A Note from the Director
What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action. —Meister Eckhart
This line reflects the mission of the Living School. We are encouraging the transformation of human consciousness. This transformation takes hold through a rhythm of life which leads to action through contemplative solidarity.
Living School students are in the process of developing a “Rhythm of Life” that includes three components: contemplative prayer/meditation, study, and community. Contemplative prayer is a commitment to a daily practice (such as centering prayer, chant, breath work, movement, art, or another form of meditation) that draws a person into an ever-deepening awakening to union with Divine Love. Contemplative study is a commitment to studying one or more teachers whose work embodies the mystical way and gives trustworthy, solid guidance toward awakening. Contemplative community is a commitment to one or more people that share the student’s desire to be on a path of spiritual awakening. Community serves to energize and encourage one another and inhabit spiritual oneness through mirroring and supporting each other.
Through prayer, study, and community we are drawn toward solidarity, responding to suffering with tenderhearted presence. We do not seek spiritual awareness to help us escape our own pain but to open ourselves to the pain of the world and live in solidarity with it through lament, presence, service, and other acts of justice and compassion.
May we all plant the seeds of love and service in the soil of contemplation so that we may reap a harvest of healing!
Peace and Every Good,
Director of the Living School
Faculty Reflection — Cynthia Bourgeault
Suffering Hope: A nondual perspective on contemplative engagement
As we consider all the changes on our planet, questions emerge for Living School alumni and students: What do these changes mean and how do we come to terms with a future that suddenly feels much darker and more precarious? What is the right stance of contemplative engagement in which our hope is neither engulfed by despair nor “glosses over” our human and planetary suffering?
I’d like to suggest that we begin by examining the yardstick with which we often measure change. . . . Our perspective has grown increasingly myopic, disconnected from the greater (and slower) story of evolution in which we participate.
Teilhard de Chardin, however, reminds us that “deep hope flows over deep time.”
I want to make clear that I do not see this “deep hope” as an excuse to relax our vigilance in stewardship for the planet. . . . For sure, we need to fall on our knees every morning and pray for guidance. . . . But our real task at this evolutionary cusp is to learn how to tenderly keep our hearts open with active concern for the suffering on our planet, while not losing sight of the vision of our common humanity that is indeed “groaning and travailing” to be born.
Alumni Director Reflection
The Woman Who Lost Her Music
I saw her immediately as I entered a restaurant. She was leaning over several books which held musical notations, utterly absorbed in her work. . . .
“Are you an organist or choir director?” I asked. She laughed.
“Neither.” And then she unraveled this amazing story.
“I come from a long line of musicians from England—church musicians or members of really good orchestras. . . . I could play piano before I could talk. . . .
“Then when I was twenty-five, doctors in Boston found a tumor pressing on the part of my brain where the music lived. The tumor was operable, but when I woke up the music was gone. . . . So I had to rebuild those neural pathways.”
She went on to tell of two other life-changing, brain-altering conditions that affected her musical ability. Each time she began again to develop musical skill and memory as a beginner would. (Click here to read the full story.)
I listened and loved her, this woman who would not live without music. It seems to me this is what faith is: hanging tenaciously to what gives life to our spirit, practicing it even when we don’t fully understand, simply because we cannot imagine being without it.
Teresa Pasquale Mateus (‘15)
With increasing urgency over the last ten years, exploring the contemplative path, I have increased questions about the absence of people of color (POC) in contemplative communities, conversations, and teachings. . . .
I founded The Mystic Soul Project nonprofit along with fellow POC contemplatives Jade Perry and Ra Mendoza to center the voices, wisdom, and identities of POC at the intersections of contemplation, action, and healing. . . .
The project began with a retreat in March with eleven POC leaders of faith and justice and will continue with our inaugural conference in January 2018 in Chicago.
For more information (sign up for our newsletter for updates as they come) visit mysticsoulproject.com.
Alumni Retreats Update
The May Alumni Retreat is a sweet memory in the hearts and minds of our six participants. Mark Lee Robinson shared a contemplative approach to conflict. Tonita Gonzales, a current Living School student, is a traditional Mezo-American healer and offered a temazcal—a traditional Mexican sweat lodge—at her home in Albuquerque. Cliff Berrien, our brother in CAC Customer Service, led us in an evening of drumming and chanting. I reflected on wilderness spirituality, showing images of a beautiful canyon where I spend three weeks in solitude every fall. We walked, met in sacred circle, and spent time resting, reading, conversing, and exploring contemplative visual expression.
The June 6-8 retreat is still on! Only six people have registered so far. We need about fifteen registrants to make ends meet; however, we are committed to holding the retreat regardless of the level of participation. I am very hopeful more will take advantage of this powerful time together. Please consider joining us to offer and receive the wisdom and love of your brothers and sisters! Come and be strengthened, encouraged, grounded, and cherished. After registering, consider leading a contemplative practice during the retreat (watch your registration confirmation email for more information).
I hope to see some of you soon!