I am excited to share my review of The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind- a New Perspective on Christ and His Message by Cynthia Bourgeault.
(I received this book for free to review and it may contain affiliate links)
Cynthia is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer, and internationally known retreat leader. She divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom paths. Cynthia is a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation alongside fellow teachers and colleagues James Finley and Richard Rohr.
Learn more about Cynthia at CynthiaBourgeault.org.
To provide some quick background, Bourgeault presents Jesus as a wisdom teacher: teacher of the path of inner transformation. “Christians aren’t commonly used to hearing that Jesus was really about transforming our operating system.”
Let me highlight five areas that I found of particular interest in this wonderful book.
(I received this book for free to review and this post may contain affiliate links.)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What is poor in spirit? Poor in spirit designates an inner attitude of receptivity and openness. It is when we open ourselves that we find we are truly blessed. I specifically notice this as a fruit of my centering prayer practice. During my silent sits, I open to the presence and inner actions of God. God seems to bless me and I notice these fruits during my non-silent times: patience, wisdom needed for a task, inner peace, confidence, actions I need to take today.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourning is a brutal form of emptiness. However, in this emptiness, if we remain open, the Divine reaches back to us with compassion. I agree! My first centering prayer sit after my father passed away was difficult! I opened to the presence and action of God with my sacred word, then sobbed and gently returned to my sacred word, over and over and over again, until I was finally embraced by Divine peace and compassion.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” When we have dealt directly with our sense of fear and scarcity that are a direct result of our egoic operating system, then we will inherit the earth. There is enough for everyone. We do not need to compete, divide and split the field. We do not need to be jealous of others’ success, instead, we can choose to help each other to succeed and celebrate their success. Compete does not need to be the mantra!
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Righteousness means to be anchored in God’s aliveness: to be deeply connected to God. I yearn for this connection. Twice per day I sit with God in silent prayer and connect to the Divine. I arise from my daily sits reconnected to the Divine, ready to partner with God and take on the day. I hunger and yearn for God’s righteousness both during my silent sits and non silent times of the day. During the day, I like to silently whisper the word Jesus to reconnect to God at any moment.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Mercy is not something God has; it’s something God is. We participate in this exchange. Brian Zahnd mentions that, “Mercy should be our default mode. In Jesus they found mercy.” Mercy means when a stranger comes to us and needs a meal, we provide one. Mercy means when we see a stranger freezing in the cold, we provide a coat or blanket. Mercy means when a distraught widow enters our church, we lend a listening ear.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we learn to see through the eyes of God, we are pure in heart. We can learn to develop this ability with the use of a contemplative practice: silent prayer, chanting, painting, walking meditation, photography. We cleanse our lens of perception and see without splitting the field into subject/object, right/wrong/, inside/outside and so on. Everything belongs as Richard Rohr says and it is wonderful and beautiful just the way it is.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” When we are pure in heart, we no longer feel the need to divide the world into winner/loser, right/wrong, insider/outsider. Our interior peace naturally flows into our outer world. We seem to bring a peaceful, compassionate and empathetic presence into the world. I am sure you have met people who seem to have this wonderful disposition.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is talking about an interior freedom here. Cynthia mentions that the Gospel of Thomas captures the essence of this Beatitude. “Blessed are you in the midst of persecution who, When they hate and pursue you even to the core of your being, Cannot find “you” anywhere.” I am sure many people come to mind as you think about this: Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These are well-known, past public figures. I am certain there are lesser well known ones who walk amidst us on a daily basis who we can learn much from.
“The past forty or so years have been an era of contemplative reawakening. Christian seekers now have at their disposal two authentically Christian methods of meditation: Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation. What does it mean to have tens of thousands of Christians meditating? Quite a lot, because meditation is the universal and time-tested method for “putting the mind in the heart.””
I have chosen centering prayer as my path. Christian Meditation is another path. There are other contemplative paths that also will allow you to “put the mind in the heart”: chanting, walking meditation, lectio divina, and contemplative photography to name a few.
All of these paths do not replace verbal prayer, they complement it. They are all different approaches to how we can pray to God, rest in God or even let God pray in us. They all seem to open our spiritual eyes and allow us to “put the mind in the heart.” I will share more about the heart a little bit further below.
To Be Made Alive
“For the earliest Christians, Jesus was not the Savior but the Life-Giver. In the original Aramaic of Jesus and his followers there was no word for salvation. Salvation was understood as a bestowal of life, and be saved was “to be made alive.”
During my centering prayer practice I sit with Jesus. The fruits of my practice are many. I have an excitement for life that I did not have before I began my practice almost four years ago. God instills within me inner peace, inner confidence, inner wisdom for my daily tasks and even inner nudges to try new things outside of my comfort zone.
The first thing I do before I start my day is my silent sit. This sit prepares me for the day. In the late afternoon or early evening my reservoir runs empty and needs to be refilled. I need this sit! It reconnects me with God and helps me to finish the day. I sit with Jesus so I can walk and partner with Him throughout the day. These sits teach me how to live. My actions spawn from these silent sits. Silence also teaches me when to be silent. Sometimes no action is the best action
“The other operating system (we can call it the nondual system or the unitive system, if we want) is the operating system of the heart.”
“The heart has a different way of perceiving.”
“Meditation is the tool you use to “upgrade your operating system,” to move from that “either/or” thinking of the binary mind into the more spacious heart awareness that sustains the wisdom way of knowing.”
“Unlike the egoic operating system, the heart does not perceive through differentiation. It doesn’t divide the field into inside and out, subject and object. Rather it perceives by means of harmony. “
Silence slows me down. I learn to operate from my heart. I am more open to see, try and do new and different things. I am more willing to have a compassionate and open disposition. (I am still work in progress!) I find that I am more willing to listen to others and their ideas. I just might hear a perspective that makes more sense for the situation at hand. Diversity is God’s gift to us!
My way becomes our way. I learn to see that everyone has a part to play. All the parts together make it whole and that is what makes it beautiful. There does not need to be the right way and the wrong way. We no longer need to compete. We can work together, collaborate with one another and help each other to live and succeed. There is enough for everyone. We can all have a wonderful and abundant life.
“Jesus never asked anyone to form a church, ordain priests, develop elaborate rituals and institutional cultures, and splinter into denominations. His two great requests were that we “love one another as I have love you” and we share bread and wine together as an open channel of that interabiding love.”
There is much work ahead of us! We need to learn to better love each other. We need to learn to be able to sit together at the same table, listen to each other, talk to each other, respect each other, help each other and love each other.
I encourage you to check out this wonderful book. I hope it puts you on the path of inner transformation that Jesus taught and wishes for all!
Also by Cynthia Bourgeault
The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind–A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Listen to this book for Free when you try Audible with a 30-day free trial.)
Encountering the Wisdom Jesus: The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today?
The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault: Jesus first and foremost is a Wisdom teacher, grounded in the universal traditions of spiritual transformation, and the first teacher of non-dual consciousness the West had ever seen. Almost two thousand years ahead of his time, he stands in the lineage of the great Jewish prophets, the master “cardiologist” entrusted with implementing the promise made to the prophet Ezekiel: “I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault: Centering Prayer is a simple, no-frills form of meditation in the Christian tradition. Since it was first developed by Christian contemplative monks in the 1970s, it has allowed tens of thousands of practitioners worldwide to “return home,” developing an authentically Christian meditation practice which not only delivers the healing and quieting of the mind typical of all meditation paths, but also reconnects directly to Christianity’s hidden treasury of mystical and transformational wisdom.
The Gospel of Thomas by Cynthia Bourgeault: This e-course, “The Gospel of Thomas with Cynthia Bourgeault,” is a complete “Thomas starter kit”: everything you need to know to get you up and running with this remarkable text, plus a generous sampling of its most important sayings, arranged thematically so that they speak to issues that contemporary spiritual seekers are actually dealing with.
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