June 28 – All That We Are Not – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“Discernment is a process of letting of what we are not.” Father Thomas Keating

I can easily over-identify with my emotions and roles, becoming what I feel: I am angry, I am divorced, I am depressed, I am a failure, I am nothing but my confusion and my sadness.

No matter how we feel in any one moment, we are not just our feelings, our roles, our traumas, our prescription of values or our obligations or ambitions. It is so easy to define ourselves by the moment of struggle we are wrestling with. It is a very human way, to be consumed by what moves through us.

In contrast, I often think of how Michelangelo sculpted, how he saw the sculpture waiting, already complete, in the uncut stone. He would often say that his job was to carve away the excess, freeing the thing of beauty just waiting to be released.

It helps me to think of spiritual discernment in this way. Facing ourselves, uncovering the meaning in our hard experiences, the entire work of consciousness speaks to a process by which we sculpt away the excess, all that we are not; finding and releasing the gesture of soul that is already waiting, complete, within us. Self actualization is this process applied to our life on Earth. The many ways we suffer, both inwardly and outwardly, are the chisels of God freeing the thing of beauty that we have carried within since birth.

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