeff Wattles, recommended that I take a look at the Contemplative Outreach site on my computer. Father Thomas Keating helped me find my place on a once very crooked road of life. "Open Heart Open Mind, " opened the door to a soul that had been hidden from me for many years (looking deeper and deeper into my soul) as Padre Pio wrote . Having been severely mentally ill, since 8th grade grammar school, ending in my first bout with being chronically mentally ill, I was first diagnosed as a schizophrenic with my first manic episode in high school, as a senior in an all girls Catholic high school. For many years, my family and I were unable to understand the meaning of being mentally ill. What is mental illness? From whence does mental illness come? This looks like horribly bad behavior?

Seemingly, mental illness comes out of nowhere, since it is not visible, in a looking, physical sense, as a broken or missing limb. Though truthfully, it came from my own attitude and my reaction to others' actions. Pride, a severe, horrible state, loomed in 8th grade, when I was upset by the way I saw myself and others' saw me. I was upset by being thought of as "sexy," and very troubled by becoming a cheerleader, not wanting to be one. In a try-out when all the 8th grade girls were sent to perform, I did my first 2 and only "perfect" cartwheels. My cheer was soft and I always felt like I was on center stage, throughout my life starting in 8th grade. I hated being a cheerleader, and slacked off on my clarinet playing which I enjoyed. All through high school, I never listened to music and stopped singing , which I enjoyed. Chirping birds were an opening for another horrible day. Others saw me as conceited, and I was. Sometimes I hated it, and other times I liked it, depending on whom it the compliments came. For many years, I isolated myself, shy and prideful, an awful combination which often caused me to feel like a "thing," for so very long. A fine head of hair, nice skin.... Anger became a disgusting offshoot-- my pride and others' jealousy. Always, I was aiming for perfection, not found in the human condition, except for Our Blessed Virgin Mother of Peace.
Jeff, my Kent State professor and Thomas Keating, have the quality of humility. It was on my Advent Retreat from Contemplative Outreach with Thomas Keating and a most wonderful staff that I blatantly saw myself as a loathsome creature. In 2012, sanity and creativity were open again, not seen since 7th grade with several new medications. Advent was all about the deep humility of Our Blessed Virgin Mother, "The Immaculate," whose softness, gentleness, and total trust in God set her apart from all humanity. Then and there I faced the totality of the "monster" within me. I always knew this monster, but never did I face it head as if on a collision.

Thomas Keating's "Open Heart Open Mind" opened up the door, but on an Advent retreat the entire veil lifted. Barefaced and bald-headed, from subsequent illnesses I saw myself as I truly was.

The entire staff of Spirituality and Practice, with Gayle Fitzpatrick Hopler, Marianne and Frederic Brussat, Patricia Cambell Carlson, Pamela Begeman, with Thomas Keating opened me up to finding my inner self. Then with Pope John Paul 11 and one's responsibility for one's actions, and Pope Francis and all the Jesuits dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I was faced with God's Unconditional Love for All of His Children no matter color, creed and non-believers all sealed with The Blood of The Lamb. Christ rules the world with Truth and Grace.

Thomas Keating, thank you for your humility.