Mirabai Starr: Blessed Weaver

In the last week of September, The Contemplative Society welcomed Mirabai Starr to Vancouver Island for a retreat entitled “One Heart: Weaving a Tapestry of Inter-spiritual Community” at Cowichan Lake Research Station, a first collaboration between our organization and this renowned author, translator of the Mystics, and speaker. While she is perhaps best known for her memoir Caravan of No Despair, in which she chronicles her many tales of love, loss, and transformation, we were interested in her expertise on and authenticity in walking the inter-spiritual path. Though we expected to learn much from her on this subject and were thoroughly satisfied by her teachings, what we didn’t expect was the tangible transformation she helped usher among a group of women from various cultural and spiritual backgrounds, different degrees of previous experience and knowledge with the subject, and varying levels of comfort with the practices we were encouraged to try. Over the course of four days, Mirabai held us tenderly and confidently, helping us foster our listening skills through triad work, harness our written voices through contemplative writing practices based on Natalie Goldberg‘s method, and reacquaint our hearts with our Beloveds as foundation for social action in our world.

As testament to our time together, and to share with the world our gratitude to Mirabai and each other for this demonstration of hope and possibility, below are two reflections graciously written by retreatants. Their similarities and differences help exemplify what can happen when unity is born out of diversity, when One Heart beats in many. Deep thanks to Mirabai for sharing her warmth, honesty, and skills; she indeed wove together threads of disparate interests and backgrounds into a Tapestry of Inter-spiritual Community.


Elizabeth Kerwin

My first foray into The Contemplative Society began with my immersion in Mirabai Starr’s retreat at Cowichan Lake, though my contemplative life started long before. Being one of many Americans whose spiritual path and questing has brought me on a meandering journey, mine began with a Catholic childhood with very liberally minded parents, an Irish Catholic father from the Bronx, and a German born mother who grew up with a Jewish-turned-Anthroposophist father and a Lutheran-Swiss mother working with Rudolph Steiner’s teachings. In my own young adulthood, I turned to yoga and Buddhism, seeking more direct embodied experience of my soul and inner life. I find myself now on a return trip to my Christian roots, while being on a contemplative path and still teaching yoga in its fullness, not separating it from its spiritual roots. Naturally, an inter-spiritual path seems an inevitable part of the plot. I am married to a spouse ardently ordained as an Inter-spiritual Minister, so when “One Heart: Weaving an Inter-spiritual Community” with Mirabai Starr was offered by The Contemplative Society, I had an intuitive draw and a natural inclination to register for the retreat.

Photo by Anne Voegtlen

During the retreat, Mirabai offered a teaching from St. John of the Cross about the many ways a garden may be watered, the ultimate form being through the grace of rain pouring from the sky, nourishing the plants and the earth without effort. My experience in the retreat was much like this: I became a grateful recipient, basking in poetry and readings from Mirabai’s many published works, chanting, practicing contemplative writing and sitting; all deeply nourishing for my own “inner garden”.  Beyond this, I received the gift of sitting in an intimate circle of women, guided deftly by Mirabai in our project through her many invitations for us to share of ourselves in words, presence, and respectful and structured support, often as witness to others’ writing or speaking when sharing in triads. Sparkling and vast Lake Cowichan, catching the early Autumn golden light, and daily walks through the forests, added the soul-stirring dimension of drinking in nature’s healing

Mirabai has knowledge in a wide variety of the world’s religious and spiritual traditions, and shares this generously, clearly reflecting her own experience walking a deep path of inter-spiritual life. While there is a common prejudice against those who take on many rather than a single path, for me Mirabai is one who lives with a breadth as well as depth I have seldom witnessed. We heard teachings from Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, as well as many readings from one of her many books, God of Love, which explores the common heart of the Abrahamic traditions. We learned of Jewish practices, Muslim teachings, and sat in the beauty of contemplative community silence. On Friday evening a Shabbat service blessed us with a beautiful challah bread, the glow of candlelight, sacred wine, and apples dripping with honey. We gathered together, our heads shrouded, our hearts opening in the intimacy of feeding and being fed, tasting the sweetness of life, and bringing forth the remembrance that Sabbath practices must be resurrected, brought back into the foreground lest we forget such essential goodness in our lives in what Thomas Merton called the “rush and pressure of modern life” during the twentieth century.

Mirabai clearly cares deeply for the world, and actively conveys her sense of willingness to enter the dark realms that inevitably emerge in our own lives, as well as globally in our contemporary world plagued by environmental problems and those of social justice. Mirabai’s weaving of elements of Sacred Activism into the tapestry of our time together, stands as a central thread as I gratefully reflect upon this retreat. She upholds the essential message of the Good Samaritan or the Bodhisattva, that we are called in our spiritual engagement to be clear that awareness and action related to the world’s suffering must be held, and acted upon.

Life’s pain and life’s beauty, in its most essential poignancy flowed like a river through the retreat, and Mirabai’s deep willingness to be open and transparent, truly humble and loving, have made an indelible impression on me. In my imagining, the circle of participants initially gathered around the teachings and exercises with curiosity, and perhaps with a little skepticism on the parts of some, and, by the closing of our time, it seemed clear that we had indeed created together an inter-spiritual community with one heart, even a bit challenged to release ourselves from a beautiful holding and step back into our ordinary lives. I have been carrying the connections in my heart and into my work in a deeply satisfying way.

I am so grateful for all those who made this rich opportunity possible, and for the refreshed inspiration and hope with which I am now moving in my life, and my work. I look forward to paths crossing again with those who gathered for this wonderful immersion.


Mary Wolfe

As we drove in, old growth forest on one side, straight rows of seedlings on the other, our pace slowed, our senses opened. Warmly greeted and shown our rooms, we settled in. The shore line and silvered lake, right there, beckoned. The peace of the wild was all-surrounding.

We had come a variety of distances, for a variety of reasons, most of them because of Mirabai. Some of us had read one or more of her books. Some of us had met her before, or taken one of her on-line courses. Some of us had barely heard of her. Most of us met Mirabai for the first time as we gathered in the dining hall for dinner. All women standing in a circle, singing the simple grace she taught us, I felt the beginning of something significant. That evening in our first session the “something” began to take shape as we introduced ourselves and shared our aspirations for the retreat. Although Mirabai sat guru-like in front of us and would be our teacher-leader for the four days, I felt we were a circle of equals where everyone belonged.

The days were spaciously paced. A Great Silence held us through nights, morning meditations, and breakfasts.  Live music from a Celtic harp invited us to gather for each teaching session. Several times in a day, Mirabai divided us into small groups and gave us opportunity to share what we were experiencing. In the afternoons she gave us prompts for stream of consciousness writing, then invited us to listen to each other’s unearthed gems. Unhurried, without any sense of obligation, I felt free to simply BE in each moment.

Photo by Anne Voegtlen

Mirabai brought me into places of deep listening by reading to us. She read poems from the great mystics, prayers to the Divine Feminine, and excerpts from her several books. She taught freely and knowingly from her early experiences in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism. She shared how her love for Christ grew as she translated John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Julian of Norwich. She sprinkled times of silence throughout her teaching. Friday evening her Jewish heritage came alive as she led us in the ritual of welcoming Shabbat. With our heads covered we prayed facing each direction. Then gathering in close, we blessed the beautiful Challah loaf and tore off pieces of its moist sweetness to feed each other – a simple act of tender intimacy. As the chalice of wine passed around I knew I had been invited into deep rest. Our hearts were kindled with loving-kindness.  

Together we asked hard questions – about identity, gender, orthodoxy, forgiveness, social justice, vocation, and what gives us joy. One evening we lit a fire near the beach and sat around its warmth while Mirabai taught. Afternoons, when it wasn’t raining, we walked the trails, cheerily talking to keep the bear away. Meals were delicious and nutritious, whether eaten in scheduled silence or open for keen conversation. We told our stories and listened deeply. Mirabai gave us an eclectic bounty of truths carefully gleaned from all the world’s traditions. In order to understand them, I need to experience and live into them. Though I am quoting them out of their context, these are some of my “live-into” gems:

  • The wound of suffering is the portal to the Beloved.
  • Jacob’s example tells me it is my birthright to wrestle with all the teachings, and make them my own; if Love is not there, leave the teaching behind.
  • The longing itself is the path.
  • I don’t have to believe everything I think.
  • Stay still, stop meddling, and let God paint my portrait.
  • God, who is ever with me, cannot come to visit me unless I am not there.
  • The moan of separation is the cry of union.
  • If I take one step toward God, God takes seven steps toward me. If I run toward God, God rushes toward me.
  • Sin has no substance except by the pain it causes.
  • The inter-spiritual way is to travel through the wilderness with open hands and drop to my knees wherever I encounter Love. Love affirms our essential connectedness. It is all about Love.
  • All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well.

In our last session on Sunday we went around the circle sharing the ways our hearts had been opened. What I had felt on Wednesday had evolved into something like a woven garment, a prayer shawl, a love wrap, holding us in Oneness. Days after our goodbyes, its blessing lingers. Thank you each one, thank you Mirabai, thank you Amma God.


Many thanks to Anne Voegtlen for the photos, and to Elizabeth and Mary for sharing their experiences with us.

To increase your chances of attending one of The Contemplative Society’s retreats with celebrated teachers such as Mirabai, consider becoming a Member. Members receive the first opportunity to register for our retreats. To join, visit our Support Us page.

Fullness of Life

This piece by Cynthia Bourgeault is the sixth in a series beginning with “A Surprising Ecumenism“, her response to Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism“, an article published by La Civiltà Cattolica. The second is “Abortion, Pro-Life, and the Secular State: A Modest Proposal“, the third is “When Does Life Begin?“,  the fourth is “The Developmental Soul“, and the fifth is Teilhard, the Personal, and the Developmental Soul“.


A brief poetic interlude before the final run-up on a conclusion.

The clear, simple truth: nothing can fall out of God. Where would it go?

God is not somebody (not me) – somewhere else (not here). God is the all, the now, the whole; the undivided, dynamic totality of form and formlessness. As Barbara Brown Taylor pictures it so vibrantly in The Luminous Web (p. 74):

Where is God in this picture? God is all over the place. God is up there, down here, inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light – not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them – but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.

We are pouring from fullness to fullness here.

From the perspective of the cove, the tide rises and falls in great contrasting cycles. A wharf riding gently at sea level on the high tide may be perched fifteen feet above a mudflat when the tide has emptied out. The sea ebbs and flows; the cove appears as “full” or “empty.” But from the perspective of the ocean, the volume of water is always the same; like a great watery amoeba it simply extends and retracts its arms into the nooks and crannies of coastline from its own serenely undiminished magnitude.

When we think about life in terms of rising-and-falling, beginning-and-ending, we are betraying our finite perspective. “The individual drop that we are disappears in time”, writes Raimon Panikkar in Christophany (p. 130) [also see our audio set by Cynthia Bourgeault of the same name]. “But the personal water that we are (the drop’s water) lives eternally – if, that is, we have succeeded in realizing the (divine) water that we are.” If, in other words, we have succeeded in shifting our perspective from cove to ocean.

It’s not easy, for sure. Down here in earth-time, the fleetingness of duration weighs heavily on us. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave”, Thomas Grey famously lamented. So brief the duration of a human life; so quickly over and gone. And when that life is but embryonic, cut off before it is even born, the pathos seems doubly brutal. We feel it as an exception, a violation. We do not see – do not want to see – even the slightest continuity with the universal, impartial agency of those “Ways of Life” Teilhard speaks of – ingenuity, profusion, indifference (!!) – to which all lower orders in the chain of life are bound. Duration seems so precious to us when it comes to human beings; less so, perhaps when we try to extend it to virtual particles or stars exploding in-and-out of existence in distant galaxies – or for that matter, to the millions of un-germinated seeds for every fetus engendered; to the ants, viruses, butterflies, starfish washed up on a beach in a freak flood tide, abandoned pets, livestock en route to the slaughterhouse…Where do our hearts draw the line?

“Only from the spirit, where it reaches its felt paroxysm, will the antinomy clear”, writes Teilhard – “and the world’s indifference to its elements will be transformed into an immense solicitude – in the sphere of the person”.  But perhaps not quite in the way we are expecting. Personhood does not change the laws to which the entire created order is bound, but perhaps it gives us some perspective by rescuing consciousness from its captivity to duration.

So what about all those “souls” who don’t get a chance to live this life, spread their wings, even draw their first breath? Is something unbearably precious lost forever? As I ponder, from my own human perspective, the pathos of a life seemingly cut short in time, I find myself drawn back time and again to this haunting poem by Laura Gilpin (entitled “The Two-headed Calf”), which I first came across in Belden Lane’s spiritual classic, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes.

Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum. 

But tonight he is alive in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass. And
as he stares into the sky, there are
twice as many stars as usual. 

I offer this poem as a kind of dark solace in the face of that sickening, “punched-in-the gut” feeling that arises whenever we try to fathom a life that will never know the grace of duration in time. All life is one life, ultimately, and this one life is in the hands of God and is the hands of God. As humans, we properly feel grief and immense pathos when a potential life trajectory is suddenly cut off, either intentionally or by accident, and it is right that we should; that is the nature of our human sentiency. But to the extent that we can open our hearts and learn to feel all of life – in all its myriad yet particular forms – as the seamless sentiency of God, then perhaps we can loosen our grip on individual duration and let the unbroken wholeness of life flow according to its own mysterious deeper rhythm. The antidote to hardness of heart (from which our culture certainly suffers) may not lie so much in exaggerating the rights of the unborn as in opening our hearts more deeply to the unity – and free fall – that is divine love.

Nothing can fall out of God. Each and every created essence – whether plant, mineral, animal, human – participates in the symphony of divine self-disclosure in its own way and knows the fullness of divine mercy according to its own mode of perceptivity. Even a stone. Even a blade of grass. Most certainly a fetus. Most certainly at the hour of our death. Duration does not affect that holographic fullness, presumably even in a virtual particle. Even – sometimes especially – in brevity, the intensity of the whole is conveyed in a heightened form – twice as many stars as usual!

Granted, the gift of time gives us the window of opportunity to do some pretty amazing stuff – like developing a soul, for one! But the soul is for cosmic service. Cosmic fullness is something else again. It is the free and gratuitous birthright bestowed by God on every quark and particle of the created order. And we get to participate in it freely, fully, here and now, simply because each one of us is a tiny shareholder in the divine aliveness.

Nor does even an “interrupted life” ever pass out of the knowingness of God. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” says Psalm 139 – and if we turn that promise just slightly sideways, we can see in it a deeper assurance that has slipped by us on the first pass. Each individualized life is a trajectory – a probability wave, quantum physicists would call it – of divine self-manifestation that already exists in the heart of God. The heart of God is the infinite abyss of all possibilities. Its time will come round again.

Deep practice, deep listening, deep hope

Dear Wisdom friends,

I want to make very clear to all of you that the “keep calm and carry on” tone of my earlier (immediately post-election) post does not imply that I’m feeling sanguine about the course of events now facing our country and our world. Quite to the contrary, I believe over the next several months we’re in for some hard reversals, probably harder than most Americans born post-World War II have ever seen in their lifetime.

I’ve been out here on Eagle Island for a few days of Advent deep listening, trying to second-guess myself. But the premonition remains.

And it’s still Wisdom’s hour. Because I believe that those of us seriously committed to walking the Wisdom path have something to bring to the mix which most of our culture – either secular or spiritual – is simply not going to be able to get at. And it’s the missing piece, I believe, where clarity and resolve are to be found, if at all.

As you know, the two main influences on my overall metaphysical bearings are Teilhard and Gurdjieff. From Teilhard I get the reassurance that deep hope takes place over deep time. So much of our human terror and horror comes from trying to compress the timescale too tightly, insisting that coherence must be found over the course of only a few generations, or at best a few centuries. That’s like a pressure cooker without a steam valve; it will inevitably blow up.

From Gurdjieff, I’ve come to understand that all planetary evolution operates under the sway of the Law of Three – and that, once again, we must look beyond immediate “good and bad” / ”winners and losers” modes of thinking in order to see the deeper lines of causality actually directing the unfolding from within a still-coherent field. What looks in the short-range to be unmitigated catastrophe can prove in the longer range to be addressing serious systemic malformations that need to be confronted and corrected before the evolutionary mandate can truly move forward.

It’s exactly this kind of long-scale and impartial visioning that we need to bring to these up-ended times.

My stubborn foreboding is that in the upcoming months we will witness the substantial dismantling not only of the past eight years of Obama progressive liberalism, or even the past eighty years of New Deal social welfare, but something far more resembling eight hundred years of the Western intellectual tradition – all the way back to the 13th century when the rise of scholasticism and the secular university began to displace the hegemony of the faith-based dogmatism in favor of free inquiry based on rational empiricism.

And the centerpiece in this domino chain of destruction is of course democracy itself, whose whole foundation lies in the sanctity of the above-mentioned principles.

Faced with threats – already underway – to what most of us still take for granted as the unshakable foundation of our national life – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, civility of discourse, and a commonly agreed-on factual data base – I believe that the great American liberal progressive establishment will almost inevitably lose heart. I am seeing it happening already: people simply too numb and disoriented to even know what’s hit them. The possibility that democracy itself might fall victim to the collective insanity now massing on its horizon is too devastating even to ponder; we either dig in our heels, give up in despair, or distract ourselves in a dwindling oasis of “business as usual”.

Let there be no mistake about this: what has just come to pass is a serious blow to the foundations of Western Civilization. To name it at a lesser degree of magnitude is to set ourselves up for mere reactivity rather than understanding. We need to name it for what it is and be able to hold our footings as the edifices of post-Enlightenment culture reel-and-tumble in this seismic shift.

And yet, I think it is precisely at this scale – i.e., eight hundred years – that we can discover the real ley lines of the Law of Three at work, in the situation, and we can understand more powerfully, impartially, and strategically what needs to be done as we hold the space for the course corrections which have necessarily arisen. This is not the destruction of consciousness, but a legitimate and ultimately propitious reconfiguration. We must not lose sight of that hope. If nothing else, we need to keep saying it so that it does not vanish from the face of the earth.

I invite all who feel so moved to join me in the work awaiting at this other scale of magnitude. It will involve a combination of deep practice and wider reading and thinking.

The deep practice is about collecting our hearts so as to be more directly and acutely in alignment with “the conscious circle of humanity” – those of all ages and faiths who help hold the bandwidth of compassionate and wise presence around this fragile earth. It is in this imaginal bandwidth that wisdom comes magnificently into her own, but only as our own hearts grow wide and gentle and calm enough to receive her.

The deep reading: for starters, we need a small group or groups who are seriously willing and able to take on Gurdjieff’s sprawling cosmological masterpiece, Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson. If you doubt that our own times are already brilliantly encapsulated there (including an eerily accurate portrait of our POTUS-elect), have a close look at chapters 25-28. (Read Cynthia’s follow-up post to find out more about engaging with this book.)

The other three which are part of my nightly bedtime reading for this retreat and these times: And There was Light by Jacques Lusseyran; Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban’s iconic 1980 post-apocalyptic novel; and of course, The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnus. 

Over the next few months, I will be listening further into how our work wants to take shape “on the ground”: independent small groups? A new round of Wisdom retreats? Online learning formats? Officially rebooting the Omega Order? Road not clear at this point. But I do know that the real Wisdom step is not to pre-design the format, but simply to put the heart out there and see how it seeds itself.

So that’s what I’m doing here, dark and cold time of the year, commemorating this weekend Advent III and the 21st anniversary of the crossing over, into that conscious circle, of Rafe [see Love is Stronger Than Death], in all things my teacher and lightholder.

Let me hear from you if you’re in.

Blessings and love,

Cynthia

That’s How the Light Gets In (by Matthew Wright)

Dear Wisdom seekers,

I’d like to share with you some reflections on what’s happening in this (post-) election cycle here in the United States. There has been so much pain and confusion these last few days and, at the same time, I have felt an amazing upsurge of deeply grounded, newly energized, committed and emboldened hope, rising up through my heart as if from the heart of the earth itself – and I see it rising up and radiating out through so many others as well. I’m naming it an upsurge of “bodhisattva consciousness” – a deep and resolved commitment to work in the world for the liberation of all beings, and particularly for the most silenced and oppressed among us.

After December 19th, when the Electoral College electors cast their ballots, it is almost certain that Donald Trump will be our president-elect. How did we get here, and what is happening? First, let’s scale way back and take the big-picture, long-range view (or, at least, MY big-picture view!): this planet, this entire cosmos, is the unfolding and awakening of God-Incarnate, God-embodied, God-in-form. For those of us who work in a Christian stream, there is the particular point of Incarnate-awakening and initiation that begins and unfolds from the heart of Jesus, and we take our stand and work in that lineage.

incarnationAt the same time, there is a cosmic dimension to Incarnation – the universe itself, the whole shebang of material existence, is God-Incarnate – and through a fourteen-billion-year process of unfolding, God has been evolving outlets with the capacity for self-reflexive consciousness. That’s us. Through us, evolution is awakening to itself. As our hearts stretch, expand, grow, we’re developing the capacity to bear and express, to speak into being the very names, the qualities, closest to the Heart of God – universal love, infinite mercy, tender compassion. Through us, the Heart of God is speaking itself into form. And through our very bearing of those names – in and as that bearing – we awaken in Love, and Love awakens in us, to the absolute unity of all that is. This has been the goal of the entire fourteen-billion-year unfolding.

We, along with this planet, are the deepening self-disclosure of God-in-form. We are the revelation of the Heart of God. We are the manifest, incarnate life of God – ever-moving, through evolution, towards a deeper, fuller, and more conscious expression of Incarnation, of oneness and love awakened-in-form. And for the past 100 years, through the process of globalization, that process has been accelerating, as our hearts grow to embrace a deepening experience of unity-in-diversity (religious, ethnic, cultural, sexual), and a softening or erasure of old boundary lines.

At the same time, fear arises. We feel safer behind our old lines. They are comfortable, familiar. The forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia – they are the denying forces pushing back against the arising unity. These forces experience themselves as “protecting” the world-as-it-has-been. When that world feels threatened, these forces express themselves as fear, dig in, and work to maintain the old boundary-lines at all cost. THIS IS A NATURAL AND UNAVOIDABLE PROCESS. It is the road by which evolution winds. While taking our clear stand with the forward movement, can we hold even these denying forces in compassion as they enter their death throes – yes, even as they inflict violence and pain on others in the process? It is a high calling to hold to this kind of seeing, and it cannot always be maintained. But simply knowing that it’s possible is an achievement.

As for where we are now: over the past decade, following the election of a (fairly) progressive president, progressive, global values have been the affirming force within our wider culture – resulting in marriage equality, increased climate change awareness, etc. Conservative values have been the denying force, pushing back and resisting (Read Cynthia Bourgeault’s post on the Law of Three and the election). That grinding, painful process is simply the way a gradual, growing shift in consciousness takes place.Trinity-300x300

With progressive values in the ascendant these past eight years, the fear-based currents of racism, homophobia, etc. have been pushed underground – where they’ve been brewing and building. And now, with the advent of this election cycle – and it must be seen and named clearly: through the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s campaign – those forces, previously suppressed, have been given voice and hope: “Yes, we can take the world back to what it was! We can maintain the old lines!”

This, however, isn’t possible. The evolution of consciousness and the forces of globalization are simply a rising tide. The current of evolution can be resisted, but not ultimately prevented or diverted (short of global, nuclear destruction) – quite simply because God is the One driving it (and to be clear: from WITHIN, not from “above”), not us. We awaken into and serve the current that is already coursing through the planet. Or we resist it. But it is building.

This is seen both in Hillary Clinton’s staggering win in the popular vote (well over one million now and continuing to grow as absentee votes are counted) and (even more so) in the profound surge of energy from Millennials around Bernie Sanders’ campaign. And to be honest, a great deal of the denying force comes from an older generation that is dying out, and from a privileged white population that is rapidly losing sway as our country’s demographics shift. Given time, it will quite simply fall away.

As for those of us standing with the rising tide of global, progressive values, we have in many ways become complacent – and many of us (mostly white) naïve as to the degree to which regressive values are still alive, well, and entrenched within the wider culture. And now with this flip in the affirming/denying poles seen with the rise of Trump, all of that changes.

light-and-shadow-kumi-yamashita-10Now our collective shadow has been unleashed and brought clearly into the light. That shadow includes, yes, the forces of conscious racism, etc. but also unconscious, systemic racism bolstered by white privilege not consciously wielded for the good. It includes complacency hidden behind self-righteousness, blame, and judgment. While this shadow remained hidden, lurking, it was easy enough to ignore. But now that we are seeing it, WE MUST KEEP SEEING IT. We must keep shining clear, clear light. There are constant siren calls now for “peace” and “unity” – which are really calls to silence the oppressed. A “unity” achieved by pushing the oppressed back into silence is no kind of unity at all.

We must be clear: minority populations are not in a state of denial because “their candidate lost” – they are in deep fear because Donald Trump won. We have seen a massive rise in hate-crimes since election night, and this is tied directly to the hate-rhetoric used by the Trump campaign. These suppressed forces have now been given permission to come into the public discourse and are fighting to be normalized.

We have unleashed our shadow. In one sense, this is necessary – because it’s happening. It’s easy to point fingers and find someone to blame (out-of-touch liberal elites! racist homophobes!), but can we instead step back and see this as life unfolding, as God awakening, through a very painful and messy evolutionary process? The gift is that now we are SEEING. Seeing what’s been there all along. Seeing our shadow. And so our work now is to simply keep shining light where it needs to be shined. We must not let this rhetoric become normalized, and we must not let it go back into hiding.

Two-thousand years ago Jesus said, “There is light within a person of light, and it enlightens the whole world. But if you fail to become light, there is darkness.” We must hold in light and clear-seeing the forces at play, not backing down but also remaining grounded deeply in love and in our own contemplative hearts. When truly seen, darkness cannot long survive.

Anti-Semitism was a powerful undercurrent within Christian thought and theology for almost 2,000 years – and it is still not dead. But following the horrors of the Holocaust during the 20th century (lest we forget, THIS PAST CENTURY), a bright and terrifying light was shined on where those forces can and WILL take us. And almost overnight, in response, the mainstream Christian traditions worked to expunge anti-Semitism from their theologies. It took truly seeing. Would the churches have done this work if both the light and the terror had not reached such intensity? While the transformation can in no way justify the immense pain and suffering, it does show us how we can harness our moments of clear and terrifying seeing and use them as opportunities for change.

img_0682-3We are being called out of our complacency. Bodhisattva consciousness is rising. And without this flip of poles, that might never have happened. This moment is a terrifying gift. In the words of my friend Bob Sabath, posted the morning after: “Trump does not know it yet, but he just gave birth to a movement, just not the movement that he thinks. I imagine that a lot of people woke up this morning, got down on their knees, and asked what is theirs to do at this time. Business as usual is over. Time to weep. Time to dig deep and find ways to connect our lives more fully with what is broken in the world. Time for risk-taking in our own lives. Time to quiet our fears and panic and despair, and listen deeply for the third force needed in our own lives and in the world.”

Listen deeply, friends. I am no fan of militaristic metaphors used for the spiritual life. Nevertheless, a battle is coming, and is now here. Our weapons are light (sharp, clear-seeing), love (non-judging, compassionate awareness), resistance (refusing to fall backwards into complacency, instead joining the forward movement of evolution on its messy way through struggle and pain), and relationship (holding our hearts open – within our capacity – so as to allow for authentic connection, born of deep and vulnerable listening). As Jesus constantly says in the Gospels: be sober, be vigilant, be watchful. But do not fear.

I’m reminded of the assurance given by the Blessed Virgin Mary to the shepherd children at Fatima at the onset of WWII: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Yes, in the end the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the One Heart of God – the One Heart of Humanity – will triumph, and is triumphing even now. Truly, I feel it as an immense hope surging through our planet. Breathe into and through that hope, and let it take flesh in your life. The work ahead of us will not be without pain and struggle. In the face of it all, let us speak into being the names of God: mercy, compassion, and love.

Ring out the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

(Leonard Cohen, 1934-2016)

Love,

Matthew

Two become one…

This piece by Cynthia Bourgeault was originally posted on Northeast Wisdom’s website on July 19, 2016.

Stonington - TWO_closeupLast Tuesday, July 12th, the massive granite sculpture named “Two” by its creator, Maine sculptor Roy Patterson, took up its new home on my front lawn. Instantly it looked like it had been here for eons.

I’m still in a bit of shock at what could have led me to shell out what, from my perspective, is an astronomical chunk of change for this assemblage of granite blocks. And yet there was something so compellingly right about it – so natural – that I could only keep moving ahead with this decision-less decision that seems to have emerged from some intentionality deeper than my own. So when my friend, Lindsay Bowker, pressed me a bit further on this point in preparation for an article on its installation she’s cooking up for the local paper, I put my thinking cap on, and this is what I came up with…


From the moment I bought the little house on School Street in Stonington, I knew I was placing myself in a very public location. Everything I did here would be on display. That’s the nature of the site.

I was also aware that I was assuming a profound gift and responsibility from Michie O’Day, the former owner. Michie is a talented artist and an awesome gardener, and she loved this little house dearly and did the best she could during her decade on watch to bring it along. She adored Stonington – in fact, she would never have left were it not for chronic health issues. Michie and I became friends during the course of the sale, and have remained so, and it’s both a privilege and a debt of honor to carry on the vision that she had for this place.

One of the things that I was able to bring off early in my time here was to buy a swathe of the adjacent property from my next-door neighbors, Phil and Heidi Anderson. That allowed me to secure my view down School Street and to become the owner of that striking, prow-like front corner of the property, sitting high above the intersection of Church and School streets like the bow of a ship.

I’d long thought that a piece of sculpture might be perfect there: partly because plants don’t grow well on that spot (lucky for me; otherwise, I would have immediately succumbed to the temptation to put an apple tree there) and partly because I deeply appreciate fine art as well as the proud heritage and physical beauty of this tiny fishing village I have called home on and off for more than twenty years now. Fine art transforms physical beauty into spiritual beauty, touching deep archetypal currents (at least, if it’s good art) without ever being too blatant or ideological about it, without forcing people to see in a certain way. Fine art simply evokes the heart.

Stonington - TWOThe idea of placing Roy Patterson’s sculpture on that site grew on me gradually as I passed by it year after year, season after season, sitting there in the dooryard of the Turtle Gallery in Deer Isle. I never really decided to; it just seemed more and more obvious that the piece would fit perfectly there. It is solid and familiar, built of the very granite blocks and shapes that all the walls up and down School Street are built of, including the one it sits atop. So it dialogues well with the natural world here, and with our local history and heritage. But it has another level of meaning as well, much more subtle, allusive, and archetypal.

Roy Patterson calls the piece “Two”, and, as its creator, he has his own unique and deep relationship with this sculpture. For him, it speaks of maternal tenderness and nurturance. The “two” are the granite mother and child.

But, precisely in the measure that a work of art is genuine and deep, it also graciously receives the interpretations of the beholder. And, for me, given my background as an Episcopal priest, this work is quintessentially (though allusively) an altar, the stone circle sitting on it a host, and its granite solidity reverberates in my spiritual imagination with Teilhard de Chardin and his archetypal “Mass on the World”, offered not in bread and wine, but in human labor and human suffering. To me this sculpture is supremely Teilhardian, bringing together geology, solidity, universality, and an implicit offering of gratitude and petition for our one world, at once hauntingly particular and sweepingly universal.

And so I place this small “altar” at the prow of this property I am stewarding: facing downhill toward the fishermen, quarrymen, and townsfolk who have made our village what it is, all the while allusively affirming that there are dimensions of our common life that go deeper than even civic or public duty. They touch the sacred.


Stonington - TWO_boomPost-installation P.S.: Well, for the record, it is an absolutely powerful altar! That was clear even as its granite pillars were being swung into place from the boom truck. And now, as I stand behind it facing down School Street toward the fishing boats, the islands and ocean stretching beyond, and our one world stretching still “beyonder”, I sense that it is indeed for the offering of The Mass of the World – in whatever physical or imaginal space this ritual may transpire – that this mysteriously beautiful and compelling piece has found its way to me. Whatever else unfolds during the time that “Two” and I sojourn together here on the corner of School and Church Streets, it has already called me in its quiet and insistent way to a renewed seriousness of commitment to our common humanity, and to our one beautiful and fragile planet, hurtling toward either transfiguration or destruction. Like Teilhard, as I stand every morning before its solid, sheltering pillars, I will send my blessings and prayers out over those shining waters with that same fervent plea with which Teilhard’s Mass reaches its climax: “Lord, make us One!”

“…When you can make TWO become one,” says the Gospel of Thomas…Could that be what it’s all about? Seriously?

Stonington - TWO_CB

Contemplation and the Christian Faith: An Interview

This piece was originally posted on Christopher Page’s blog, In A Spacious Place. Christopher was interviewed by a Year 11 Australian student in Brisbane. Her class was investigating contemplation as the highest expression of intellectual and contemplative life, identifying the intra-religious connections of contemplation between three religious traditions.


Recently I received an email from a student in a Study of Religion class asking me “to answer some questions about contemplation and the Christian faith.” She may have got a little more than she bargained for as my reply to her questions exceeds 1,000 words.

Having put down these thoughts, it seemed worthwhile to share them here:

 

Responses to a Study of Religion Class Students Questions on “Contemplation and the Christian faith”


– What is contemplation to Christianity?
It is important to be clear about how we are using words. The noun “contemplation” is not synonymous with “contemplative practice”.

Contemplation is either:

  1. a state of awareness of God’s presence and action in all of life to which we open through contemplative practices, or
  1. one form of silent spiritual practice in which the practitioner intends to open to an awareness of the presence and action of God at work in all of life.

In these two senses, “contemplation” in Christianity is used to refer to the inner path of faith and practice in which a person of faith seeks to open more deeply to an awareness of the Divine at the heart of all creation and to surrender to God.

– Is contemplation/contemplative practice the best way to connect to God as the suprasensuous (above/inaccessible to the physical senses)? Why/why not?
There is no “best way to connect to God”. In fact there is no way “to connect to God.” All human beings are connected to God. There is no way to be alive and NOT be connected to God. God is the breath of life, the well-spring of all being, apart from Whom there is no life.

all-sacredThe issue is NOT “connection”; the issue is awareness. The question is not, “Are we connected to God?” but “Are we conscious of God, open to God’s work in our lives, and responsive to God’s Spirit?” All spiritual practice aims to enable the practitioner to open more deeply to the presence and action of God and to live more responsively to the flow of love that is the fundamental life-force of the universe. Every person must find the path that works best for them to help them become more sensitive to the secret hidden inner stirrings of the Spirit.

The anonymous author of the 14th-century English spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, wrote:

Should it seem that the way of prayer I have described in this book is unsuited to you spiritually or temperamentally, feel perfectly free to leave it aside and with wise counsel seek another in full confidence.

(Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing And The Book of Privy Counselling. trans. William Johnston, S.J. NY: Image Books, 1973, 143)

This is wise and gracious advice. Every person needs to be encouraged to find the way that resonates with their lives to deepen their consciousness of God.

– What are the spiritual benefits of actively participating in contemplative practices?
It is important to be cautious in speaking about “spiritual benefits”. Spiritual practice is NOT just one more form of self-help discipline. The aim is NOT to make us better people. The aim is to open to an awareness of the presence and action of God in all of life. Contemplative practice seeks to help the practitioner become more sensitive to the subtle moving of God in all of life. It aims to support us in surrendering more deeply to the energy flow of life and loosening our resistance to the realities of life as they are.

With this caution in mind, it is likely that following a spiritual path that genuinely nurtures surrender and acceptance will deepen a sense of peace and groundedness in our lives. Faithfully following a life of spiritual practice will probably make us more compassionate, more open, more flexible, and help us to live more gently in this world. We will likely find ourselves less bound to external circumstances, less dependent upon the feedback of other people as a source of motivation for our lives, and less anxious and driven. We will probably find that we are able to live more freely independent of the constant driving power of likes and dislikes.

There is always a danger of turning any practice into an idol. Jesus said, “It is written,’Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him'” (Luke 4:8). This means that God is the only goal of spiritual practice. The orientation of spiritual practice is letting go, not getting somewhere. We do not aim at peace, harmony, a sense of well-being; we aim at God. These qualities for which we long may follow, but they are NOT the goal.

The goal is to surrender to God and to open more fully to God.

– How often should someone participate in contemplative practices?
One of the goals of spiritual practice is to move beyond “should.” There are no “shoulds” in spiritual practice. Every person’s life is different. We are all at different places in our spiritual journey. The Spirit of God works in every person’s life in unique ways that are particularly suited to that person. God is a great respecter of persons and honours where each person is in the journey of life.

We need to be deeply aware of our personal life circumstances and to respect the realities of our lives. It is not realistic to ask a young parent with small children to spend twenty minutes twice a day in silent prayer. A retired person who lives alone and has a relatively orderly life may have the freedom and space to give more time to intentional spiritual practices than a person who is in the early stages of establishing themselves in the world.

Life has seasons. There are some seasons in which some practices are appropriate and feasible. There are other seasons when such practices are not possible. We each need to open to the guidance of God’s Spirit and find the practice that is suitable for our lives in the season in which we are living.

Contemplative practices are always gentle and respectful.

– How does Centering Prayer connect to contemplation?
Centering Prayer is one particular form of contemplative prayer practice. It aims to develop in the practitioner a greater ability to surrender to the presence and action of God at work in all of life.

– How do you know the right time to do contemplative practices, and how do you prepare yourself for them?
See comments above on “should”.

There is no “right time” to do any practice. The only goal is to find a life pattern that works for the particular person. The spiritual life is guided and governed by the Spirit at work in the person’s life. There is no pattern that fits every person. We must live in response to the specific working and call of God’s Spirit in our lives.

Having said all that, it is important to note that setting aside a specific time and place for one’s practice does help to develop regularity and discipline. We are more likely to develop healthy life-giving spiritual habits if we regularly sit in meditation and reinforce this intention by showing up consistently in the same place at the same time every day. We humans are embodied spiritual beings; so our physical surroundings, time of day, and body patterns will help or hinder our spiritual practice.

Meditation-Group-at-UVicIt can also be a substantial support in meditation practice to connect with a community of people who regularly sit together. The exercise of meditation in a group deepens the experience of silence and is a great encouragement to regular practice.

All of life is preparation for contemplative practice and all contemplative practices are preparation for life. Spiritual life is a sacred circle into which we are drawn when our hearts are open.

– Why is it important to understand our spirituality?
It is not “important to understand our spirituality”. When we enter the realm of spirituality, we are entering the realm of mystery. Spiritual practice draws us to the limits of the human capacity to understand. In spiritual practice we stand on the edge of the great deep darkness of unknowing that resides at the heart of all existence.

Spiritual practice may lead to greater wisdom; but it is not a path to understanding in any rational, cognitive sense.

In spiritual practice we intend to open to human faculties that are deeper than the intellectual and emotional functions we use to navigate a great deal of life. This is what Jesus was speaking about when he said, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

We go into the “room” of the human heart when we step aside for a moment from the distractions and preoccupations of daily life and open to an awareness of the deeper moving of God’s Spirit. This awareness comes not primarily at a cognitive or emotional level. It comes “in secret,” in a subtle hidden realm that, while including thought and feeling, transcends both thought and feeling. Spiritual life aims to open to and be sensitive to this subtle hidden realm that is the true nature of all human existence.

Matthew Wright on the West Coast: A Report

This is a re-post of an article written for Northeast Wisdom by Sher Sacks on December 21, 2015. Shortly after Matthew spent time with us at Shawnigan Lake, BC, he hosted a similar retreat in Sechelt, BC.


“I think some of you will be happy to hear how Matthew is playing in my old British Columbia stomping ground.” ~ Cynthia

On November 23 and 24, 2015, Matthew Wright, an Episcopal priest from St. Gregory’s church in Woodstock, NY (yes that Woodstock) presented a group of about two dozen with a remarkable range of material about the Wisdom teachings of Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus). We have long been taught what we are to believe about Yeshua but far less about how the teachings of Yeshua can transform our lives. And Matthew offered this option.

The workshop was not about knowing more, but about knowing more deeply. We are often told to “get out of our heads and into our hearts” which is problematic given the nature of the English language which equates heart with emotion. As Matthew pointed out, the heart is not the emotional centre, it is rather the organ of spiritual perception. It would be more accurate to say “get into your HeartMind”. This understanding makes Yeshua’s phrase “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (become conscious of God), make more sense.

2015-11-24 - MatthewWrightWmeditationMatthew spent some time discussing what is now being referred to as the second axial age. The first axial age occurred around 800 to 200 BCE, when there was an enormous increase of spiritual understanding. It was the period in which the Buddha taught, Lao-Tzu (the founder of Taoism) was teaching in China , the Rishis (writers of the Vedas) were active in India, and Monotheism arose in Israel (Abraham and Sarah left their tribe to “follow God” and the Abrahamic covenant was born). Out of this incredible upwelling of spiritual awareness came a sense of transcendence and an individual quest for spiritual understanding or enlightenment. The ultimate goal became escape, or liberation from the world of matter, which was considered lesser or even evil. The problem became one of how to escape from samsara (cycle of rebirth in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism) or to repair the rift created by “the Fall” (Christianity). The end result was the sense that something was wrong with this world. Our spiritual consciousness became dominated by images of separation and exile.

However, slowly, over the centuries, according to many thinkers, including Matthew, there has risen the deep indwelling knowledge that “we belong”. We have begun to pick up the very real connection with the earth and each other that existed in pre-axial times. This sense combined with the first axial age sense of transcendence, gives us the opportunity to move into a synthesis of the transcendent and the immanent to create a new world order. During the workshop Matthew pointed out that multiple strands of knowledge point us in this direction. Quantum physicists have discovered the deep interconnection of all things at the most subtle levels of matter; environmentalists are pointing out that we are part of a global ecosystem; evolutionary biologists, reveal that life is unfolding as a vast, single process.

2015-11-24 - MatthewWrightWorshop - groupMatthew also pointed out that this “second axial current” didn’t just start recently. It is present in the Bodhisattva vow of Mahayana Buddhism (the vow to remain in the phenomenal world until all beings are awakened) and in Incarnational theology (elimination of the boundaries between the sacred and the profane – “God so loved the world” and “the Word became flesh”). Yeshua rejected the asceticism of John the Baptizer and pointed us to a path that fully embraces the world. He partied, feasted, and associated with those identified as outcasts and sinners. He broke the purity laws. Yeshua prayed “Thy Kingdom come on Earth”. His teaching indicated that we belong deeply to this world; we are interwoven into its fabric. As a teacher within the Wisdom tradition of the east, Yeshua taught us about compassionate, loving intelligence where attention (alertness, spaciousness) and surrender (a humble letting go) meet in the heartmind. It is not so much about what Yeshua taught but about where he taught from. What he taught was not a moralistic, but a transformative path.

Matthew spent some time describing the reasons why this basic teaching of Yeshua morphed into the moralistic, judgmental teaching within which most of us were raised. He followed the growth of Christianity out of its eastern foundations toward Greece and Rome, with martyrdom leading to “we/they” thinking, and finally to the moment that Christianity became an imperial identity marker within the Roman Empire with its counsels of Bishops. What one believed became all important and led to the inquisition, witch trials, and the crusades. Yeshua’s path of inner transformation was almost lost.

Now we have the opportunity to move beyond a belief and belonging system to the recognition of Yeshua as the archetype of the full union of human and divine – Christ consciousness. Yeshua is not the exclusive union BUT the fullness of the human and divine union (Christ). In reference to this concept we discussed some of the Christian and Sufi mystics and their practices, kataphatic prayer (prayer with content), and apophatic prayer (emptying the mind of words and ideas and simply resting in the presence of God). We discussed how we can learn from each other using homeomorphic equivalency, looking for deep correspondences that go beyond the words and concepts of our distinct religions or cultures to find the same or similar experiences.

We also considered the phrase “the Kingdom of God” not as a place (Heaven) or existing at a particular time (after death), but as a state of consciousness, here and NOW. We turned our minds to Christophany (all reality as a manifestation of Christ) and reflected upon Raimon Panikkar’s concept that reality is Cosmotheandric (a totally integrated and seamless fabric that is the undivided consciousness of the totality). We examined Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of Christogenesis, within which Christianity is not a path of ascent but a path flowing out from God. Matter is not a distraction from God but an outworking of God in form. Incarnation awakens to itself in Christ (Form). The world is not static but constantly changing. God is committed to that change, since as the creator God embedded it in the world and now sustains it. Christ consciousness is its goal. As Paul stated in Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”.

Finally we considered the concept of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the Heart of the universe, the evolutionary driveshaft of all creation; the second coming as the coming of conscious union with the divine. Referring back to the omegaconcept of axial ages we noted the rise in non-dual consciousness. We noted that evolution has been acting unconsciously up till the present but now we have the opportunity to act consciously in it. Evolution has become aware of itself. We must choose to deepen the disclosure of the Heart of God. Christ is the endpoint (the Omega). However this convergence is not inevitable. If the second axial age is to manifest we must choose and act!


Originally posted on NortheastWisdom.org

Thanksgiving 2015 – A Letter from the President

On Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend, Heather Page, president of The Contemplative Society, reflected with gratitude on the past year. Please see her letter to the TCS community re-posted here below.


A Time to Be Thankful

Last weekend, The Contemplative Society held its AGM. As I prepared my annual report for the fiscal year, I found much to be grateful for in the life of the Society. Gratitude will be much on our hearts as we here in Canada celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. The intensity of summer’s light has begun to soften and a quiet gentleness seems to permeate this season – a truly contemplative time of year.

July saw our gifted and much appreciated administrator for the past five years, Eileen deVerteuil, step down from her position. We have been blessed to have the position filled by Miranda Harvey, who most recently was a TCS board member and worked as a fundraiser at the University of Victoria. She brings with her a steady meditation practice, a connection with the younger generation, computer savviness, an interest in social networking, and a number of other gifts. We are delighted to have her serving the Society in this capacity. Cynthia writes of Miranda’s “incredible blessing to my work as TCS continues to hold down the role of the flagship of my little wisdom fleet.”

The website has been another transition for TCS this year. The process was not always smooth. It required many hours of work by both Eileen and members of the board working with a professional team. In the end we are pleased with the look and function of the new site, and many have expressed their gratitude for the upgrade. The website gets an average of 6000 hits a month, supporting and encouraging contemplatives around the world. If you have not had a chance to look at the new website, please go to contemplative.org and check it out. In addition, our Facebook community is also growing, currently showing approximately 3000 “likes” which is indicative of the number of people following that page. If you would like to receive weekly quotes by Cynthia and other contemplatives as well as receiving current updates, consider “liking” us on Facebook.

MatthewWright2015_nobordersWe are now looking forward to the visit of the Rev. Matthew Wright. Matthew comes from Woodstock, New York and has a passion for interfaith spirituality, particularly drawing inspiration from the teachings of Bede Griffiths, Teilhard de Chardin, and Raimon Panikkar. Matthew will be leading a Contemplative Society sponsored retreat at Shawnigan Lake and a public event at the local university in November. We are tremendously grateful for the grants and ongoing donations we have received which will keep costs down for these events, as well as enabling us to provide scholarships to students and those with financial challenges. The support of our donors and membership continues to inspire me, and I feel thankful for a community so dedicated to keeping the Christian contemplative tradition vibrant.

Finally, as fall Learning to See by Cynthia Bourgeaultsinks in and the darker seasons come upon us, I am encouraged by the Light that Cynthia’s teachings remind us of. Recently, I was talking with a young friend who mentioned how much he was enjoying Cynthia’s audio teaching, “Learning To See” (currently in revision) and its source of inspiration, And There Was Light, a book by Jacques Lusseyran. I am so grateful to our audio ministry team of volunteers, who spend countless hours of their own time producing the audio recordings we have for sale, providing a steady foundation for The Contemplative Society to stand on.

In “Learning to See”, Cynthia draws from Lusseyran’s story to explore such themes as inner observation and nurturing the heart (see quotes below). Let us all celebrate this Thanksgiving season by encouraging one another to remember the Light that each of us carries within.

With gratitude,

 

Heather Page
President

 

Quotes from And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran and Cynthia Bourgeault’s Wisdom School “Learning to See”

  • “All interest in outcome puts you in egoic perception. The letting go is the heart beat not the result.”
    ~ Cynthia Bourgeault
  • “Don’t go too far afield for help. Either it is right near you, in your heart, or it is nowhere. It is not a question of character, it is a question of reality. If you try to be strong, you will be weak. If you try to understand, you will go crazy… Reality is Here and Now. It is the life you are living in the moment. Don’t be afraid to lose your soul there, for God is in it.”
    ~ Jacques Lusseyran
  • “We need to profoundly accept the givens or else we can’t go forth.”
    ~ Cynthia Bourgeault
  • “I began to look more closely, not at things but at a world closer to myself, looking from an inner place to one further within, instead of clinging to the movement of sight toward the world outside.”
    ~ Jacques Lusseyran
  • “When fear comes, stay with it and befriend it. Sit in the presence of things that scare you. Stay with your ability to tune-in, not fix. Centering Prayer is training in the ability to stay present.”
    ~ Cynthia Bourgeault

Cynthia on Surrender

This is a re-post of one installment of Christopher Page’s four-part series focusing on Cynthia Bourgeault’s quotes and teachings on Surrender. Please visit his blog, In A Spacious Place, for more.


Cynthia Bourgeault on Surrender #3

Cynthia Bourgeault offers an important caution for practitioners of Centering Prayer.

Cynthia says:

“Surrender is a conscious embracing of what is. At times, what looks like surrender can be to withdraw from a little bit of your reality – ‘that’s just him, that’s the way it is, that’s the way it’s going to be, we’re never going to be close, live with it.’ That’s not surrender.

“You can’t surrender to a situation. You can only surrender to what is present in the moment. You can only surrender into the now. And so, trying to surrender to a situation brings victimization and manipulation. Surrender is not passively resigning yourself to something.

“Centering Prayer doesn’t emphasize attention; it emphasizes surrender which is the other core motion you need on a spiritual path, so that’s okay. But it means that for those of you who are working with Centering Prayer as your core practice, you have to learn to re-double your efforts to pay attention in waking life and to work with your inner observer and to develop the skill of attention. And again, you can use surrender to leverage attention. Because when you surrender into the present, it’s a way of paying attention. It’s coming at it from the other side, but it’s a really good way to do it.

“…in my own preferences in things, I would rather see people develop will through repeated surrender than through repeated tightening and clinching around an aim, which is usually an egoic aim anyway. You’ll get there by repeated surrendering of your self which will lead you to true will.

“True will for me is not very far different from conscience. In other words, you see the whole; you see what must be done and your heart connection to the whole is so strong that you can’t not do it. So the choice drops out in true will, which is why I often say there’s only one will; there’s not two wills. And the seeing is the doing, the seeing is the being; and this comes from being completely immersed in and aligned with Being. But you get there with surrender, I think, not quite as fast but a lot more reliably.

“…through the constant practice of the letting go, of the surrendering of thoughts – not for any reason other than the pure gift of surrender – something develops in us, in the solar plexus area that learns this gesture. And experienced practitioners of Centering Prayer rather quickly come to the place where they feel at the centre of their being this tug, this visceral tug in the heart, this honing in on the Divine Presence. And it has nothing to do with thinking about it in the mind. It’s not in the mind. It’s totally visceral.

“But something, through the process of yielding, through the actual act of surrender, develops a very clearly magnetic centre. And then you have your honing beacon in you and you can follow. You can follow reliably the Divine hologram, the pattern of your life as it unfolds from the point of God and not screw up the pattern and the unfolding because you’re frightened or hiding something or have something in denial – all those things. You go with the pattern.”