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Stewarding our hearts.



If you are on the Wisdom path it is because you have tuned into a spiritual awareness and you desire to live in such a way that your life is permeated by that awareness. In the Wisdom traditions, it is understood that it is the heart that carries this spiritual awareness and perceptivity. The heart is more than a physical organ, it includes our whole selves. Seeing through the lens of the heart is visionary seeing that offers us spiritual meaning and purpose. The heart is the place where we remember in every dimension of our being that we are in God, and God is in us—a reality we cannot fall out of even as we forget. We know this and there is a strength in this knowing that somehow sustains us. This knowing doesn't necessarily make life easier, bring happiness in the traditional sense, or relieve suffering. The more we see from the heart, however, the more freely we can be present to what is and the more wisely we can move in the world with skillful means. Thus tending, nurturing, and stewarding our hearts becomes a primary task and responsibility.

We all have ways we overly protect or neglect our hearts. A very common way both of these play out right now is in relation to staying informed with what is going on in the world via the news. As well intended humans, we often feel it is necessary and loving to stay abreast of what is taking place around the planet with our human and more than human kin. This is a noble and beautiful thing yet I hear over and over again how many humans are completely overwhelmed by what they take in to the point of despair, hopelessness, rage, or terror. Others, out of a desire to protect themselves might avoid the news and push away anything that may be upsetting or triggering. Both of these strategies, and of course there are others, are examples of ways that are not necessarily useful for tending to our hearts.

When we take seriously the charge to keep the lens of the heart clear so that our vision is clear, it is useful for us to consider how we might work with our relationship to information about what is going on in the world. If our tendency is toward avoidance, how might we consciously lean in and be willing to be impacted in small non-overwhelming ways? If our tendency is toward over exposure to what is happening all over the world, how might we scale back some so as to not dump ourselves into despair, hopelessness, rage, or terror? As we commit to stewarding our hearts, we can listen to the intelligence of our hearts for guidance. Our hearts know the way.

With Love,

Heather


 

Daily Contemplative Pause Readings

from last week

Monday, January 29th with Heather

“The secret of seeing is. the pearl of great price... But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought...although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise....I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent....” — Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 

  

Wednesday, January 30th with Heather

“I remember reading through an old National Geographic magazine. There was a story in it about a photojournalist who was returning, after many years' absence, to Papua New Guinea, where she'd grown up. She had taken pictures of a remote area of jungle. When she'd lived there as a child, her parents had worked  - as medics, or missionaries, I forget the details - among a nomadic tribal group who moved between different homelands depending on the season. She recalled the language of her youth, a language she learned from her friends. There was  no word for "hello" in this local language in Papua, New Guinea. Instead, upon seeing someone, one simply said, "You are here."

 

The answer, as I recall it, was equally straightforward: "Yes I am."

 

Whether by fact or fiction, it remains that for decades I have thought of the words "You are here "and "Yes I am "  as good places to begin something that might be called prayer.

 

Where is it that we are when we pray? We are, obviously, in the place where we are. However, we are often in many places. We are saying to ourselves, "I should be somewhere else" or "I should be someone else"or "I am not where I say I am". In prayer, to begin where you are not is a poor beginning. To begin where you are may take courage, or compromise, or painful truth telling. Whatever it takes, it's wise to begin there. The only place to begin is where I am, and whether by desire or disaster, I am here. My being here is not dependent on my recognition of the fact. I am here anyway. But it might help if I could learn to look around.” — Padraig o'Tuama, In the Shelter

 

Chant: You are here, Yes I am 

 

Thursday, February 1st with Heather

“This is the particular genius of the Christian path: the ability to see—really see—the particularity and apparent duality of this world not as an illusion, but rather, as a crucible in which the most tender and intimate particularity of the divine heart becomes fully manifest.

At the unitive level Christianity is "all heart" — and in this unitive seeing, deeply mystical and poetic, Christianity becomes radiant with the flame of its own innermost truth, like the bush that burns but is not consumed.

When word and silence are separated, the driveshaft grinds to a halt, and this deepening process is suspended. Severed from its nurturing ground in contemplative silence, word tends to become unduly analytical, linear, and dialectical. A vicious circle is set in motion. The farther one strays from the wellsprings of spiritual awareness and the seeing that flows from them, the more one is dependent on the only other processing mode: ordinary awareness and the egoic identity that emerges from it.” — Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 72-73

 

 

Friday, February 2nd with Heather

“I remember being struck more than a decade ago by a comment made by Father Laurence Freeman, successor to Dom John Main in the teaching of Christian Meditation, during a homily for All Soul Day at the Benedictine Priory in Montreal. Pondering what meditation has to teach us about Jesus' own death. Father Laurence remarked, "Every time we meditate, we participate in the death of Christ."

He is quite right, of course. The practice of meditation is indeed an authentic experience of dying to self-not at the level of the will, however, but at the level of something even more fundamental: our core sense of identity and the egoic processing methods that keep it in place. 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.” — Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 81”

 

 

Saturday, February 3rd with Heather

“To pray is to stand before God, to enter into an immediate and personal relationship with [God]; it is to know at every level of our being, from the instinctive to the intellectual, from the sub- to the supra-conscious, that we are in God and [God] is in us.”

— Kalistos Ware

 

Sunday, February 4th with Heather

“Just as in meditation we participate in the death of Christ, we also participate in his resurrection. At the end of those twenty or so minutes of sitting, when the bell is rung, we are still here! For twenty minutes we have not been holding ourselves in life, and yet life remains. Something has held us and carried us. And this same something, we gradually come to trust, will hold and carry us at the hour of our death. To know this—really know this—is the beginning of resurrection life.

This existential understanding of the "losing one's life/find-ing one's life" paradox is significant in two important ways. First, it allows us to hear Jesus' message of inner awakening within the context of the wider Wisdom tradition to which this teaching actually belongs… Virtually all the great spiritual traditions of the world share the conviction that humanity is the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity. There is a "self" and a Self, and our fatal mistake lies in confusing the two. The egoic self, or cataphatic self, is in virtually every spiritual tradition immediately dispatched to the realm of the illusory, or at best, transitory. It is the imposter who claims to be the whole. This imposter can become a good servant, but it is a dangerous master. Awakening—which in Jesus' teaching really boils down to the capacity to perceive and act in accordance with the higher laws of the Kingdom of Heaven [also known as the Imaginal Realm]—is a matter of piercing through the charade of the smaller self to develop a stable connection with the greater Self… This means becoming intimate with our spiritual identity, the sense of selfhood carried in our spiritual awareness. Whenever we make this shift from egoic to spiritual awareness, we are authentically "losing our life"— even if it is only for the duration of the meditation period!.” 

— Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

 

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