This past week you were invited to spend time with the fifth Beatitude “Blessed are the merciful; for they will receive mercy.” As many of you may have already guessed since I have often focused on mercy this past year, this is one favorite teachings. I must say that since discovering the wisdom path as laid out by Cynthia Bourgeault, my understanding of mercy has completely shifted and it has been a progressive unfolding into this expansive reality.
I bring us back to many of the descriptions you have heard me name from various teachings of Cynthia. Mercy can be seen as. . .
something that God is, not something God has
a fierce bonding love
a divine exchange
God’s inner most being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love
the electromagnetic field of love
a vast gentle wideness
a wholeness of love from which nothing can ever possibly be lost
the great weaver, collecting and binding the scattered and broken parts of our lives in a tapestry of Divine Love
a womb encircling, enfolding, and nourishing us
What do you notice in your body now having read those descriptions? What feelings emerge? What other associations arise? What images emerge? What difference would it make if you/we lived in the ever present reality that ‘we swim in mercy, as in an endless sea’?
Mercy is often a missing ingredient in our horizontal realm, or at least it is outside of our awareness in many given circumstances. We can be midwives of this mercy, birthing it in moments it is most needed. Mercy is not abdication but at the same time it it brings about a deep acceptance of and grace for what is. All is not okay and it is okay as it is and as it is unfolding in time.
There are so many times in life when I tense up, brace, constrict, and defend when circumstances are not going the way my personality or ego wants them too. All of these moments are opportunities to open to the field of Mercy. When I notice the constriction in my body in these moments, I no longer attempt to relax them which puts me immediately in opposition to them hence perpetuating the same level of consciousness they are arising from. I now lean into the Mercy surrounding the constrictions. I bring my attention to the wideness of it and I soften towards the moment which allows something else to come in. I don’t do this every time but when I am able to, it completely shifts the moment into wholeness. Not because it is now comfortable or I am getting the outcome I want but because I can see from a wider perspective and can get out of my own way a little more.
One of the ways I have come to work with turning to this field of Mercy is physically through sensation. I will notice the sensation of my heart beating, its constricting and expanding as it pumps blood through my body, and the same motion of my lungs as they oxygenate my body. Both the constriction and expansion are the necessary process of bringing nourishment to my whole self. I then sense my torso, my pelvic bowl, my spine all the way up into my head, and my rib cage surrounding my heart and lungs. The torso surrounds and contains the constricting and expanding heart and lungs and is much wider than both, allowing the oscillation with a gentle and vast flexibility. From this awareness I can remember the mercy in my mind, sense it in my body, and feel it in my heart. I return to this, what has become a spiritual practice, multiple times during a day and I offer it to you that it may be of some benefit. It can bring our Being the much needed nourishment. Let me know if you try it out and what you discover. I would love to hear from you.
This week, we continue with our exploration of the Beatitudes. Hold inside yourself and meditate on the sixth 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 pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the consistent in heart; they shall contemplate the One.
Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love; they shall see God everywhere.
Healed are those who have the courage and audacity to feel abundant inside; they shall envision the furthest extent of life’s wealth.
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.
May we re-member the Mercy
May we swim and soak in the Mercy
May we rest in the knowing all is woven together in the Mercy
May we be midwives and birthers of the Mercy
With Great Love and Mercy,
Here are most of the readings from this week:
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are those who, from their inner wombs, birth mercy; they shall feel its warm arms embrace them.
Healed are those who extend a long heartfelt breath wherever needed; they shall feel the heat of cosmic ardor.
Tuned to the Source are those who shine from the deepest place in their bodies. Upon them shall be the rays of universal Love.”
Aligned with the One are the compassionate; upon them shall be compassion.
Healthy are those who extend grace; they shall find their own prayers answered."
“The key words lamrahmane and rahme both come from a root later translated as “mercy” from the Greek. The ancient root meant “womb” or an inner motion extending from the center or depths of the body and radiating heat and ardor.”
— Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos
“In this beatitude Jesus again returns to the idea of flow. Notice that there’s an exchange going on here: we give mercy and we receive mercy. And this is not coincidental, for the root of the word “mercy” comes from the old Etruscan merc, which also gives us ‘commerce’ and ‘merchant.’ It’s all about exchange.
Usually we think of the mercy of God as a kind of divine clemency, and we pray, “Lord have mercy upon us” as a confession of our weakness and dependency. (Because these qualities are distasteful to a lot of modern people, the “Lord have mercy” prayer has currently gone a bit out of style.) But in this other understanding, mercy is not something God has; it’s something that God is. Exchange is the very nature of divine life—of consciousness itself, according to modern neurological science— and all things share in the divine life through participation in this dance of giving and receiving. The brilliant young South African teacher Michael Brown writes in his 2005 book The Presence Process: ‘Giving is receiving is the energetic frequency upon which our universe is aligned. All other approaches to energy exchange immediately cause dissonance and disharmony in our life experience.’ Surely Jesus knew this as well, and his teaching in this beatitude invites us into a deeper trust of that flow. Exchange is at the very heart of his understanding of ‘no separation.’”
— Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus
In The Hidden Gospel, Neil Douglas Klotz offers an Aramaic translation of John 4:24 that reads:
"God is breath.
All that breathes resides in the Only Being.
From my breath
To the air we share
To the wind that blows around the planet:
Sacred Unity inspires all.
Those who surrender to Unity
Bowing to it in utmost adoration,
Must do so
In breath and harmony,
Like the sense of right direction
That drives the universal winds."
And he comments that... “From the perspective of Sacred Unity, my breath is connected to the air we all breathe. It participates in the wind and in the atmosphere that surrounds the whole planet. This atmosphere then connects to the ineffable spirit-breath that pervades the seen and unseen worlds… It is the sense of a right direction at a particular time that enlivens one’s personal purpose and at the same time harmonizes with all...In a very expansive way, this statement unites us with all other breathing beings in a melody of Unity. In a very practical way, here-and-now way, it connects us to the most diverse voices of our inner and outer worlds.”
“What goes on in those silent depths during the time of Centering Prayer is no one’s business, not even your own; it is between your innermost being and God; that place where, as St. Augustine once said, “God is closer to your soul than you are yourself.” Your own subjective experience of the prayer may be that nothing happened—except for the more-or-less continuous motion of letting go of thoughts. But in the depths of your being, in fact, plenty has been going on, and things are quietly but firmly being rearranged. That interior rearrangement—or to give it its rightful name, that interior awakening—is the real business of Centering Prayer.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
“Freedom is one of the great yearnings of all spiritual paths. Depending on some, you could say it’s the core yearning. Some paths say that you love in order to be free and other paths say that you become free in order to love. I suppose these paths merge when you discover they are the same thing. At one point or another – whether you say that freedom is the penultimate, surpassed only by love; or whether love is the penultimate, surpassed only by freedom – freedom is the direction we need to move. And without freedom, after a certain point, there is no such thing as a spiritual life.
But freedom from the point of view of the spiritual life looks different from what freedom looks like for most North Americans for whom freedom is what Thomas Merton called “choice freedom” as opposed to what he describes as “spontaneity freedom.”
“Choice freedom” means that somehow you acquire the means in your life so that you have a lot of choices at your disposal and you exercise your freedom by choosing. Do I go to the Bahamas for vacation or do I visit my mother? Do I buy a Volvo or a Cadillac. So we experience freedom as about making choices. And we try and work in such a way in life so that we develop the means to make choices.
This is what freedom looks like for most people.
One of the reasons we think tend to think it would be fun to be rich is that it would give us a lot of freedom. When you are rich you can choose what section of town to live in and what colour to decorate the bathroom and where to send the children to university, etc. etc. So it seems like the rich have power as a way to gain freedom.
This is not at all what freedom means in the spiritual path. Because that kind of “choice freedom” in terms of the spiritual work is what we would call freedom of the personality or freedom at the level of the personality – freedom to express and fulfill whatever our personality wants.
And the core teaching of the spiritual paths – and it doesn’t matter what stripe they are – is that the freedom of the personality is never freedom; in fact, it’s the prison. And as long as we are enslaved to our personality we can never be more than slaves.
There is no freedom when we are constantly saying, “I need, I want, I have to have.” This only shores up our sense of irredeemable anxiety. The truth is, I can never be rich enough, I can never be good enough, I can never please Mama, I can never please Daddy, I can never please God, I can never get all that I need.
We all have that kind of root anxiety at the base of our being and we can’t always articulate what’s causing it, and we’re not even consciously aware all the time that we’re acting out of it. But when our identity is seated at the level of that egoic functioning or the personality, it is always in company with this vague anxiety, this vague sense of emptiness and lack, and this vague kind of either fear or anger depending on which is your temperament – either fear that you can never get enough and that it’s all going to go wrong and it’s all going to be lost or the anger that I have been cheated by life. That, according to all spiritual teaching, is captivity, is slavery.
The freedom for which we long is a freedom which allows us to be present in the moment without demands or expectations or any needing for things to go one way as opposed to going another way. It is a freedom that has no insistence in it. This freedom is connected to an abundance that flows to us from an unstinting Source of grace which is Being itself. It is an ability to connect with that, to replenish ourselves in it and therefore, to have no needs or demands in the physical world. In this freedom we can use the physical world as a way of manifesting the dance of abundance rather than trying to turn it upside down like that little empty piggy bank to squeeze out the last penny of what we think we’re owed.”
— Cynthia Bourgeault on Freedom From Living Presence Transcript 4 Oct 1999 –13 Nov 2003 Victoria, BC