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Center for Action and Contemplation

Be Comforted, Be Gentled

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Beatitudes

Be Comforted, Be Gentled
Monday, April 17, 2017

Guest writer and CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring Jesus’ eight blessings known as the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” —Matthew 5:4

From a wisdom perspective, this second Beatitude is talking about vulnerability and flow. When we mourn (not to be confused with complaining or self-pity) we are in a state of freefall, our heart reaching out toward what we have seemingly lost but cannot help loving anyway. To mourn is by definition to live between the realms. “Practice the wound of love,” writes Ken Wilber in Grace and Grit, his gripping personal story of loss and transformation. “Real love hurts; real love makes you totally vulnerable and open; real love will take you far beyond yourself; and therefore real love will devastate you.” [1]

Mourning is indeed a brutal form of emptiness. But in this emptiness, if we can remain open, we discover that a mysterious “something” does indeed reach back to comfort us; the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together. To mourn is to touch directly the substance of divine compassion. And just as ice must melt before it can begin to flow, we, too, must become liquid before we can flow into the larger mind. Tears have been a classic spiritual way of doing this.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” is how the third Beatitude is usually translated (Matthew 5:5). A better translation is “Blessed are the gentle,” and perhaps an even better one is “Blessed are the gentled.” Remember that wonderful passage from The Little Prince when the prince asks, “To tame something: what does that mean?” The fox teaches him, “It means to form bonds. If you tame me, we’ll need each other. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed.” [2]

That’s the ballpark this beatitude is working in. Blessed are the ones who have become spiritually “domesticated”: the ones who have tamed the wild animal energy within them, the passions and compulsions of our lower nature. In the Gospel of Thomas we see this process described as “devouring the lion”—because otherwise the lion will devour us! [3] Only when we have dealt directly with our animal instincts, and the pervasive sense of fear and scarcity that emerge out of our egoic operating system, are we truly able to inherit the earth rather than destroy it.

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a pure heart, O God.

[1] Ken Wilber, Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber (Shambhala: 2000), 396.
[2] Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, trans. Richard Howard (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2000, ©1943), 59, 64.
[3] The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 7, trans. Lynn Bauman (Oregon: Whiteland Press, 2002), 18.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 43-44. 

Image credit: View from the Mount of Beatitudes, between Capernaum and Gennesaret, Israel.
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