This is the second teaching in the Cafh course “Nuances of Prayer.”
The Sons and Daughters of Cafh are to hallow their day. From morning to night they are to observe their obligations and exercise control over themselves. They will achieve inner liberation through exterior discipline.
Upon awakening, may their first act be a fervent elevation of thought to the Divine Mother. They should then try to distribute their time so that they may amply dedicate themselves to the unfolding of spiritual life.
Rule of Cafh1
Daily life is already a discipline of effort, control and work. Why, then, do we need to practice an additional discipline? Why do we need to practice an asceticism?2
Without a deliberate effort to have clear and concrete objectives and without the ultimate aim of divine union, we still practice a discipline every day. Our daily struggle to live helps us to resolve the urgent problems of existence. But it also dissipates our strength and creates its own limitations. The fact that all human beings choose their objectives without always taking into account the common good-or their own spiritual unfolding-causes interpersonal confrontations and the confusion and sorrow which have been so common throughout history.
If we integrate the asceticism of renouncement3 into our daily life, we can organize our efforts to be productive for ourselves and others. Making every act a conscious act helps us to live deliberately, centered on the objective of expanding our consciousness.
The first barrier we come up against when trying to adopt this asceticism which will promote our unfolding is our attraction to values which are contrary to that unfolding.
When we decide to adopt an asceticism of life to help us unfold, we have to be ready to face certain problems. Some of these problems are: living in a perpetual race with time; not dedicating enough time to reflection; looking for immediate gratifications without measuring their consequences; avoiding stress through self-deception; thinking things will improve without having to make any changes in ourselves.
Since we are used to responding to imperative needs (i.e., I won't be able to eat if I don't go to work) and since these needs are many and various, we tend to postpone everything which doesn't fit into this urgency plan. This is how we find the time to rush, feel harassed, and spend our vital energy in efforts which don't go very far, while we don't have time to think, plan or make decisions, much less to discover who we are and where we're going.
A well-suited daily asceticism provides us with inner space and time for reflection, for
observation of ourselves and our behavior. It helps us establish harmonious relationships and gives us an openness to understand what is happening around us. This can all be carried out in the setting of our daily obligations, if we methodically create spaces for prayer, and if we make each activity, obligation and recreation a means for self-knowledge and the expression of our deep desires.
We might think there is no time available for reflection, but have we considered the cost of impulsive actions? Have we considered the effort, waste of time and trouble which can result from heedless decisions?
The ascetic effort to be conscious of our acts can seem tedious and bothersome, but have we thought about the time needed to solve the problems which result from imprudent behavior? When it is hard to find the time to stop and pray, do we wonder where we will nourish ourselves so that we will know how to act, and where we will draw the strength to face the challenges of life?
Asceticism helps us organize our time and activities so that our life has harmony and space for growth. Above all, it offers us a frame of reference for establishing priorities. Prayer is the indispensable pillar of asceticism.
Prayer is our strength, our source of inspiration, and also the anchor which keeps us calm in the sea of activity and tension. This why we resort to prayer systematically and consistently.
Prayer also prevents us from seeking shallow solutions. Sometimes we think, "I have been meditating for such a long time and I don't get anywhere. . ." Prayer is not a magic solution. It is an operative attitude of humility, reflection, and love for the Divine Mother.
Oriented by our spiritual counselor,4 we establish a personal asceticism suitable for our characteristics and daily obligations, and also suited to the degree of our unfolding and vocational commitment.
It is very important to rely on the experience and knowledge of the spiritual counselor, for it is very easy to deceive ourselves and become self-complacent, vain or discouraged.
Asceticism as an exterior discipline-based firmly on prayer, the teaching and spiritual counsel-is the necessary point of support for our spiritual unfolding.
1 The Rule comprises three parts: (a) guidelines regarding the organization and functioning of Cafh, (b) practical suggestions for members for dealing with aspects of our lives such as work and interpersonal relationships, and (c) the ceremonial of Cafh. The opening quotations come from section (b).
2 Asceticism means the effort we make and the limits we place on ourselves to know ourselves and expand our consciousness. It implies self-discipline and self-control.
3 Renouncement is considered to be the law of life. When we renounce, we accept that our small life is part of Life itself, that we are an integral part of the whole. We gain perspective on the ups and downs of our daily lives and also on periods of great difficulties. The spirit of Renouncement helps us to visualize our strengths and weaknesses objectively and awakens in us a deep sense of participation and love for everyone and everything.
4 Individual guidance is an important part of Cafh's method. All members have the opportunity to consult regularly with someone who has had at least 15 years of experience in spiritual work within Cafh.
The course "Nuances of Prayer" is available in its entirety on the Cafh website: www.cafh.org. The teaching published here has been adapted slightly for the purpose of serving as a Feature on the Seeds site. Other chapters from this course that have been published in Seeds are: The Importance of Prayer and Exterior Discipline.