Cynthia Bourgeault – Luminous Wisdom Cowichan Lake Education Centre 1-7 April 2019 Wednesday afternoon (Nb: these are personal notes from Cynthia’s oral presentation and may not always be a completely accurate reflection of her teaching)


 We are rooted in the Christian mystical and visionary tradition, understanding contemplation in its original sense as “luminous seeing”, not merely a meditation practice or lifestyle. In service to this luminous seeing, we affirm the primacy of the language of silence and its life-giving connection with the subtle realms, without which spiritual inquiry tends to become overly cognitive and contentious.

rooted in the Christian mystical tradition is Silence.

contemplation is not simply a life-style or set of practices, not inextricably tied to silence, not about worshiping silence.

Thomas Keating – “Contemplation is resting in God” – it is more than this. Not necessarily content-free. Subjective experience is about dropping thoughts. It begins by turning off the regular circuits of the mind.

Contemplation is luminous seeing, seeing with the eye of the heart.

Little Prince – “It is only with the heart that one can see correctly.”

“Knowledge impregnated with love.” Knowledge based on a perceptional system, feeling tone closer to love

9th c. Sufism and Orthodox Christianity – new way of seeing requires a new operating system of perception – the anatomy of the heart. “putting the mind into the heart”

kenotic seeing = seeing from the nous – scholars assume it lies in the brain. Sufis say it lies in the heart, thin membrane between form and formlessness. Entrain the mind to the heart.

Philokalia “put the mind in the heart”, what ensued was contemplation.

“the imaginal realm” – meaning, purpose, causality

the brain moves in a linear direction, the heart works spatially

our heart is a hologram of the divine heart. Helminski – “this total mind which we call heart”

the whole divine feedback loop between the divine and ourselves

awakening to the heart, allowing it to become more subtle, refined.

see infinity/love coming into form through heart perception. It sees the eternal, the good, and the beautiful as well as the anguish

an instrument of abundance

the heart is the organ of perception and seeing is the vehicle, therefore it is a collective

contemplation is often seen as withdrawal rather than action. In fact it is a movement toward engagement – this is what compassion does.

direct interaction with the energy fields, adjusting the mix of gentleness, firmness etc.

the heart, located deeply in the belly, can hold the steadiness in the midst of emotional upheaval.

Keating – “When silence meets presence, then you have contemplation.” You know you are being met; it is a vibrational field.

Philokalia – “the passions divide the heart”, the passions = stuck emotions, fixated all emotions are stuck, reinforce this level of self-hood

Gerald May – “We prefer a neurotic self-image to no self-image at all.”

Simeon the New Theologian: attention of the heart

freedom from all cares – equanimity = let go of good and bad cares, something else motivates your action

Rafe – “I want to have enough being to be nothing.”

letting go of thought doesn’t mean they are not there. When you stop feeding them, they lessen. Irritation is when you prefer one state over another. This is how you tame this

It is not about dismantling your small self. We use the small self to get through life, but we can learn agency = use to test what is there in our being, learn to play our instrument

get used to your default patterns, honestly face yourself, where are you kidding yourself and getting hooked?

small self is no longer at the seat of your identity, but you can use it well.

each person brings an individual quality but we act from the place differently.

when conscience is torn, the wider perspective knows – inner turmoil, twoness, arguing with yourself

temptation is the stuff that gets transformed

observe an absence of attachment to passionate emotion & grasping. Guard the virginity of that place in your heart where true seeing is possible

sensation based practices, related to attention of the heart – Sufi and Eastern Orthodox –  traditionally taught one on one

keep emphasis on humility and the rest will fall into place – can get lost in technique especially related to spiritual acquisition

don’t act in the outer world till you have surrendered internally

Michael Brown: The Presence Process

11 week self-study on working with sensation

Material and practice in transformation

methods that taught the author how to sit in the presence of pain

Wednesday Evening (Questions & Reflections)

when you pay attention in a certain way, energy becomes available. So much energy is wasted checking up on ourselves. Use sensation to come back.

We are a part of the whole. But it makes a big difference if we participate consciously or not. (Paul Levy, Quantum Reality)

Conscious conversation:

with people you don’t know. Look at the polar opposite. Put a spoke in the mindless talk. Don’t just fill the space. Keep some attention on voice tone. What is it that could be said? What could be listened into? Be quiet in yourself and watch openness.

Try to establish a genuine contact with the other person.

To stand at the intersection of timeless and time is what makes saints – TS Eliot

We live in time and beyond time. Any time we are here fully present we are in the timeless. Don’t collapse the tension between these two.

Making the sign of the cross. Time = horizontal. Timeless = vertical.

The journey through time needs to be respected. Love over time grows and develops.

Below every emotion is sensation. Guilt turns quickly into story. Learn to sit with it in sensation. When it doesn’t become story, it loses some of its strength.

Shame is also difficult and loneliness. Sit in the cave of the heart.

Develop an inner freedom so you are no longer dependent on external circumstances. Freedom to move without fear.

The light within = Quakers, “light of conscience”. Do not run from what you are seeing. Also shines the light on where you are stuck. “Stand still and let the light come in.” Mercy, power, strength and contentment can come in. “Stand still in that which is pure.” (George Fox)

Chant, Paulette Meir – Plain song, “Stand Still in That Which is Pure” – George Fox, 1652

The empty space within grows. Rafe – “growing inner vastness” Constructs blow away, almost like free fall.

Stay with sensation – feel feet on the ground and balance in the body

Teresa of Avila – toward the felt sense like a “wet dish rag”, till something stirs within toward action

Tinnitus Question – allow the noise to become your sacred word. Make “the enemy” a vessel. Treat it like a thought. Silent, or not silent, God is present. Allow what is to be. It is a condition you have to work with. Watch any time that you favour a position.

Year 2020, the year Cynthia’s Imaginal book will be published – “The year of perfect vision”.