Deepening the Practice of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault

Notes #1 from Cynthia Bourgeault: Olympic Park Inst. Centering Prayer Retreat – Sept. 1-5, 2003

This post was originally published in Christopher Page’s blog, In A Spacious Place.

Monday evening

It’s not really dark in that dark night.  It’s not really a void in the cloud.  There’s plenty there to see.  But you use a different set of preceptors.

What is the true self?  If you stop short in this teaching, you can sometimes get the idea that the true self is simply the healthy ego.  This is a great trap in the teaching.  This is not what Thomas teaches.

The movement from the personal self to the transpersonal self or from the psychological self, from the experience of our self as basically psyche, to perceiving ourselves as more and more consciousness itself.  What is it that is deeper than, that undergirds all these characteristics that bubble up in us?

The movement from your self as soul to your self as spirit, from a more boundaried, finite, descriptor based feeling of you (I am my feelings, my history, my stories about myself, my reactions, my gifts, etc.) to a relationship with ourselves where we perceive ourselves as a living moving conscious realization, of a consciousness that is unboundaried.

Don’t stop with your psychologically well-adjusted self.  What’s deeper than that?

There is something in us which is already at this point living beyond death and is in itself unboundaried.  And the real trick, which is sometimes referred to in mystical language as the union of soul and spirit, or the marriage of soul and spirit, is about somehow making connection in our self between that part of us which is truly and rightly finite, personal and that which is truly and rightly not finite and not personal.

There is that within us which has the capacity to grow so broad and tall and deep that, like an oak tree, it connects the earth and the heavens.  That’s our teleology; that’s what we are here for.  To do this we have to learn to fall into the ground and die.  At every level we are being asked to die to something less real in order to be born into something more real.

It may be that you are bigger than all the stories you have told yourself.  (Nun – “My story” = “Mystery”)  You become lost in the wonder of your being, not because its your being, but because it is Being and you’re a part of it.

This is the passage into unitive consciousness, into a oneness that doesn’t cancel out the particular.

We have tended to get confused between mystical experience and visionary seeing.  We tend to think that mystical experience means having these great altered states of consciousness experiences, very exuberant oneness kinds of intimate encounters with God.  And those things happen to some people and they don’t happen to other people.  It depends more on temperament than anything else.  But unitive seeing is a quality of being that can and should come to everybody, the fruit of a consciousness grown mature and ripe.  It ought to be the normal human state by the time you reach 60 or so.  Because what really is involved in unitive seeing is simply seeing from that place of oneness within you, seeing from centre within you.  And you already know how to do that.  You know the place from which unitive seeing comes.  All you have to do is learn to work it and trust it.

Only unitive seeing can be truly compassionate.  They are almost synonymous.  Because, as long as you are trapped in binary thinking with its judgments, and its either/or, and its standards, you can’t possibly be compassionate.  You are always going to be judging.  Whenever you are judging someone is left out in the cold.  You can’t have judging without a judged.  We have to learn to move beyond the thing which sees in terms of opposites, one of which is good and one of which is bad.


Full teaching available at: “Deepening The Practice of Centering Prayer”

2 replies
  1. Marty Schmidt
    Marty Schmidt says:

    Keep doing what you do so well, Cynthia – finding new ways to express the same truths that you have written about for some time. I read it over and over because I need to. We’re looking forward to your visit in May.


  2. Gerry Brawn-Douglas
    Gerry Brawn-Douglas says:

    Dearest Cynthia

    As as so often happened when reading your books I stopped, wordless, and deep knowing inside sighed “yes”. This has happened again as I read the content of this page. Eloquent, clear, and lovingly expressed truth. It was a special moment for me to meet you briefly in Auckland, at the public lecture you gave. Thank you X1000 for choosing into the journey that has allowed the particular manifestation of Spirit you bring at this time.

    Peace & love

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