Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: Cynthia Bourgeault

A State of Presence – 10 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart

Bourgeault_Wisdom_Way1. Bringing the human organism into balance

“Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body. Bringing the human organism into balance…”

2. A state of presence

“This state of presence is extraordinarily important to know and taste in oneself. For sacred tradition is empathic in its insistence that real Wisdom can be given and received only in a state of presence…”

3. Through which one passes to Wisdom

“Presence is the… gate through which one passes to Wisdom.

4. A quality of aliveness

“Each one of us, and every action we make, has a quality of aliveness to it, a fragrance or vibrancy uniquely its own. If the outer form of who we are in this life is conveyed by our physical bodies, the inner form – our real beauty and authenticity – is conveyed in the quality of our aliveness. This is where the secret of our being lies. Quality is the innermost, energetic essence of our own life…”

5. Alignment with your innermost being

“…in any situation in life, confronted by an outer threat or opportunity, you can notice yourself responding inwardly in one of two ways. Either you will brace, harden, and resist, or you will soften, open, and yield. If you go with the former gesture, you will be catapulted immediately into your smaller self, with its animal instincts and survival responses. If you stay with the latter regardless of the outer conditions, you will remain in alignment with your innermost being, and through it, divine being can reach you. Spiritual practice at its no frills simplest is a moment-by-moment learning not to do anything in a state of internal brace. Bracing is never worth the cost.”

6. The pure act of creativity

“The pure act of creativity cannot exist alone; it seems to require an opposite and equal act, which is pure reflection or pure awareness…”

7. Unitive seeing

“In fact, this is what the word ‘theology’ originally meant. It describes unitive seeing: not talking about God in linear, rational discourse but actually participating in the logos (or creative intelligence) of theo (God) as it shapes itself into new forms…”

8. A Wisdom path

“Indeed, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Christian in our own cultural times. Christianity is a Wisdom path par excellence. It doesn’t make sense at the literal level and can actually cause a fair amount of damage. Only when a progressive training of the spiritual imagination opens up the unitive capacity in a person does Christianity become congruent with its own deepest truth.”

9. By the beginning of the fourth century

“By the beginning of the fourth century, this intimate ‘Wisdom’ way of encountering Jesus was visibly fading…”

10. The era of the great creeds

“More and more, the encounter with Jesus came not through that deep, timeless opening of the heart but mediated by what might be called ‘doctrinal mantras’ – saying the right things and knowing the right things about Jesus. The fourth century became the era of the great creeds…”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Innermost Way of Seeing – 7 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God

Product6386_Photo11. To get beyond linear, discursive thinking

“But the real point of meditation is not to reject all ideas and concepts; Christianity does not say that the way to end pain is to end thinking. What it says, rather, is that we have to get beyond linear, discursive thinking in order to access the realm of inspired visionary knowing where Christianity finally becomes fully congruent with its own highest truth, and its mystical treasures can be received into an awakened heart…”

2. The ground of hope

“The ground of hope is very real and immensely powerful – if you have the courage to yield yourself all the way into it. The real problem with much of our Christian presentation of hope and healing is that it does not push far enough: it stays at the fix-it level. Beneath that is something infinitely deeper and truer.”

3. Deeper intelligence moving inside you

“Meditation, then, becomes a way of screening out the noise, turning down the boom box of your egoic thinking to allow this other to begin to resonate within you… Whatever form of meditation you practice, it is in essence simply a method for detaching yourself from thinking (which tends to reinforce the egoic process) long enough for you to begin to trust this other, deeper intelligence moving inside you. It provides you with another way to think: from ‘beyond the mind’…”

4. Hope dwells deep within us

“Before we can really begin to work with the idea of hope dwelling within rather than coming from without, we need to have some picture of where and how it could dwell in us, what inside us could embody it. Obviously there is a paradox here, an eye of the needle to thread. We ourselves are not the source of that hope; we do not manufacture it. But the source dwells deep within us and flows to us with an unstinting abundance, so much so that in fact it might be more accurate to say we dwell within it.”

5. An abiding state of being

“For in overemphasizing this divine freedom it is all too easy to understate and miss that hope is not intended to be an extraordinary infusion, but an abiding state of being. We lose sight of the invitation – and in fact, our responsibility, as stewards of creation – to develop a conscious and permanent connection to this wellspring…”

6. Your innermost way of seeing

“But for me the journey to the source of hope is ultimately a theological journey: up and over the mountain to the sources of hope in the headwaters of Christian Mystery. This journey to the wellsprings of hope is not something that will change your life in the short range, in the externals. Rather, it is something that will change your innermost way of seeing. From there, inevitably, the externals will rearrange.”

7. The immediacy of the now

“These moments of mystical hope often bring with them an infusion of that timeless, expansive quality, jolting the ordered linearity of our lives into the immediacy of the now.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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An Abiding State of Consciousness – 7 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

41K4qxzIdbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. We can stop the outer noise

“As we grow up, of course, our minds grow more complex and more settled in their own orbits. We spend so much of our adult energies thinking, planning, worrying, trying to get ahead or stay afloat, that we lose touch with that natural intimacy with God deep within us… With some effort, we can stop the outer noise…”

2. An abiding state of consciousness

“Contemplation, understood in the light of a hologram universe, is not a special gift. It is simply seeing from the perspective of oneness… It can indeed be practiced, and over time, with sincerity and persistence, it becomes an abiding state of consciousness. At times this unitive seeing may sweep you up into rapt adoration; at other times it simply deposits you powerfully and nakedly in the present moment. Either form is an expression of the same underlying consciousness. It is this consciousness itself that is the attained state of contemplation, and it is neither infused nor acquired, because it was never absent – only unrecognized.”

3. Psychological woundedness and self-justification

“It is the false self that we bring to the spiritual journey; our ‘true self’ lies buried beneath the accretions and defenses. In all of us there is a huge amount of healing that has to take place before our deep and authentic quest for union with God – which requires tremendous courage and inner presence to sustain – escapes the gravitational pull of our psychological woundedness and self-justification. This, in essence, constitutes the spiritual journey.”

4. Your own authentic unfolding

“When the inner alignment is strong and steady, you find that you are able to follow the course of your own authentic unfolding with a kind of effortless grace. When the signal gets dim or you forget to listen, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve wandered off-course.”

5. Presence can be sustained

“…presence can be sustained regardless of whatever inner or outer storms may assail you. You do not have to make the terror or anger or grief go away; you simply have to hunker down in magnetic center and allow the surface of life to be as it is. Amazingly, you discover that at the depths Being still holds firm.”

6. Just stay present

“Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.”

7. God is always present, and we’re the ones who are absent

“The reality is that God is always present, and we’re the ones who are absent! We hide in the cataphatic: in our noise, our stories, our self-talking, our busyness. Silence is useful in that it takes away the evasions; it forces us to befriend our own consciousness and stop running from our own shadows. Once that willingness has been found – the willingness simply to endure ourselves in the present moment – then the external conditions of silence become much less important… On the other hand, without that consent to fully inhabit ourselves, even silence itself will soon get piled high with rules, self-definitions, rigidity, and piety; it becomes itself a form of evasion.”

Which quote do you like the best?

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Awakened Consciousness – 6 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

41K4qxzIdbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. A deeper and vastly more authentic Self

“Like most the great spiritual masters of our universe, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity.  The person I normally take myself to be – that busy, anxious little ‘I’ so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues – is never even remotely the whole of who I am, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means is to miss out on the bigger life.  This is why, according to his teaching, the one who tries to keep his ‘life’ (i.e., the small one) will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing.  Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the smaller ‘I’ with its insatiable needs and demands.”   

2. A mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death

“When we enter meditation, it is like a ‘mini-death,’ at least from the perspective of the ego (which is why it can initially feel so scary).  We let go of our self-talk, our interior dialogue, our fears, wants, needs, preferences, daydreams, and fantasies.  These all become just ‘thoughts,’ and we learn to let them go.  We simply entrust ourselves to a deeper aliveness, gently pulling the plug on that tendency of the mind to want to check in with itself all the time.  In this sense, meditation is a mini-rehearsal for the hour of our own death, in which the same thing will happen.  There comes a moment when the ego is no longer able to hold us together, and our identity is cast to the mercy of Being itself.  This is the existential experience of ‘losing one’s life.’”

3. Resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and feelings

“What really happens when one enters the cloud of unknowing, resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and feelings, is a profound healing of the emotional wounds of a lifetime…”

4. Would never have existed apart from struggle

“True self comes into being as a kind of sacred alchemy, through the conscious acceptance and integration of our shadow side.  It is not so much the curing of a pathology as the birthing of something that would never have existed apart from struggle…”

5. Beyond the capacity of the anxious, fear-ridden ego

“The gospel requires a radical openness and compassion that are beyond the capacity of the anxious, fear-ridden ego.”

6. Awakened consciousness

“Inner awakening is basically about breaking this cycle, opening to a new infusion of self-restraint or awakened consciousness that knocks you loose from the downed electric wire of that crazy, volatile, emotional energy.  It’s about being able to make a separation, stepping back into a more spacious inner place so that the whole pattern doesn’t just keep playing itself out mindlessly, stealing your vital life energy that can really be used for far better purposes.”

Which quote do you like the best?

Tremendous Courage – 8 quotes from Cynthia Bourgeault’s book – Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

41K4qxzIdbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Intentional silence is a non-negotiable

“Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable…”

2. Jesus was a contemplative

“It seems safe to assume that Jesus was a contemplative, by which I mean that the intentional alteration between contemplation and action is one of the… rhythms of his being.  At all the great junctures of his life – in the first temptations in the wilderness, in his withdrawal to the far shores of Lake Galilee immediately preceding the miracle of the loaves and fishes, at his transfiguration on Mt. Tabor and at the final anguish in the garden of Gethsemane – his pattern is to withdraw into solitude to listen more deeply…  and unite his being to the divine Will…”

3. The history of Western Christendom

“And of course, this is the history of Western Christendom in a nutshell.  As the age of scholasticism advanced and the Church gradually lost the capacity to read its own mystical roadmaps, both its theology and institutional life grew more dogmatic and contentious…”

4. Seeing from the perspective of oneness

“Contemplation, understood in the light of a hologram universe, is not a special gift.  It is simply seeing from the perspective of oneness…  It can indeed be practiced, and over time, with sincerity and persistence, it becomes an abiding state of consciousness.  At times this unitive seeing may sweep you up into rapt adoration; at other times it simply deposits you powerfully and nakedly in the present moment.  Either form is an expression of the same underlying consciousness.  It is this consciousness itself that is the attained state of contemplation, and it is neither infused or acquired, because it was never absent – only unrecognized.”

5. Requires tremendous courage

“It is the false self that we bring to the spiritual journey; our ‘true self’ lies buried beneath the accretions and defenses.  In all of us there is a huge amount of healing that has to take place before our deep and authentic quest for union with God – which requires tremendous courage and inner presence to sustain – escapes the gravitational pull of our psychological woundedness and self-justification.  This, in essence, constitutes the spiritual journey.”

6. Totally and predictably mechanical

“…human beings in the grip of their false self programs are totally and predictably mechanical…”

7. A false self system

“A false self system is a system working at a low level of being, which is why it remains so mechanical and viciously self-reinforcing.  With its vital energy largely locked up in its defenses and neurotic programming, there is little left over to reach escape velocity into real awakened consciousness, which both requires and produces a higher level of spiritual vibrancy than we are used to.”

8. We are the ones who are absent

“The reality is that God is always present, and we are the ones who are absent!  We hide in the cataphatic: in our noise, our stories, our self-talk, our busyness.  Silence is useful in that it takes away the evasions; it forces us to befriend our own consciousness and stop running from our own shadows.  Once that willingness has been found – the willingness simply to endure ourselves in the present moment – then the external conditions of silence become much less important…  On the other hand, without that consent to fully inhabit ourselves, even silence itself will soon get piled high with rules, self-definitions, rigidity, and piety; it becomes itself a form of evasion.”

Which quotes do you like the best?

Book Review- The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault

Bourgeault_Wisdom_Way

Cynthia Bourgeault has written a wonderful book!  The Wisdom Way of Knowing demonstrates how the Western world has lost the experiential life of Wisdom through becoming too rationalistic, intellectual and based on creeds.  She states how this has caused us to lose focus on the Wisdom in our spirituality.  There has been a transfer of practice-based embodied Wisdom to an overemphasis of the intellectual beliefs of the mind which Cynthia draws us back to some balance in our being.

  • Midwives of the Spirit

“Working within the raw materials of the physical world, we are to give ‘birthing’ and ‘body’ to the names of God so that the invisible becomes visible.  We are midwives of the Spirit.”

  • A loss of memory about our Wisdom heritage

“One of the greatest losses in our Christian West has been the loss of memory (in fact, almost a collective amnesia) about our own Wisdom heritage…”

  • The intimacy of knowing and being known

“…the questions of the world have to hurt you before anything real can begin.  That is the other precondition of a Wisdom way of knowing: it requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known… It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving…”

  • Wisdom goes beyond our rational understanding

Wisdom is a way of knowing that goes beyond one’s mind, one’s rational understanding, and embraces the whole of a person: mind, heart, and body…”

  • A state of presence

“…real Wisdom can be given and received only in a state of presence…”

  • The quality of our aliveness

“Each one of us, and every action we make, has a quality of aliveness to it, a fragrance or vibrancy uniquely its own.  If the outer form of who we are in this life is conveyed by our physical bodies, the inner form – our real beauty and authenticity – is conveyed in the quality of our aliveness.  This is where the secret of our being lies.  Quality is the innermost, energetic essence of our life…”

  • Becoming a powerful servant of humanity

“When the attitude of prompt surrender has become permanently engrained in a person while still in bodily life, that person becomes a powerful servant of humanity…”

  • The embodiment of freedom

“Rather than something to be defended, freedom would simply be something to be lived…”

  • The awakening of conscience

“When conscience awakens in a person, it brings not only the obligation but also a mysterious ability to be present in exactly the right way.”

  • Allowing our outer lives to break up

“We need to experience our own personal aliveness as part of that great cosmic aliveness.  Above all, however, we need to allow our outer lives to break up, if necessary, in order to release the divine aliveness within and to understand once again the meaning and beauty of this gesture.”

How can we learn to embody Wisdom in everyday life?