Real I

Hello Cynthia,

I was at your Cloud London talk last month. A question if I may.

Contemplative Prayer and going into the silence is a way of opening to be part of God, as you described through the four places on active and inner contemplation. I am wondering if some of this wisdom can also be learned through suffering, without necessarily having taken on a contemplative prayer pattern? Can a similar opening to the unknowing of God become through surrender to loss?

I also wonder if you know of any world mythology which would speak of the relationship with God which is on offer to humanity. I use enactment of myths as a means of bringing healing in secular situations.

Thank you.


Dear Mary,

Yes, suffering definitely can and does open the gateway to deeper levels of Wisdom. But this Work will progress far more profoundly if it it is taken up by the deeper self—sometimes called “Real I,” “The True Self,” “The Essential Self,” or a simply “Witnessing Presence”—rather than by the small self or personality, for whom suffering is always a personal affront and tragedy. When suffering becomes the gateway to universal compassion, profound work is done. The real way that Contemplative Prayer complements and extends the wisdom to be had in suffering is by deepening our connection with that larger self; by giving us a way to soothe and gentle the anguish of the smaller (who is also a part of our authentic selfhood).

I’m not quite sure what you mean by a myth that would convey “the relationship with God which is on offer to humanity.” By this I assume you’re talking about the relationship of intimacy, compassion, and transformation of suffering…and to embody this in human form,  one could hardly do better than the life of Christ. But if that is a little too much of a red flag for secular situations, go back to C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and you’ll get the exact same story in mythic form, with Aslan the lion as an obvious stand-in for Christ. I’d also encourage you to browse Helen Luke’s marvelous set of essays in her book Old Age (including a profound chapter on suffering), where she takes mythic characters and Shakespearean heroes to illustrate key transformational points. Lewis’s “Till We Have Faces” is pretty amazing in this respect as well.

Thanks and blessings,