I want to clarify an earlier point here. I know I said you must forget all things except the blind awareness of your naked being; however, what I really meant from the beginning was something else, something beyond that, and this is it. Forget yourself entirely in exchange for a complete awareness of God’s being. That’s why I showed you at the start that God is your being. Because of your inexperience, I thought it would be premature of me to expect you—all at once—to suddenly soar up to a spiritual awareness of God’s being, so I’ve been leading you there by degrees. You’ve been climbing up a step at a time. The first step was my advising you to gnaw on the simple blind awareness of your own being for a time, until your perseverance in this initial exercise gave you a familiarity with contemplative work, preparing you to reach the high awareness of God.
Your goal and your desire should always be to feel God in this work. Although I told you at first to cover and clothe your awareness of God in the awareness of yourself, I did this because of your inexperience in spiritual unawareness. However, when through persistence in this exercise, you’ve gained experience and wisdom, you’ll undress yourself—strip—completely take off your self-awareness, to be clothed with the grace-filled awareness of God himself.
This is how a true lover behaves. Lovers strip themselves of anything theirs to gain the other. They won’t accept anything except the object of their affection, and not short-term but for all time. They want to be enveloped by the other forever in the full and final forgetting of self. This is the work of love that no one understands but the person who feels it. This is what our Lord is trying to teach us when he says, “If any want to come after me, let them abandon themselves.” It’s as if he is saying: “Strip yourself of your self if you really want to be clothed in me, the long and flowing robe of everlasting love.”
During your contemplative times, whenever you become aware that you’re noticing your self and not God, grieve over this, longing with your whole heart to feel and be aware of God. Desire him every moment and forever crave self-forgetting. Lose that pathetic knowledge and tainted understanding of your unseeing being. Ache to run from your self as you would from poison. Abandon and forget your self ruthlessly, as the Lord demands.
I’m not saying you should wish to un-be. That would be irrational and an insult to God. But when you long so intensely to let go of your knowledge and awareness of your being (always required for feeling God’s love perfectly on earth) and when you see that your goal is impossible because you’re always hounded in contemplative work by the simple, vague awareness of your being, no matter how diligent you are, then you begin to realize how heavy and painful the burden of self is. Yes, it’s hard, so ask Jesus to help you with this, because you’ll need it. Obviously there will be times, though rare and fleeting, when God will let you experience his being and his love abundantly. But in general, on a day-to-day basis, the simple awareness of your blind being always presses down on you, getting between you and God, just as in the beginning a focus on the various characteristics of your being erected a barrier between you and your simple awareness of your self.
The burden of self is larger even than all the misery of the world. Nothing compares. You become your own cross. Bearing this burden is the way of contemplation, and it leads us to our Lord, as he says: First “let a person take up his or her own cross” (in the agony of self-awareness) and then “follow me,” as he promises, “Into the joy and onto the summit of spiritual maturity, where you’ll taste the sweet gentleness of my divine person.” This is why you must experience the anguish of wanting to lose your self-awareness. Before you can be united with God in the spiritual awareness of who he is, which is perfect love, you must first shoulder the cross that is the painful burden of your self.