Into the larger mind. . . This is not about thinking differently but about moving beyond the mind. Jesus is showing us how to do this in his teachings on the Beatitudes. With this in heart, we begin to see “blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” as a way beyond our usual mind and ways of perceiving.
In his book Prayers for the Cosmos, Neil Douglas-Klotz suggests ‘they who mourn’ can be understood also as ‘those in emotional turmoil,’ ‘those who weep for their frustrated desire,’ and ‘those feeling deeply confused by life.’ If in such a place as these we are blessed, there must be something important about these experiences.
When I reflect on my experience of mourning I can see that when I have allowed myself to go all the way into it - all the way into the pain, frustration, confusion, grief, and sorrow - I have become more tender, supple, soft, and wide enough to be in the midst of profound paradoxical internal experiences. Times of mourning have cut through that which is no longer essential and brought me to the core of myself.
Gerald Sittser says, “Sorrow indicates that people who have suffered loss are living authentically in a world of misery, and it expresses the emotional anguish of people who feel pain for themselves or for others. Sorrow is noble and gracious. It enlarges the soul until the soul is capable of mourning and rejoicing simultaneously, of feeling the world’s pain and hoping for the world’s healing at the same time. However painful, sorrow is good for the soul. In fact, deep sorrow often has the effect of stripping life of pretense, vanity, and waste. It forces us to ask basic questions about what is most important in life.”
Mourning has stretched me. It has also taken me right to that place where I realize that deep within there is something in me that does not break and cannot be diminished by any difficult life circumstance. This is the part of me that exists beyond this life, outside of time, that is connected to the vertical dimension, my eternal nature, the part that Julian of Norwich refers to when she says "my deepest me is God," the part of me that cannot be traumatized here in this world no matter how significant the losses I face. And of course I also have the part of me that lives here in this horizontal realm and has and can indeed be traumatized. But I need not mistake myself for only this and neither ought you.
Mourning is something we must do when faced with any loss and there are many types. We have a huge opportunity when we enter this sacred territory.
Circumstances that bring us into mourning create an opening for us to access the Self that exists beyond time and personal narrative which is always in relationship with our self in time and can help us to be present to ourselves through the process of mourning. Mourning is an active process requiring our engagement which is why it has been considered by William Worden to be a series of tasks. Although not intended to happen in any particular order it involves embracing or accepting the reality of the loss, acknowledging and working through the pain of the loss, adjusting to life after the loss, and finding meaning in the loss and reinvesting in the reality of a new life.
In the West, and this is an over generalization, there is little acknowledgment of mourning and even less space for it. It is messy and it is not linear, uniform or predictable. Mourning is not for the faint of heart. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to lean in and all the way through it. We fear if we give ourselves to it that we will never re-emerge, that it will consume us. There is no way around it, the only passage is through.
When we mourn, when we earnestly allow ourselves to enter the sorrow, we will be comforted if we allow ourselves to see it. Neil words this in other ways as well saying, ‘they shall be united inside by love,’ ‘they shall see the face of fulfillment in a new form,’ and ‘they shall be returned from wandering.’
Mirabai Starr talks about it in this way, “Your God would never punish you for being a human being: this life itself is your penance...But it is also more than that: it is a crucible for transformation. Each trial, every loss, is an opportunity for you to meet suffering with love and make of it an offering, a prayer. The minute you lift your pain like a candle the darkness vanishes, and mercy comes rushing in to heal you.”
Sometimes the cost of an open heart is anguish, but we needn’t hold it on our own. We are met by Great Love and Mercy. God speaks to us in any way that we are open to hear and shows up in any way we are willing to see. We are transformed.
This week, hold inside yourself and meditate on the third beatitude as well as a few alternative translations from Prayers of the Cosmos: Reflecting on the Original Meaning of Jesus’s Words.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
Blessed are the gentle; they shall inherit the earth.
Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe.
Aligned with the One are the humble, those submitted to God’s will; they shall be gifted with the productivity of the earth.
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 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. 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.
Just a reminder, for those who would like to celebrate Eucharist lead by Henry Schoenfield again, reserve 15-25 minutes next Sunday, June 20th after our centering prayer period. All friends and family are welcome to join. Keep your eye out for future dates as well. Henry has been missing and longing for liturgy and has had the unfolding of new expressions on his heart for quite some time.
May we see that we are blessed in our mourning
May we allow comfort and mercy to rush in
May we be united inside by love
May we see the face of fulfillment in a new form
Here are some of the readings from this week:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Essentially, from a wisdom perspective, this second beatitude is talking about vulnerability and flow. When we mourn (and we’re talking about true mourning here, not complaining or self- pity) we are in a state of freefall, our heart reaching out toward what we have seemingly lost but cannot help loving anyway. To mourn is by definition to live between the realms. “Practice the wound of love,” writes Ken Wilber in Grace and Grit, his grip- ping personal story of loss and transformation. “Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you.” Mourning is indeed a brutal form of emptiness. But in this emptiness, if we can remain open, we discover that a mysterious “something” does indeed reach back to comfort us; the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together. To mourn is to touch directly the substance of divine compassion. And just as ice must melt before it can begin to flow, we, too, must become liquid before we can flow into the larger mind. Tears have been a classic spiritual way of doing this.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” is how the third beatitude is usually translated. A better translation is “Blessed are the gentle,” and perhaps an even better one is “Blessed are the gentled.” Remember that wonderful passage from The Little Prince when the fox asks, “To tame something: what does that mean?” The prince replies, “ It means to form bonds. If I tame you, I become responsible for you, and you depend on me because I have tamed you.” That’s the ballpark this beatitude is working in. Blessed are the ones who have become spiritually “domesticated”: the ones who have tamed the wild animal energy within them, the passions and compulsions of our lower nature. In the Gospel of Thomas we will hear this process described as “devouring the lion” — because otherwise the lion will devour us! Only when we have dealt directly with our animal instincts, and the pervasive sense of fear and scarcity that emerge out of our egoic operating system, are we truly able to inherit the earth rather than destroying it.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault
‘Cry Out in Your Weakness’
A dragon was pulling a bear into its terrible mouth.
A courageous man went and rescued the bear.
There are such helpers in the world, who rush to save
anyone who cries out. Like Mercy itself,
they run toward the screaming.
And they can’t be bought off.
If you were to ask one of those, “Why did you come
so quickly?” He or she would say, “Because I heard
Where lowland is,
that’s where water goes. All medicine wants
is pain to cure.
And don’t just ask for one mercy.
Let them flood in. Let the sky open under your feet.
Take the cotton out of your ears, the cotton
of consolations, so you can hear the sphere-music.
Give your weakness
to One Who Helps.
Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.
Just a little beginning-whimper,
and she’s there.
God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.
Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of Loving flow into you.
The hard rain and wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.
Respond to every call
that excites your spirit.
Ignore those that make you fearful
and sad, that degrade you
back toward disease and death.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The key to this fourth beatitude lies in understanding what the word “righteousness” means. To our post-Puritan, post-Victorian ears, righteousness is a synonym for virtue. It means being moral, behaving correctly. But in Israel of Jesus’s times, righteousness was something much more dynamic than that. You can actually visualize it as a force field: an energy-charged sphere of holy presence. To be “in the righteousness of God” (as Old Testament writers are fond of saying) means to be directly connected to this vibrational field, to be anchored within God’s own aliveness. There is nothing subtle about the experience; it is as fierce and intransigent a bond as picking up a downed electrical wire. To “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” then, speaks to this intensity of connectedness. Jesus promises that when the hunger arises within you to find your own deepest aliveness within God’s aliveness, it will be satisfied—in fact, the hunger itself is a sign that the bond is already in place. As we enter the path of transformation, the most valuable thing we have working in our favor is our yearning. Some spiritual teachers will even say that the yearning you feel for God is actually coming from the opposite direction; it is in fact God’s yearning for you. “The eye with which you see God is the eye with which God sees you,” said Meister Eckhart, one of the greatest Christian mystics, stressing the complete simultaneity of the energy of connection. When we yearn, we come into sympathetic vibration with a deeper heart-knowing. I spoke in the previous chapter about how the heart is an organ of alignment; it connects us. Yearning is the vibration of that connectedness. In this beatitude Jesus is not talking about doing virtuous deeds so you’ll be rewarded later; he is talking about being in connection with your fundamental yearning.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault
‘Rise Up Rooted Like Trees’
Only we, in our arrogance, push out beyond what we each belong to for some empty freedom. If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves in knots of our own making and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again to learn from the things, because they are in God’s heart; they have never left [God].
This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
‘The Peace of Wild Things’
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry
‘It Felt Love’
How did the rose
ever open its heart
and give to this world
all its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
against its being,
We all remain