What will make me happy? 

 by Phillip A. Foster, Ph.D.

According to Thomas Keating in his book The Human Condition, the true source of happiness is in experiencing the presence of God, such as what was experienced by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Keating believes this is possible but just like Adam and Eve we have replaced God as our center and pursued what we believe will make us happy instead.

Following Adam and Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit, they realized their mistake and hid from God (Gen. 3:8-9).  When God came to the garden to fellowship with them, He called out, “Where are you?  Why are you hiding?”  These are the same questions God is asking of us.  Where are you in relationship to me (God)?  Why are you hiding from me?  What are you pursuing instead of a relationship with me?

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Once we attempt to answer these questions, we have begun our spiritual search for God, which is also the spiritual search for our true or authentic selves.  What is needed is that we face our human condition and admit that we cannot be satisfied until we let go of what Keating calls our “programs for happiness,” and begin to experience the presence of God instead and be in relationship with Him.

How we experience the presence of God is through the use of spiritual practices and disciplines, such as Contemplative Prayer, Lectio Divina (meditation on Scripture), and solitude and silence.  Each of these activities is intended to place us in the presence of God where we can experience intimacy with Him.

Centering Prayer, for example, is a form of prayer where one just listens to God, open and receptive to the divine presence dwelling in us.  We yield to the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  “One listens not with a view to hearing something, but with a view to becoming aware of the obstacles to one’s friendship with God.”

True happiness comes from “letting go of the obstacles to the awareness of the divine presence.”  These obstacles may be the needs we feel for affection, security, or control, what we may have felt we needed in order to be happy.

These spiritual activities Keating refers to as exercises in “letting go of the false self.”  When we place ourselves in the presence of God through the spiritual practices and disciplines, we open ourselves to the contents of what lies in the unconscious.  The result is the “purification of the unconscious.”

“To be really healed requires that we allow our dark side to come to full consciousness and then to let it go and give it to God.”  We acknowledge our own ideas of happiness are not going to work and we turn our lives over completely to God.

I would urge you to pursue regular times of practicing Contemplative Prayer, Scripture meditation, or times of solitude and silence.  Be patient as you may not see immediate results.  

It may be helpful to have someone walk you through these activities at first until you feel comfortable doing them on your own.  Let me know.  I would be happy to do so. Call 888-706-3190 to schedule an appointment.