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.”


No More Bricks

It is curious the things in life over which we quarrel.

The ancient Christian desert tradition tells a story that goes to the heart of our disagreements.

To view the rest of this post go visit In a Spacious Place, the blog at Contemplative Journal (registration required).

Beyond No Hope

If we miss the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, we miss a crucial part of the Holy Week story.

Read more

Guest Post – The Horror

This post is from Christopher Page, who is a long time member of The Contemplative Society. (See Local Teachers page.)

The original post appears in full on Christopher’s blog.

Read more

AT HER EUCHARIST – A Poem by Becky Crigger


This poem was written in honor of Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest and mystic…

Original posting on Becky’s blog.


Apple Tree

 On the last day of a week-long Wisdom School with Cynthia in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, we celebrated the Eucharist in an apple barn. Our time in Wisdom School was modeled after the Benedictine Monastic order, and we spent our days praying and working alone and together and honoring the sacred silence in the evenings. The retreat center at Valle Crucis was formerly the very first Anglican monastery in the United States.


At Her Eucharist


 Her grey rugged clothes and navy cap

Invite me into priestly authenticity.

There are no robes here tonight

No stained glass or pews.

Just a dimly lit red barn at the bottom of a hill,

A circle of chairs framing a small wooden table

Set with bread and wine, body and blood.

A drum and singing bowl, small bouquet of flowers.



Her hardened hands circle the cup

Calling me to this gift

Asking me to be emptied, to be ready.

Leave all things that you have,

Come and follow me.”

The drum is quiet as we stand,

Grows louder as we turn.

Turning and turning, backwards in time.



She holds the bread and speaks to us.

What is this language as we prepare the feast?

A conversation, not a creed

An intimacy, not a routine.

My legs begin to shake as one by one

We make our way to her table

Taking the bread, breaking it in our hands

Lifting the cup, drinking it in our time.



I feel the tears warm my face

As my knees graze the dusty floor,

My interlaced fingers trembling

As I imagine Saint Teresa on the stone

Weeping in her newfound devotion.

In the stillness the moment ceases.

Time is all, all is time.

He is here.


Jesus Eucharist



Becky Crigger is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, as well as a spiritual seeker who finds truth and passion in the many mystical traditions of world religions. She owns a yoga studio in her hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia and is currently discerning a call to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. Her contact information is available HERE.

GUEST POSTING – Daily Rhythm in the Corn Fields of North Carolina with Cynthia Bourgeault

This blog post comes to us from Robbin Whittington who shares her reflections on attending a recent Wisdom School led by Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault.

The Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault was an experience I will be integrating for the rest of my life. While I can’t begin to articulate the full scope of the spiritual terrain traversed during the week spent with her and others from around the country, I do want to share the framework for the week that proved so valuable. We learned about and began to practice how to meaningfully cycle through the four quadrants of a daily Benedictine rhythm of prayer (alone and together) and work (alone and together). According to Cynthia, this balanced approach to living offers us a Wisdom template, a filter through which to look at our lives. (The simple diagram shows the quadrants. If you’d like to learn more about the St. Benedict Rule of life, Cynthia recommends the book, RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English.) Read more

Unless You Are Not There

We are told that we have to balance our budget; whether in Washington or at home. On the other hand, we are also told to love your neighbor as yourself. Which self? The budget-balancing self? The self-preserving self? How many would risk safety to help others? Who would give all to the needy?

We are programmed to count our losses. We lock our cars during the day and our church doors at night. Even in giving to charities we wonder what percentage is spent on the administrative cost.

In the material world of limited resources almost all economic and political systems are built on the basis of competition, whether today or two thousand years ago. From childhood we are taught to compete and be successful. If we cannot get more, at least get a fair share. Even in biblical times, the workers in the vineyard ask for fair payment that is proportional to the time worked in the field. The logic of fairness operates in a world of scarcity or perceived scarcity. Counting is the tool of that logic. Abundance renders irrelevant that tool. Do we count the wild flowers in an open field?

How can I sit here and talk about abundance when millions of people are starving in Africa, Somalia last year, South Sudan this year?

But then how did the lord of the vineyard respond to workers’ complaint about unfairness? In what mind frame does one perceive the unfairness? Fairness is an issue constructed in our mind when we compare what we get with what others get.

So long as we live with the need to have more, the need to be right, and the need to be loved or be treated fairly, we participate in a game of competition in which we want to win, or at least not lose. The modern society does not enslave us, so we claim to be free. But we are enslaved by our own need to succeed, to be prosperous — indeed, to be free. We guard vigilantly our liberty to feed our needs. When we are too stuffed of ourselves, can we really be free? True freedom comes only when we can be free from ourselves.

At the Trappist Abbey in Lafeyette, OR, outside the meditation room is an area where a hanging on the wall frames a single sentence:

God’s love and joy are all around us, but he cannot visit you unless you are not there.’’

The obstacle is we ourselves. Who is our real self? Our capability to think, to feel and to sense are different dimensions of our consciousness. We measure them in binary terms, right, wrong, good, bad, hot, cold. Underneath them all is the inner awareness that has no dimension. If it did, it becomes binary. In the non-dual center there is emptiness. There is no counting to seven, or to eternity. It is now. The present. The Presence. As Thomas Merton has written, the center of our being is a point of nothingness that belongs to God.

Yeshua says: “Dwell in me as I dwell in you”. The living presence of that in-dwelling and our awareness of that presence are what makes the present unchanging. But we are often unaware of the silent presence because of the noise in our lives. Upon arrival at a rented cabin at McKenzie Bridge last summer in a gathering of three generations, we all went immediately to the river’s edge and were transfixed by the roaring rapids. It took a while to find the peace and hear the silent voice in the roaring river when human activities move to the background. That is how it is in our daily lives. Our need to succeed and to find pleasure, health, even virtue, let alone to avoid pain and failure, keeps us away from the awareness of that inner peace. What we really need is to be able to make the transition from the noisiness of our egoic self to the unitive silence within. That deeper reality is invariant, since the divine in-dwelling is not in our control. The practice of making the transition is a process, the outcome of which is not for us to evaluate. Evaluation of success or failure puts us back in the noise.

The inner self is not a place for us to find. It is an abiding state of being. If we set out on a project to find it, we are likely to refurbish our outer faculties in satisfying our needs for the project. All we can do is to disable those faculties, and have the trust that we will be visited by love and joy when we are not there. It is our mystical hope that the inner ground of nothingness springs forth with the abundance that we do not own.

“Abundance that we do not own”: that sounds theoretical or theological. Mystical hope is the kind of hope that is not tied to outcome. At a retreat with Cynthia Bourgeault many years ago, we sat across each other at a dinner table at a time when conversation was allowed. I said to her that I couldn’t understand hope that is not tied to outcome. She looked straight into my eyes and said, “That’s because you are trying to understand it with your egoic mind.” It went directly to the point and no further comment was necessary. “Mystical hope is a flow from the head to the heart.”

We all feel bad about the suffering in the world around us. But if it is a feeling in our ordinary awareness, it stays at that level and we may react with some action from that level. How can we let the world’s suffering enter deeper into our consciousness and become our suffering? To be able to allow that to happen is a gift. Jesus took upon that suffering to be his own and suffered for us. To let God enter our deeper self is to internalize that suffering. All that we can do is to not stand in the way and to let the emptiness in us be filled by God’s love. That domain is non-dual and dimensionless.

Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well for a drink. She could have given him some water and that would be the end of his thirst. But as the conversation went on, it became clear that it was really Jesus who was offering the woman a drink of living water. Are not the hungry people in South Sudan not only asking for food, but also offering us living food? To receive that offering we have to tear down our protective wall of questions in the mind about how (as the Samaritan woman asked), to expose our emptiness, and to ask for the living water that can fill us with abundance.

That well spring of living water nourishes our interior landscape where scarcity and abundance merge into a unitive wholeness, and where suffering and joy are fused by Divine Love.

O God, You love us before we knew you,
You suffered yet You visit us with joy,
You were thirsty, but offer us water.
Enter into our heart so that we may live,
Give us the abundance that we are not to own.

Not as the world gives, do you give.
What You give, You take not away,
For what is Yours is ours also if we are Yours.


** This blog post is offered by a long-time student of Cynthia’s who prefers to remain anonymous **

GUEST POSTING – The Growing Christ – by Brian Puida Mitchell

“We fear nothingness. That’s why we fear death, of course, which feels like nothingness. Death is the shocking realization that everything I thought was me, everything I held onto so desperately, was finally Nothing. The nothingness we fear so much is, in fact, the treasure and freedom that we long for, which is revealed in the joy and glory of the Risen Christ. We long for the space where there is nothing to prove and nothing to protect; where I am who I am, in the mind and heart of God, and that is more than enough.”  – Richard Rohr

We long for that more than anything, don’t we? – that feeling of absolute security and safety in God. We long for it in this world and hope for it in the next. We long for the deep inner knowing that, as Lady Julian of Norwich says, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”: to know that everything is going to be all right. Scripture says it will: “Since this One has been raised up, there is also a universal resurrection of the dead ”.  But no matter how many words we hear, whether from Jesus, our church ministers, or our friends, we’re so often still afraid. Read more

GUEST POSTING – Waking up with Lent! – by Ernest Morrow

Wake up! The season of Lent is like an alarm clock that starts ringing on Ash Wednesday.  As we journey through its forty days, we intend to become more and more awake, more and more conscious, more and more alive.  Our hope is to be as fully present as we can be for the feast of Easter, the great celebration of the Life That Never Goes Away revealed in the Risen Jesus!

sapling as spring growthWake up!  That’s the root note in the chord of Lent. It is no accident that in the northern hemisphere, where the church calendar originated, it is also the time of spring.  New life is waking from its winter death, the sun’s strength returns, and the natural world begins to vibrate more and more. Read more