Benedict conceived of conversion as a continual process. We need to constantly turn our attention towards the Higher Reality in prayer/meditation and in our day to day dealings with others.
But turning towards something always also implies turning away from something else. We need to shift our focus from the outer realities of our life to the inner reality of our true self, the Christ consciousness within. This shift inevitably implies change, some of it conscious and some of it unconscious. On the outer level there is a conscious choice to spend regular times meditating instead of reading or watching television; a conscious choice to meet with like-minded people in a meditation group or by attending retreats; a conscious choice to change our reading matter and ways of entertainment. But on the inner level the real change, transformation even, brought about by this different focus, is unconscious and very gradual. In fact, it is totally outside our control; we do not change, we are changed; it is spiritual gift.
But there’s the rub! We like to be in control, we like to determine what happens and how it happens. We don’t easily give over the reins to someone else. But on the spiritual journey the secret is precisely that. We need to let go and hand over to a Higher Power.
Linked with the need for power and control is our desire to achieve. When we start to meditate, we somehow expect an immediate total transformation of consciousness and are frankly disappointed to find that we are still essentially the same. We want an immediate return on our investment in time and energy that meditation represents. Why are we not yet levitating?! If that is our motivation we soon give up.
But it is the handing over in our daily faithful saying of our mantra that allows a very gradual inner change of perspective, which affects the whole of our being. It is so gradual, that it is nearly imperceptible. The ‘spark’ of the Divine Light within us does not over night turn into a raging, purifying fire. We won’t see great results in a few weeks, few months or even years. But if we compare our reactions to situations over time, we do notice distinct differences. Other people often notice this changed behaviour earlier, as the caterpillar said to the butterfly: ‘Wow, you have changed!’
A problem related to our need for power and control is our fear of change. We think we know who we are and have build up an effective survival system, which gives us a clear sense of identity and security. But again we have a choice: we can stay as we are or allow grow and have Jesus’ promise fulfilled in us – “I have come, so that they may have life, life in all its fullness”; accepting growth always implies change. We need to embrace change and stop trying to swim upstream against this current.
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