Consent

 

I also think of what Father Thomas Keating says:

 

"The chief act of the will is not effort but consent. . . To try to accomplish things by force of will is to reinforce the false self ... But as the will goes up the ladder of interior freedom, its activity becomes more and more one of consent to God's coming, to the inflow of grace." I usually have to insert the word "Spirit" where he says "God"; the latter is too loaded with male, patriarchal, and judgmental overtones, too much like a separate being or parent, while Spirit feels more like the all-encompassing One or Emptiness beyond form that I can somehow imagine myself absorbed into.

 

But I like Keating's emphasis not on trying but on receiving, opening, consenting, an opening that is very active in its own way.

 

He says, "Trying dilutes the basic disposition of receptivity that is necessary for the growth of contemplative prayer. Receptivity is not inactivity. It is real activity but not effort in the ordinary sense of the word. ... It is simply an attitude of waiting for the Ultimate Mystery. You don't know what that is, but as your faith is purified, you don't want to know."

 

This "active inactivity" is an example of what I think of as "passionate equanimity." Ken reminds me that the Taoists call it "wei wu wei," which literally means "action no action" and which is often translated as "effortless effort."

 

Keating recommends the use of a five-to nine-syllable "active prayer," rather like a mantra. The one I like (it's not on his list) is "Consent to the Presence of Spirit."

 

I find that the word "consent" startles me, awakens me, surprises me each time because I so easily and so constantly fall into effort. It makes me pause in my activity, and whisper of relaxation, of gentleness, of allowing moves through that pause.

 

Treya Wilber - Grace and Grit