Contemplative Practice

Our contemplative practice is all about moving beyond our usual limited field of perceptivity based solely in the small egoic structure into the larger mind of non-dual perceptivity of wholeness. This seeing comes from true heart awareness and knowing. Yeshua shows us how in his teachings on the Beatitudes which are not so much rules to live by but inner postures to embody, to be. These teachings reveal the ways in which we can return to the larger mind. Cynthia Bourgeault names them in her book The Wisdom Jesus, “radical calls to the transformation of your consciousness.” And indeed they are. Not because we are ‘bad’ and need to be transformed into something ‘good’ or ‘better’ but because all spiritual paths point in some way to the reality that we forget ourselves, our deepest nature, and our place in the cosmos.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ becomes a call to developing an inner poverty and letting go of that which we hoard either externally through material possessions or internally through identifications and ideas we have about ourselves, all that we think makes us who we are. It is another call to kenosis, to self-emptying and returning to the larger mind.

Cynthia says, “From a wisdom perspective (that is, from the point of view of the transformation of consciousness), ‘poor in spirit’ designates an inner attitude of receptivity and openness, and one is blessed by it because only in this state is it possible to receive anything. There’s a wonderful Zen story that exactly translates this teaching. A young seeker, keen to become the student of a certain master, is invited to an interview at the master’s house. The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies. The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea. He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring. Eventually the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, ‘Stop pouring! The cup is full.’ The teacher says, ‘Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?’ . . . From time immemorial wisdom teaching has insisted that only through that point of nothingness [which Thomas Merton says is at the center point of our being] can we enter the larger mind. As long as we’re filled with ourselves, we can go no further.”

When we are open to receive, we begin to see the kingdom of heaven inside us and all around us, typically not as we wanted or expected it to be. When ‘we are poor in spirit’ we are tuned into the One breath of God, according to Neil Douglas-Klotz, and we find our agency, our will, included in God’s.

This week, hold inside yourself and meditate on this second Beatitude as well as a few of Neil's alternative translations from the book Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflecting on the Original Meaning of Jesus’s Words.

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are those in emotional turmoil; they shall be united inside by love.

Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire; they shall see the face of fulfillment in a new form.

Tuned to the Source are those feeling deeply confused by life; they shall be returned from their wandering.

Spend some time in lectio divina with the one that you are most drawn to.

First, take a moment to sense your body and drop into your heart. Speak the words out loud. Listen with the ear of your heart and allow yourself to be drawn to a word or phrase that touches you.

Second, speak the words aloud again. Mull what struck you around with all three centers (thoughts, feelings, sensations). Reflect on the text, allowing the questions, insights, and memories to flow from your own life experience. Ask yourself what relevance or application this has to yourself, how does this touch my life at this time?

Third, speak the words aloud again. Notice your interior response to what is arising and whether there is a prayer or gesture or image that can be offered on behalf of you, others, the world, or God.

Fourth, speak the words aloud again. Rest in the stillness within, allowing all that has emerged to settle further in you in silence.

May we engage the act of mothering

May we create something new out of our pain

May we practice mutuality instead of hierarchy

May we choose self-love instead of internalized oppression

May we practice intersectionality, refusing to let hegemony “divide and conquer” us