Practical Steps for Self-Knowledge


Q: Our Centering Prayer group has been studying The Cloud of Unknowing translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. In chapter 14, pg 42, we are told to “Get to know yourself. Through it, you’ll experience God as [God] is.” Our group would be interested in some practical steps for getting to know ourselves as a step in the spiritual journey.

Two different answers are provided below:

A: Fr. Carl Arico: “I offer here one example of practice, person, event where your human condition is a key to the abyss of God’s Trinitarian love.

“The more you experience yourself the more you become aware of your utter dependence on a creative and forgiving power greater than yourself and you begin to appreciate the gifts given at each moment of one’s life.

“When I experience my human condition, I realize more and more the opportunity to look beyond the veil, to hear God knocking at the door for me to consent. I find that one of the most powerful spiritual practices is our daily, monthly and yearly routine. A friend of mine recently shared this with me as a way of looking at the rhythm of practice: an hour a day, a day a month, a week a year.

“A personal example: Last September a very good friend died suddenly of lung cancer. It shook me, as we had been together a month earlier, and every year for 27 years we gathered with friends for a week each August. A month later on my yearly priest retreat, I was thinking of the preciousness of life. I had a desire to do a profound fearless review of my 87 years of life – to see the truth and only the truth, to let it all hang out, to experience radical honesty with myself. I brought this review of life to the sacrament of reconciliation, open to whatever I needed to hear. Note this is not a therapy session, but sharing and then receiving a response. I’ve done reviews of life before but never this intense. My friend’s death definitely shook me to my core. In the 45-minute exchange with my confessor, I experienced a deep sense of God‘s radical love for me. I know I am blessed by the Lord, and I know that I am loved by the Lord but the intensity of that love at that moment was experienced at a much deeper and humbling level. For the rest of that retreat, I practiced what I preached: just let God love you on God‘s terms. Let God do it. As I always say, look at what needs to be healed, what needs to be forgiven, and above all what needs to be celebrated. GOD IS LOVE – BELIEVE IT!

“This prayer is also one frequently on my heart: Jesus, repair what I have done badly, supply for what I have left undone.

“And I love this quote: O joy that flows from the knowledge of one’s self! – Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska”


A: Mary Dwyer:  “Blessings to you and your group!  Fr. Thomas taught that as we consent to the dismantling of the false self whose center of gravity is self we begin to access the true self whose center of gravity is God. To me that represents the line from The Cloud you quoted.  Fr. Thomas wrote, “to consent to God’s presence IS God’s presence” (Open Mind, Open Heart, pg. 46).

“Some practical ways to facilitate this movement and deeply commit to this Divine Therapy are:

  • Practicing the Welcoming Prayer—where we allow the emotional programs for happiness which are triggered to be released and brought to the light.  Keeping us mindful of what is going on in our bodies.
  • Daily Lectio Divina—where we open to how sacred texts ( especially Scripture) are speaking to us in our daily circumstance.
  • Writing daily gratitude lists to affirm all the ways we are being nurtured and loved into life.
  • Cultivating radical self acceptance affirming our core of goodness.
  • Using the Forgiveness Prayer when we become aware of resentments and hurts.
  • Having an Active Prayer to help us manifest our intention to consent at ever deeper levels.
  • And finally to practice Radical, Invincible Trust in the One who is loving us into life.

“Blessings to all on this incredible adventure. ”