Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault

Contemplative Prayer, The Contemplative Journey 4 Comments »

The prophet Isaiah announces, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”

Cynthia Bourgeault’s Wisdom School was held in the suburbs of Charles Town, WV, at the Claymont Society in November, 2010. There were 57 seekers in attendance on different paths but drawn together in their common search to go deeper with Cynthia as their spiritual leader. Each day had a special rhythm in the Benedictine tradition: prayer, meditation, chanting, work, rest and learning. Periods of silence were woven into the pattern of the day.

Cynthia’s teachings were centered on how to go deeper (Wisdom) to know God and be transformed. Some of the topics that resonated with me included:

– Gurdjieff’s 3 centered presence which allows you to journey deeper: mind, body and heart presence.
– The wisdom journey incorporating the Rule of Benedict.
– The Gospel of Thomas: newly discovered truths about our early Christian contemplative heritage.
– Centering and Welcoming Prayer: Tools for transformation.
– The heart as an organ of spiritual perception.
– Metaphysical realms: “we are all part of the heart of God expressing itself…Each one of us are part of an invisible matrix of the God web.”
– Books used: The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart and The Luminous Gospels.

So what did I learn at Wisdom School? I have always sensed that Jesus came as a teacher of wisdom and this school was a confirmation that there is still much to learn about the real mission of Christ. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus provides new insights into the realm of Wisdom that can be understood not only with the mind, but with the heart. These sayings, called Logia, invite us to learn from the inside out, using our three centered presence as a tool for understanding. I also validated that my practice of Centering and Welcoming Prayer are tools for spiritual transformation embraced by the Wisdom tradition.

I understand a little better God’s purpose in creation. According to an ancient Islamic saying, “I was a hidden treasure and longed to be known and so I created the world.” The Gospel of Thomas (Logia 5) states: “Yeshua says…Come to know the One in the presence before you, and everything hidden will be revealed…” God desires to be in love union with his creation and be found. The Wisdom journey is an expansive, deep, mystical and heart centered experience that allows the traveler to know that “we are an instant of God loving to be known.” The Wisdom path incorporates new teachings with contemplative practices to understand the One present within you at all times. The heart, an organ of spiritual perception, helps us to incorporate stillness and presence into our lives and be transformed. I am grateful that I have found this new path – to seek and find the hidden treasure.

The Journey

The Contemplative Journey No Comments »

Isabelle Robinson

The Journey…Unlike any other journeys the spiritual journey doesn’t have a beginning and an end. It is neither fast nor secure. It is not straight or predictable. It is a never ending path which “in one place moves straight like a castle, across a chessboard. In another sideways like a bishop. Now surging like a wave cresting, now sliding like a fish, with always his feet making geomancy symbols in the sand recording his wandering state” says the poet Rumi.

This particular journey is all about wondering and wandering through the maze which is one’s life, trying to find a glimpse of the divine behind each twist and turn. At its core is a thirst to Know God, if not just to know about Him. And that alone transforms the whole journey into something exciting and always new. At the same time, this is a journey into the unknown where incertitude is actually the chosen path to acquire “divine” knowledge. Betty Davis used to say that getting old was not for sissies, well, the spiritual journey is not for them either.

Once you decide to enter that unknown the road is wide open, and there is no specific map to guide you, no signs to show you the way… that is where you start, a nagging sense that something is indeed missing, a “God shaped void” which keeps tugging at your innermost being, going forward into an unknowingness which knows you. Until then you were already on a spiritual journey of some sort since God always walked by you, at times side by side, at time holding you but always there even when you were not. But now that the question has been asked and the void acknowledged, you still can go either way. The questions can be answered quickly and the void can get easily filled with worldly responses. Notice the word “quickly’: the spiritual journey isn’t quick, isn’t obvious, isn’t simple, it is not black and white. This is a world where answers come often at odds times, in odd ways, from the side, from the hip, rarely from the head.

One of my favorite things to do on the last days of my vacations is to make lists: What I call my “What, When and How” list. Needless to say it is much more fun to write it down than to follow it and I am never very good at that either. Too much planning, too much “knowing”, too much “wanting” can just kill the spirit of any true quest, squeezing it dry like a lemon. The spiritual journey needs space to breathe and grow. We can’t control the spiritual journey like we plan a trip in Spain. We do need to have a hand on the steering wheel, but let it be a light touch, not a forceful grip which can throw us into a spin. Let thirst be your guide instead. Let the journey unfolds under your feet, one step at a time, listening to the one to come instead of planning it ahead.

That being said, to advance on the journey does require some muscle strength and the appropriate equipment. This is where discipline comes in. That word has been so used and misused that it permanently carries an aura of punishment and sacrifice. In this particular instance though, it has to do with specific methods chosen to advance on the spiritual path and the training it takes to acquire them, to embrace them, to live them. And that means practice, day after day, year after year, through thick and thin. Sometimes it feels light as a feather, something it is like treading through heavy mud. This is usually where our judgment rushes in. This was good, this was bad. This is a treacherous road which can discourage and frustrate the most genuine seekers. How the experience feels is somewhat irrelevant. What truly matters is “to show up” says Father Sheehan who has been teaching the practice of Centering Prayer for years. And leave the rest up to God.

Teilhard de Chardin says it best:
“For you, there is only one road
That can lead to God and this is fidelity
To remain constantly true to yourself,
To what you feel is highest in you.
The road will open before you as you go.”

2013 The Contemplative Path. Laptop computer.