Father Rohr on the False Self

“My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating. Let’s admit that we all start there. The false self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.

On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the false self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all the spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before-we-go-to-bed prayer too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “richard” self.

The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing the feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How does my self-image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other, and for the moment. It takes lots of practice. Maybe that is why many people even speak of their “spiritual practice”?”

— Richard Rohr, “Contemplation in Action”

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