The art of living should be seen as a worthy focus of contemplation. I am brand new to the contemplative teachings of Thomas Keating, but am very much interested in the idea of Contemplative Christianity, the practice of a the Centering Prayer, and other forms of Mystic Mindfulness. I’ll be researching these areas in the coming weeks, so please expect more content in this category and other related categories.
In light of the art of living, let’s examine the following quotation by Thomas Keating:
“Little by little we are able to hear the still small voice in the hurricane, the earthquake, or the fire. God is hidden in difficulties. If we can find him there, we will never lose him. Without difficulties, we do not know the power of God’s mercy and the incredible destiny he has for each of us. We must be patient with our failures. There is always another opportunity unless we go ashore and stay there. A No-risk situation is the biggest danger there is. To encounter the winds and the waves is not a sign of defeat. It is training in the art of living, which is the art of yielding to God’s action and believing in his love no matter what happens.”Thomas Keating
So often, we fail to embrace the learning and growth opportunities that come from difficulties or failure. As E.M. Cioran once said, “An existence transfigured by failure.” I can only speculate that he had this idea of the benefits of suffering in mind (prone as he was to relishing one’s suffering). And yet, there is hope and peace that stirs within someone who understands the necessity of suffering.
When I was a high school teacher, I was often confronted with students who chose to complain about the work they had not yet done as opposed to the work that, upon completion, would transform their lives. Sometimes – and this goes for students of all ages – it is easier (much easier) to complain about things than take action to correct them.
And what happens to us when we live by the idea that “God is hidden in difficulties?” How does this perspective alter our thought on the art of living? First, I think it draws us to a more constructive way of understanding the problems that we face. Difficulties build strength. They can also test our patience, our sense of what we thought we knew, and our resolve to choose.
Or, looked at another way: sometimes the difficult choices in life are the ones that we need to make to move us closer to our purposes. Doing what needs to be done is not always the easier path in life. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not the right choice? Doing what is necessary could be the most difficult thing we’ve ever encountered. How will it change us? What will we learn once we cross whatever mountains stand before us? The journey of hiking up a mountain is itself a journey of attuning one’s self to the Now. It is also the experience of standing at an elevated position and looking down at how far you’ve come. And how far you have to go.
To Encounter A Greater Peace in the Art of Living
If, as Keating says, “To encounter the winds and the waves is not a sign of defeat. It is training in the art of living, which is the art of yielding to God’s action and believing in his love no matter what happens,” then being overcome by defeat (by giving up before facing the challenge) is not sufficient if one want to train one’s self to achieve. Trust is essential. Aligning yourself with the Divinity that works within you is also essential. What are the consequences of that?
Of course, I am speaking broadly, but I encourage you to use Keating’s wisdom and shape it to your experience. Do you believe that the difficulties of the world can present you with lessons on the art of living? How does this quotation encourage you on the journey of your life?