We have been focusing on the essence of ourselves that is unable to be destroyed. The golden kernel, the invincible heart, the center containing the visible and invisible in a seamless whole. As Thomas Merton says it is from this center we must learn to come and go.
The identity we so often find in the horizontal dimension of our lives can be de-centered and we can begin to find our identity more fully in this center, in the heart.
In the wisdom tradition, the heart is seen as the organ of spiritual perception. We can actually see from the whole and find meaning as we see from the heart. Cynthia Bourgeault reminds us that the heart spoken of here is not not the physical organ but it is also so much more. We seem to recognize this to be true. Something in us knows this if we can listen with more than just the mind.
As we experience this shift of identity we begin to taste Howard Thurman’s words, “God is at work enlarging the boundaries of my heart.” When we open ourselves to this work of enlarging the boundaries of our hearts, we find it is both something being done to us and something we practice.
We surrender to Love and Mercy, allowing the discomfort of expanding and stretching. We trust the moments of disorientation that come along with it and we tolerate or welcome the pain. We also practice by cultivating what in many traditions is called the ‘witnessing presence’ or ‘inner observer’ also known as a “double awareness.” This is not the same as self-awareness or the ability to stand back and watch ourselves, although these can be important capacities. This witnessing presence is not the same as the superego or one part of the ego watching another and judging. It does not have the flavor of criticism or exasperation for what it sees. It simply knows that the parts do not need to be mistaken for the whole but they can take a place in the whole. It is wide, it is enlarged, it allows but does not succumb to the passing nervous system states, emotional experiences, narratives, and agendas. This witnessing presence is not a function of the mind but much deeper, in what Cynthia suggests and Gurdjieff called ‘magnetic center.’ As this develops we are not less of ourselves but more. Cynthia says, “Along this heart pathway, doubled awareness is not a matter of division, but a kind of multiplication, a simultaneity.” It might even be said that it is not so much the boundaries of the heart being enlarged but when the mind enters the heart, it is experienced as such.
I invite us to continue to see all our life and our practices as part of developing this capacity to witness from the the witnessing presence and to surrender to this process remembering as Thurman says in his book Meditations of the Heart,
“God is making room in my heart for compassion: the awareness that where my life begins is where your life begins; the awareness that the sensitiveness to your needs cannot be separated from the sensitiveness to my needs; the awareness that the joys of my heart are never mine alone—nor are my sorrows. I struggle against the work of God in my heart; I want to be left alone. I want my boundaries to remain fixed, that I may be at rest. But even now, as I turn to [God] in the quietness, [God’s] work in me is ever the same. God is at work enlarging the boundaries of my heart.”
Here are a couple of the Readings from this week's pauses:
“God is near to us at the point that is just before final destruction. Take away everything else down to that point of final destruction, and the last little bit that’s left before destruction, a little kernel of gold which is the essence of you — and there is God protecting it. . . . And this something terrific.
The real freedom is the freedom to be able to come and go from that center, and to be able to do without anything that is not immediately connected to that center. Because when you die, that is all that is left. When we die, everything is destroyed except this one thing, which is our reality and which is the reality that God preserves forever. [God] will not permit its final destruction.
And the thing is, that we know this. This is built into that particular little grain of gold, this spark of the soul or whatever it is. It knows this. And the freedom that matters is the capacity to be in contact with that center. Because it is from that center that everything comes. . . . [But] we don’t normally get into that center unless we’re brought to the edge of what looks like destruction. In other words, we have to be facing the possibility of the destruction of everything else to know this will not be destroyed. (Thomas Merton)
“Most of us are not ready to take it this far. And fortunately, most of us are not asked to jump into the spiritual journey just before that point of final destruction. It is all right to work ourselves toward it gradually, and meditation offers a wonderful way to do just that. Because it puts us immediately in touch with that “little kernel of gold which is the essence of you“ and allows us to begin to recognize it and trust it, meditation essentially stimulates that knowing which Merton Says is usually gained only at the point of final distraction: the knowing that “this will not be destroyed.” This gradual learning is accelerated in a practice such as centering prayer because of its emphasis on the surrender of the heart, which also precisely replicates the process by which this inner knowing is ultimately released.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope
“To live profitably and constructively in life begins on the other side of dying before you die