Thanking our Midwife

Dear friends in The Contemplative Society,

It is an honour to be asked to contribute a few words in support of the Margaret Haines Scholarship Fund.

Where do I start, with Margaret Haines or with the contemplative vision that sustained her every step of her long and fruitful journey? Margaret was the spiritual mother of The Contemplative Society, our tiny, “can-do” organization she founded to bring me to British Columbia, and she was my own spiritual mother, midwifing my emergence as a contemplative teacher. In fact, Margaret was midwife all the way; everything she touched, from plants to people to fledgling organizations, grew sturdy and strong in her graciously nurturing hands. When she died at age 85 in 2011, she could look back with justifiable pride on having launched not only an organization, but the thousands of people this organization has touched over the years.

Fr. Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Margaret Haines (March 2002)

What many may not know is that Margaret was a lifelong seeker herself. After completing her “first half of life” duties as a faithful wife, mother, and arborist in the Okanagan, she turned in the second half to a rigorous embrace of the path of transformation, walking parallel tracks in contemplative Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism. She had considerable experience in the Gurdjieff Work under her belt as well, gathered while she and her family still lived in the UK. Her seamless inner integration of Buddhist and Gurdjieffian mindfulness with Christian contemplation furnished the creative matrix in which my own Wisdom teaching came to birth. It all began on Salt Spring Island, BC, in July 1997: the headwaters of a movement that has now spread worldwide.

To all appearances, Margaret, as she began her journey, was simply a “housewife”, a “lay person”, a seeker among hundreds of other seekers, with no particularly distinguishing features other than her innate clarity and her persistence on the path. It was that persistence that brought her to fullness in her own journey and gradually transformed her from postulant to post-holder. That’s how wisdom transmission works; always has and always will. You show up with dogged faithfulness and a constantly rekindling beginner’s mind, and something gradually crystallizes in you. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, you gradually become real, on that same pathway of faithful love.

I mention this because all our spiritual journeys begin at the beginning when both the time and funds needed to support those formative forays into the world of contemplative transformation nowadays often come at prohibitive cost. Younger seekers in particular need scholarship help if they are to take those first steps which even for Margaret, back a half century ago, came at a gentler and kinder time in our planet’s economic history. The same goes for people entering the path later in life or seeking out retreat to renew a path already begun; retirement on a limited income presents similar financial challenges.

There are many Margaret Haineses waiting out there, keen to be formed in the tradition in order to serve their term as post holders and carry the torch to the next generation. All it takes is persistence. And funding.

We hope that each of you reading this message will be moved to support Wisdom transformation by giving as generously as you can of both. A more appropriate tribute to Margaret Haines I cannot imagine.

With warm wishes,

Cynthia Bourgeault


To join Cynthia in supporting the Margaret Haines Scholarship Fund, and help us reach our goal by the deadline of June 30, visit contemplative.org/haines today!

3 replies
  1. Craig
    Craig says:

    I’m not sure if it is appropriate to comment here but I’d like to at least be able to balance my other unconscious rants with beginning to wake up.
    It’s been dawning on me recently how self-perpetually imprisoning mainstream Christianity can be when built upon the premise that we are essentially separate, which is most, if not all of the kind of Christianity I’ve experienced from early in life.
    Having started with original sin rather than original blessing the very idea of original sin becomes distorted. A lot of teachers seem to throw original blessing a few bones every now and then but I could never make sense of it fitted in to their main message.
    At a young age I was introduced to a reality in which God was furious with me and was very keen to cast me into a place of which my worst nightmares would seem like heaven. I was informed that I found myself in this situation not for any particular choice I’d made but because my Original Parents had set up on their own and gone their own way, which meant I was guilty too because I was in them. Unless I went through a kind of quick ritual and accepted that this schizophrenic God “loved” me so much that He’d sent His Son to be tortured and crucified on my behalf so that he wouldn’t have to cast me aside, hell is where I’d find myself.
    I was thirteen at the time and while it didn’t make a whole lot of sense, it terrified me. Who was I to question these adults. If it didn’t make sense that was probably because I was this awful person that God hated so much that He’d be very happy to see me burn forever. It’s quite diabolically ingenious when presented to the young because as I was to discover it only became even more ingrained and painfully entrenched the further I searched for answers. It’s almost like being pointed in the opposite direction to reality with a flame thrower at your back to keep you going, or quick sand. If you do well at creating a successful false self, nothing will make you give it up, let alone a mere “argument”.
    Having begun, and I mean begun, the journey of contemplative meditation a lot of pennies have been dropping and it has struck me recently how grateful I am for those who have gone before.
    If we have always been in union with God or rather God has always been in union with us (original blessing) and the essential problem is not that we’re separate but that we perceive ourselves to be separate due to the evolutionary process and construct False Selves that only reinforce that illusion of separation, then not only does Jesus come into a vastly different light but ALL those who have gone down the road of inner transformation towards enlightenment.
    I’ve been like a bull in a china shop. You’re right. This journey is the most important thing anyone can be doing with their lives. Once you’ve realized that we are not separate, that we are all members of the same body, ALL of us, then one person’s rise in consciousness permeates the entire body’s rise in consciousness. An unknown Hermit monk living in almost complete isolation committed to his/her own rise in consciousness is doing more for humanity, for the world, than the president of the United States or even the most generous philanthropist… I’m slowly getting the hiddenness of God, silence, non-experience… slowly.
    I think I could go on and on about all the different deep confusions that have been finally making sense during the past 2 and a half months with whatever it was that started it, like a knotted rope being untangled, but the one thing I want to thank you for more than anything is your and everyone else’s journey towards unitive consciousness. I wouldn’t be on the journey if it wasn’t for you guys and all those who have been awakening for years and years. Lol and you didn’t even have to say a word 😉 I think any word would have only fuel my unconscious fire.

    Reply
  2. William Thiele
    William Thiele says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute Cynthia. The unnamed host always humbly stand behind us, holding us up as we appear to be birthing movements alone. Your story of her way of standing with and for you is touching.

    Reply

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