35: The False Self in Action, Part 2

Katsushika Hokusai, The waterfall of Amida behind the Kiso Road, 1827

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
– Philippians 4: 8

Previously, the purification of the unconscious and how the dark side of our personality may begin to emerge were discussed and Fr. Thomas encouraged us to persevere on the journey. Now, his teaching helps us to become aware that not only is the evolution of consciousness occurring in us, but in society as well. And while many people have moved into the Mental Egoic level, capable of using reason and judgment, we still fall back into the Mythic Membership level, which is largely driven by the emotional programs. We are a part of our society, part of the whole human family, and individually we have a responsibility to ourselves and the groups in which we are a part.

Fr. Thomas repeatedly emphasizes that our practice is daily life. In this session’s video, he poses the question, “Is there anything we can do to hasten in ordinary daily life the unloading of those unconscious programs which have us, more or less, into routines that we can’t seem to get out of?” He offers the active prayer practice. When afflictive emotions are set off from our unconscious they are usually accompanied by commentaries, or what he calls “old tapes.”

The active prayer is meant to be used when our minds are not otherwise occupied with reading, work, conversation, or the like; for example, while we are showering, doing the dishes, walking the dog, driving. The purpose of the practice is to help erase the “old tapes” or the commentaries that automatically come up, particularly when we are experiencing afflictive emotions. We do this by repeating an active prayer phrase over and over and over again until it starts to come to us as automatically as our commentaries. It reconditions our unconscious emotional programs.

“If there’s no commentary, then the emotion can be handled by reason and judgment. In other words, if you get in there fast enough, the process of getting into emotional turmoil through feeling and commentary doesn’t take place, and that gives you a neutral zone in which you can decide what to do without being compulsively pushed into an emotional reaction … We need some measure to work the peace of the reservoir of silence into daily life, and the active prayer word is one way of doing so.”

-Thomas Keating, excerpt from Session 35 video

A Meditation

“Bonding with others takes place as the love of the Spirit is poured forth in our hearts.  We feel that we belong to our community, to the human family, to the cosmos.  We feel that our prayer is not just a privatized journey but is having a significant effect in the world.  We can pour into the world the love that the Spirit gives us in prayer.”

– Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “The False Self in Action, Part 2.” It is about 26 minutes in length.
  • An invitation: Choose an active prayer sentence for yourself and begin praying it. For example:
    • O God, come to my assistance.
    • Lord, make haste to help me.
    • The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
    • In your light, I see only light.
  • Or create an active prayer phrase of 8-12 syllables, perhaps from Scripture, and repeat it silently as much as you are able, allowing it to settle in your subconscious.


“The False Self in Action, Part 2,” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 26 mins.
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"The False Self in Action, Part 2," excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 26 mins.
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Resources for Further Study:

You may wish to read Chapter 2, "The False Self in Action" in Invitation to Love (all editions).

You also may wish to read "The Active Prayer Sentence" on pages 171 and 172 in Open Mind, Open Heart (20th anniversary edition), pages 133-135 in older editions.

Additional Resources