This is the third teaching in the Cafh course “Nuances of Prayer.”
Spiritual unfolding is a process based on understanding. First we understand, then we make decisions and then we act. Otherwise we would act motivated by impulses and reactions, to the detriment of our unfolding
What are we looking for in life? Happiness? Knowledge? Appreciation of beauty? Virtue? Is there an objective which could include everything we want to accomplish?
Perhaps the objective which has endured throughout the history of human experience is the desire to fulfill our destiny as human beings. We could describe it as being what we are: human beings with infinite possibilities.
The difficulty is not so much in accepting this objective of unfolding all our possibilities as it is in figuring out how to fulfill it, knowing what to do to make it a reality.
How often do we hear it said: "Yes, when I was young I had ideals, but now. . . ." We find out that the test of time requires much more than an intellectual allegiance to a possibility. It requires giving one's life totally to that end. The objective of unfolding doesn't allow for half-heartedness or distractions. It is a work of love which takes up one's whole life for the rest of one's life.
Selfishness, stubbornness, the pursuit of pleasure and the rejection of suffering are some of the barriers we encounter as we fulfill our aim. Without the ethical and spiritual capacity for distinguishing the good from the bad in relation to our unfolding, our path becomes meandering, slow, painful and unsure.
We need to become familiar with our temperament and its characteristics, the quality of our habits, and the drive of our nature. Above all, we need to discern clearly our viable choices. There are many alternatives and they all seem possible, but our love for unfolding classifies them as good or bad, better or worse, viable or non-viable. The greatness of our objective requires us to choose well.
This implies that we need a criterion for evaluating our choices. As Sons and Daughters of Cafh,1 our criterion is based on renouncement.2 In other words, renouncement is the norm we follow in order to know if our judgment is wise. Renouncement guides us in discerning our possibilities.
From this perspective, renouncement is an attitude which places us within increasingly broader contexts. It is the expectant attentiveness which opens our eyes to the environment in which we live, the honesty which leads us to be loyal to ourselves as souls, the passion for knowledge, the recognition of generosity as a value, the love for truth, and-above all-the attitude of offering transformed into consistent action. Without consistent action there is no renouncement.
Action consistent with our objective of unfolding is a lifetime process which develops by stages. It is not difficult to look back so that we can distinguish these stages. At the beginning we find ourselves in a state of illusion and deception. We also see how our incipient love for truth gradually dissipated the cloud of ignorance, giving us a certain degree of discernment. Later comes the stage in which we understand much more than we can put into practice in our lives. We know how to distinguish the good from the bad in relationship to our unfolding, but we are still attached to selfish desires and impulses. The more we commit ourselves to our unfolding, and the more we reinforce our discernment through the choices we make, the less we fall into states of darkness and ignorance.
We keep our objective active by persevering in our purpose. In order to fulfill our objective of unfolding, we have to limit ourselves within a particular asceticism,3 ethic and consistent behavior, while at the same time freeing our mind from its ties to dogmas, opinions and ignorance. And that is why this objective commits our whole life for the rest of our life. Any type of scrimping distorts the effort. Could we choose to be "a little" selfish? Would it make sense to decide to be loyal to ourselves, except "sometimes"? Or to choose what we know will lead to suffering and misery? Or to want less than we need-and are capable of fulfilling-in relation to our unfolding?
The attitude of renouncement allows us to see our naked reality: a succession of choices, minute by minute, second by second, which progressively give our lives shape, depth and direction.
- Sons and Daughters: The members of Cafh are called Sons and Daughters.
- Renouncement: In the Teaching of Cafh, Renouncement is considered to be the law of life. When we renounce, we accept that our small life is part of Life itself, that we are an integral part of the whole. We gain perspective on the ups and downs of our daily lives and also on periods of great difficulties. The spirit of Renouncement helps us to visualize our strengths and weaknesses objectively and awakens in us a deep sense of participation and love for everyone and everything.
- Asceticism means the effort we make and the limits we place on ourselves to know ourselves and expand our consciousness. It implies self-discipline and self-control.
The course "Nuances of Prayer" is available in its entirety on the Cafh website: www.cafh.org. The teaching published here has been adapted slightly for the purpose of serving as a Feature on the Seeds site. Other chapters from this course that have been published in Seeds are: The Importance of Prayer, Hallow the Day, Exterior Discipline and Inclination to Prayer.