By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies and our Privacy Policy.

A Way of Being

Mind, Body, Heart

A Way of Being

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Wisdom is not the result of mental effort. It cannot be gained through intellectual study. Even life experiences do not make us wise if we don’t process them humbly and consciously. Sadly, most of us were never taught how to do that, which is why so few older people are true elders, with any wisdom to pass on to the next generations.  

Wisdom is a way of being—a way of being whole and fully open to a knowing beyond rational thought alone. Do not confuse this kind of knowing as lightweight, saccharine, or ephemeral. The exact opposite is true. To see in such a way requires the hard work of keeping all our inner spaces open—mind, heart, and body—all at once. This is at the center of any authentic spirituality, and it does not happen easily or without paying respectful and non-egoic attention to the moment in front of me and within me—which I could call prayer.

My fellow CAC faculty member and respected wisdom teacher Cynthia Bourgeault writes of the deep interior commitment that must be made by those who embark on this path:

A Wisdom way of knowing . . . requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known. . . . It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving. But the divine Lover is absolutely real, and for those willing to bear the wounds of intimacy, the knowledge of that underlying coherence—“in which all things hold together”—is both possible and inevitable. [1]

Since the Enlightenment, Westerners have become overly reliant on the intelligence of the mind, neglecting that of the heart and body. But by heart, I don’t mean just feeling and emotion. Cynthia Bourgeault calls the heart “an organ for the perception of divine purpose and beauty.” [2] Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, describes the spiritual faculty of heart as “a quality of intuitive awareness . . . a sense of inclusive, compassionate, undefended, direct in-touch-ness with what is really there.” [3] This “undefended knowing” allows us to drop beneath the thinking mind, to touch upon real experience, unhindered by the ego’s sense of self, without fear or agenda.

The Wisdom lineage offers us a healthy middle place, trapped in neither of the two alternating mediocrities of knowing: all heart and little head (lacking rational, historical, or scientific grounding) or all head and little heart (lacking deep personal experience, subtlety, or authentic love). For a holistic and mature faith, we need both head and heart grounded in our physical and sensory body.

References:
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart (Jossey-Bass: 2003), 10.

[2] Ibid., 34.

[3] Tilden Edwards, “Undefended Knowing: A Conversation with Richard Rohr and Tilden Edwards” (HuffPost: 2013), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/undefended-knowing-a-conv_b_3744513.

Adapted from Richard Rohr,  Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 70-71; and

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2007), 13-14.

For more on this year’s theme of action and contemplation, listen to the third season of our podcast Another Name for Every Thing, which launched February 15!

Image credit: Saint Serapius (detail), Francisco de Zurbarán, 1628, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: A Wisdom way of knowing . . . requires the whole of one’s being and is ultimately attained only through the yielding of one’s whole being into the intimacy of knowing and being known. . . . It doesn’t happen apart from complete vulnerability and self-giving. But the divine Lover is absolutely real, and for those willing to bear the wounds of intimacy, the knowledge of that underlying coherence—“in which all things hold together”—is both possible and inevitable. —Cynthia Bourgeault
FacebookTwitterEmailPrint