When you consider the true self and false self that we touched on yesterday, you may be thinking that what Merton calls the “false self” seems pretty real! And it’s not all bad! Right?
Finley clarifies this (p. 22): “Merton makes no attempt to question the reality and importance of the empirical self we call our personality. Indeed, in the spiritual life a deep respect must be given to our whole person, including the day-to-day realities of life and the self that is formed by them. What Merton does say, however, is that when the relative identity of the ego is taken to be my deepest and only identity, when I am thought to be nothing but the sum total of all my relationships, when I cling to this self and make it the center around which and for which I live, I then make my empirical identity into the false self. My own self then becomes the obstacle to realizing my true self.”
So, it’s about putting true and false self in proper perspective. Only when we make our “empirical self” our deepest identity does it become “false.”
Contemplative Practice: Journaling
Writing or drawing in a journal can be a wonderfully contemplative experience. The exact form of the words or the beauty of the art is not important – what is important is act of creating in an attitude of prayer.
Before you begin to write or draw, center yourself as we did at the start of the Breath Prayer. Find a quiet place, release your bodily tensions, feel in contact with the earth through your feet on the floor, and become aware of your breathing. When you are settled, begin writing or drawing the images that come to your mind.
Sometimes it is helpful to use a writing prompt; you can try this one:
How is the idea that God is present within each of us as our true self resonating with you? Does it have the ring of truth? Or does it seem too impossible?