Sunday, March 18, 2018

Marc Ian Barasch

July 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Nuggets

All’s quiet a few miles down a dirt road at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, its soaring, carved wood architecture at once a psalm to the earth and a paean to whatever lies beyond. Father Keating emerges to greet me. An eighty-one-year-old man in a plaid wool shirt, watchcap plunked on his bald head, he could be an ancient mariner home from the sea or some ex-stevedore hired as keeper of the bell tower. For him, God’s love calls for workmanlike practice. “Jesus had a formula,” he tells me as we sit practically knee to knee in his cramped office. “In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, ‘Pray to your Father, your Abba, your Daddy, in secret.’ Go into your inner room at the center of your being. Close the door, not just to the external noise and distraction but to the inner dialogue too.”

Keating speaks in lovely, loping, run-on sentences. When I close my eye, his deep, creaky voice conjures some old cricket sachem, sawing a rhythmic evensong on long bowstring legs. “You have to silence the emotional programs that sustain who you think you are,” he says, “allow the ego’s self-reflective apparatus to fade out, put aside that false self based on childhood emotions—the reaching out for happiness, security, approval, affection, esteem, all those exaggerated needs we impose on others—and just do nothing. “But not just nothing. Rather nothing of our own but everything of what God proposes we do. God prefers this kind of love—not what you’re willing to do but what you’re willing to receive. Our lack of confidence in his great love is the only problem.” Although this isn’t a particularly funny remark, he smiles with such gentle irony that I can’t help but burst out laughing, feeling some perfusion of high seriousness and puckish joy.

“We say that when you enter prayer, nothing is worth thinking about,” he says, peering out through his enormous round glasses, “whether it’s a sense perception, memory, plan, concept, or image. It doesn’t mean no thoughts but to disregard them. They’re placed in the ‘cloud of forgetting,’ which contains the ultimate knowledge of what is but which is unknown to the intellect.”

I suggest that it must be hard for someone who is so clearly an intellectual to relinquish all thought and center himself in the heart. Father Keating smiles. “All you need is a willingness to suffer and a willingness to love.” All the rest of it, he stresses, is the false self and its gnat cloud of petty thinking that obscures love’s ultimate Source. So far as he’s concerned, organized religion has too often swarmed with the gnats instead of soared with the angels. “Such a shame what we’ve done to the Mystery,” he murmurs with a sigh, “with all our naive loyalties!”

book excerpt from The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness (Berrett-Koehler, 2009), by Marc Ian Barasch.


One Response to “Marc Ian Barasch”
  1. Jan Johnson says:

    WOW! How much I needed to hear that today, my spiritual mentor!

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