Cynthia Bourgeault is in town on her way to lead a five day Wisdom School at Cowichan Lake near Victoria, BC.

Yesterday afternoon she met for conversation, meditation, and dinner at the University of Victoria with 60 university students followed by a public gathering of over 200 in the evening.

The public gathering included Taize worship, a brief address, and a bold experiment in Christian spiritual teaching.

Notes from the address:

The hardest journey you will ever take is the journey of the six inches from your head to your heart.

A chief characteristic of teaching in the Eastern Orthodox tradition is that the mind needs to be put in the heart. This means that the energy that normally buzzes around in the head needs to move into the heart.

The life of prayer is about putting the mind in the heart at every level: emotional, intellectual, and perhaps most of all physical.

It is hard for westerners to grasp what is implicit in this metaphor because we think of the heart exclusively as the seat of the emotions and equate it with being in touch with our feelings.

But the inner traditions insist that the heart is more than our emotions; it is an organ of spiritual perception which has the capacity to keep us in touch with the vertical axis, to an awareness of the things that are not so immediately obvious to the senses.

Putting the mind in the heart involves faith, but not faith understood as some blind leap off a cliff, rather as a subtle capacity to see in the dark, as the heart weaves together the obvious realm with the subtle realm.

We have subtle subconscious faculties that we are not using. These work best when they function in harmony with one another.

The mind in the heart thinks holographically, from the whole to the part.

The mind in the brain perceives by differentiation. The brain finds identity through difference. It perceives by division.

The heart-mind perceives by holographic resonance, by way of feeling understood as an electromagnetic resonance.

It is in the heart-mind that we access non-dual consciousness which cannot be held by the operating system of the brain-mind alone.

Your heart is not a metaphor. We are talking about this magnificent thing in the centre of your chest which can touch beyond form but always comes back and is grounded here in your body.  The work of the heart is to consciously mediate between the divine subtle realm and the embodied reality of the physical.

Non-attachment/letting go is the clearest route to putting the mind in the heart.

Nothing can be done in the spiritual life from a braced position.

The beauty of our practice lies in moving from a braced rigid clutching position to letting go. We get ourselves particularly constricted as we work in our minds. As we let go, we open up and touch our freedom; we find our inner alignment.

Meditation is practice in letting go.

The bold experiment in Christian spiritual teaching

Following her address and ten minutes of silent meditation, Cynthia experimented with Christian satsang.

Satsang is spiritual discourse between two people commonly conducted before a sacred gathering of spiritual practitioners.

In satsang one person from the gathering comes forward, sits on a chair beside the teacher and poses a question. The teacher responds to the question and then is available for some interaction with the spiritual practitioner who has asked the original question.

The goal is to provide an opportunity for instructive interaction about the spiritual life. Questions are intended to emerge from the lived experience of the person posing the question. The hope is that the interaction will be instructive for the entire group as it penetrates deeply into lived experience.

Cynthia interacted with five individuals who came forward with questions. In each case the exchanges were profound and enlightening. The energy in the room opened up in dramatic and engaging ways.

It was difficult to take notes. But it would be worth sharing in this experience by visiting the Contemplative Society website and hearing the recording when it is posted:

A few random notes from Cynthia’s satsang

Wisdom is any kine of knowing that incorporates more than just the individual mind. It is a knowing that comes from the heart.

Many of us are not in our “now”. We don’t occupy our house. We do not have our feet on the ground. We are not inhabiting our bodies.

The more we are fully present in the moment, the more we have an inner knowing that allows the intuitive and the understanding to come together.

God is the subject of all love. God is not the object of love.

We all say we want truth. We would throw over truth in a heart beat for one instant of real intimacy.

Loneliness is experienced because we buy into the cultural expectation that intimacy requires that our heart be attached to one particular object for intimacy.

The heart’s natural radiant field is intimacy. Your heart has an innate capacity for intimacy that does not need one specific object. We enter into this field of intimacy when we bear willingly the reality of our own aloneness.

It is a particularly Roman problem to view unity as uniformity.

We need to get out of the perspective that we are the saviour of the earth. No sanctimonious attitude will ever produce an outcome that is the same as the attitude we desire to impose on others.

Stand still and then power come in. Stand still and mercy comes in.

Meditation changes the way your brain thinks; it has the capacity to alter the consciousness of the planet.