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Center for Action and Contemplation

Conscious Love

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

God as Us: Week 2

Conscious Love
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, names Jesus’ teaching and way of life “the path of conscious love.”

[This phrase] emphasizes the life-affirming and implicitly relational nature of the path, and the word “conscious” makes clear that the touchstone here is transformation, not simply romance. Conscious love is “love in the service of inner transformation”—or if you prefer, “inner transformation in the service of love.” Either way, this is exactly what Jesus was about. [1]

Cynthia’s words “conscious love” ring true for me as a definition for our life’s purpose and the goal of all spirituality. When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. We will be our True Selves.

Cynthia describes what this means: “The first requirement of conscious love is, of course that it has to be conscious—or in other words, anchored in a quality of our presence deeper than simply egoic selfhood. [It is] unitive, or nondual, awareness.” [2]

As I’ve said several times this year, the source of violence and so many of our world’s hurts is the illusion of separation. Our culture of romance suggests that sex and marriage solve the problem of loneliness and longing. But from many people I’ve talked with, it seems there is a great deal of unhealthy sexuality, trauma, and wounding in our sexually preoccupied world. Almost half the marriages in the United States end in divorce. Perhaps the Church intuited that the issue is deeper when it mandated celibacy for priesthood and religious life, but their proposed solution can also be a clever avoidance of intimacy too. I believe sex, marriage, and celibacy are not given to us to solve the problem, but to actually reveal the problem. All of these life stances show us that we still don’t know how to love. At the same time, if we are conscious and aware, they give us the daily practice and opportunity to try one more time! I find every healthy marriage comes to this conclusion sooner or later.

Cynthia writes: “For Jesus as for all teachers of conscious transformation . . . the work with a partner is in service of this goal. It is not intended simply to fulfill physical or emotional needs, but to accelerate the process of awakening.” [3]

She quotes psychologist John Welwood:

A conscious relationship is one that calls forth who you really are. . . . [4] [Instead of looking to a relationship for shelter] we could welcome its power to wake us up in areas of life where we are asleep and where we avoid naked, direct contact with life. This approach puts us on a path. It commits us to movement and change, providing forward direction by showing us where we most need to grow. Embracing relationship as a path also gives us practice: learning to use each difficulty along the way as an opportunity to go further, to connect more deeply, not just with a partner, but with our own aliveness as well. [5]

Gateway to Silence:
We are temples of God.

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (Shambhala: 2010), 112.
[2] Ibid., 118.
[3] Ibid., 118.
[4] John Welwood, Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship (HarperPerennial: 1996), 8.
[5] John Welwood, Journey of the Heart: The Path of Conscious Love (HarperPerennial: 1990), 13.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, God as Us! The Sacred Feminine and the Sacred Masculine, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2011), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

Image credit: Shy Boy, Juarez, Mexico, 2009. CAC archives.
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