“And Let Yourself Receive the One
Who is Opening to You So Deeply.”
Simeon the New Theologian (TWJ, p.135)
As our book circles flow into this final section of The Wisdom Jesus and conclude this month, we are urged by heart to incarnate the above words of Simeon, not out of duty but out of the deepening relationship that is opening within. Transformation happens at this deep level of “seeing” who we are as we gaze into the loving eyes of the Other. From this we are naturally drawn into the desire to act or serve as a response of gratitude and eagerness to return such Love.
This came home to me years ago when I heard the story of Jesus’ baptism and how the Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon him as the Father spoke simply these words of outrageous delight: “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 17:5) (This translation comes off a little bit somber but I believe it is right up there for the holiest understatement to date!) And thus gifted with such a blessing Jesus then begins his public ministry.
What strikes me about this is that Jesus had not even begun his public ministry. Yet, the Father was well pleased even before Jesus lifted a finger to heal or teach; consequently none of what Jesus did was out of duty or obligation or role or expectation. Rather, it was all about receiving this overflowing gratitude from above and a single-hearted desire to return the gaze he had been given in the eyes of his Beloved. Likewise, when we see and know ourselves thus cherished in a recognition event, then we are thrust into the heart of this journey which is the heart of who we are. We are coming home to Idihaya … Singleness of heart.
As our book circles conclude, Cynthia leads us to such a place where concepts can be dropped and re-rooted into our hearts through wisdom practices. “Wisdom Christianity is practice driven. When you do the practices that nurture the heart, you will sense this connection as living a bond.” (p. 136-137) Alternatively, she points out if we don’t … our binary operating system will automatically co-opt this ability to see and “receive” this new life. And so we “practice” with our earthly lives and bodies as the very womb out of which our subtle or second body wakes up. We die into our rising up with and in each other. Easter happens!
To send us on our way, this last section (Part 3) of TWJ focuses on five solid avenues for nourishing our journey forward. Wisdom is nothing if it is not about transformation … living the Gift received and sharing in the divine dance of the Trinity with our feet on this ground … exactly where we are. And thus charged, Cynthia puts in our backpacks these tried-and-true resources for our heart’s nourishment on this journey:
- Centering Prayer Meditation
- Lectio Divina
- Chanting and Pslamody
There is much to digest here and so I hope you find yourself not just reading through some great ideas, but more importantly … sitting down and biting into each of these, chewing slowly and then listening to your own body for what arises. This listening to our own hearts is a contemplative imperative and a key to the journey to which we are uniquely called and for which we have been fitted. In each practice, we listen to what awakens our own souls and trust in the guidance even as our own hearts quicken.
An incident from my past comes to mind as I share this. One day my Dad came home with a unicycle and said he would give me or any one of my seven brothers five dollars to be the first to learn how to ride it. Well, I heard $5 (remember when that was a huge amount?!) and took up the challenge. And it was a challenge. I could just balance for a moment using two inverted golf clubs to do so but then the wobble and the fall … wham, down again! The stubborn streak in me came in handy as now it was more than the $5 to me, but the challenge to know and learn.
What I didn’t realize was that each time I had fallen, “been defeated,” was bringing me incrementally closer to the day my solar plexus, my inner balancing “North Star” could be freed to do what it knew how to do best … but it would require my mind learning to trust my body for its innate wisdom And once I did realize it, I knew that I knew it … even if I didn’t know how. Bingo. (I knew with “more of me.”) Many of you may relate to learning to ride a bike in a similar process. Challenging and bruising to boot, but likewise, what worlds then do open to us all.
When I first learned about Lectio Divina I was given this image and hope it finds resonance with you. I was instructed that in the ancient monastic setting a short scripture would be selected to be prayerfully read before the monks would go out to do their tasks for the day. The scripture would be repeated slowly again and again and as it washed over them, each monk would listen for the word or phrase that had inner resonance for them. As soon as a monk “heard” that word, he would silently arise and carry it out into his day, letting it sit with him as he worked the soil and it, in turn, worked on him. This would happen until the last monk had connected to his word and carried his phrase out with him as well.
And as oft happens in such a subtle process, the mind might not have a clue why a phrase, exhortation, image, etc. would quicken the heart. “The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.” (Blaise Pascal). So, trusting our heart’s knowing, we stay within ourselves as we deeply listen. We notice stirrings like small mustard seeds quivering … eagerly engendered to grow towards the sky.
Cynthia has set the table for a life-giving journey. Some ways of doing these practices might not fit with you and absolutely frustrate you at first. This is a good sign … Congratulations, the process is working! We allow for some pushback at times, but we always return to the listening of our own invincible hearts. If the ego is the one pouting, then we can dance with that recalling that the power is in the return, not in achieving any goal our mind has instituted. And if after sincerely trying our heart truly does not find resonance with a specific way of practice, that also is trusted. As one spiritual teacher told us once, “Pray the way that has heart for you.”
The test of any practice is the vitality and depth that arises in our daily lives. And this segues nicely into the ultimate spiritual practice … our lives, exactly as we encounter them. They have been “specifically designed for our spiritual evolution” as Thomas Keating reminds us. And not just our own little “tales” we often revert to for our lives, but our gathered tale as a collective and a inter-connected family. Here is where we sense the larger “I AM” reverberating our hearts into alignment, fractals as we each are in this greater Whole. Howard Thurman writes, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Just this past month our friend and gifted wisdom colleague, Laura Ruth, touched upon this emergent and evolving property of our web in prayer and practice:
Recently I have been noticing how many people are wanting to truly embody all the wisdom that is being offered out there (on many platforms beyond Wisdom Waypoints as well) and how there is a desire for stillness and for deepening, for slowing down and becoming more and more oneself—discovering what our authentic selves might be, listening for one’s particular calling. This also is so moving to me, perhaps it is signaling a greater movement and awareness in the collective?
I think she is putting her finger right on the pulse. Where do we sense this heart whisper and how do we allow it to take us? May these practices engender our journey.
Tom Amsberry is from Otis, Oregon … a graced blend of coastal forest, salmon runs, elegant egrets, and misty mountains once tread and nurtured by the Siletz Natives. He spent several decades as a pastoral associate in ministry and his growing interest in contemplative practice has happily found a deepening wellspring in the Wisdom path opening within all. He supplements this with the gift of meandering walks in the woods, creative (and sometimes successful!) cooking and poetry.
Here are the links to the previous posts in this series:
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circles launching January 31, 2023
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circles: Chapters Three, Four and Five
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circles: Becoming Real–Chapters 6,7, 12
The Wisdom Jesus Book Circles: Holy Week and the Great Easter Fast