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Wisdom

Wisdom

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Week Eight Summary and Practice

Sunday, February 21—Friday, February 26, 2021

Sunday
Jesus teaches his disciples through his lifestyle, a kind of “seminary of life.”

Monday
What Jesus experiences in his consciousness, we are to experience in ours. We are to enter into his very heart, the center of his being. —Beatrice Bruteau

Tuesday
All in all, the Rule of Benedict is designed for ordinary people who live ordinary
lives. . . . It was written to provide a model of spiritual development for the average person who intends to live life beyond the superficial or the uncaring
. —Joan Chittister

Wednesday
Wisdom is clearly more than mere intelligence, knowledge of facts, or information. Wisdom is more synthesis than analysis, more paradoxical than linear, more a dance than a march.

Thursday
When Jesus of Nazareth prefaced his enigmatic sayings with the words, “let those with eyes to see, see, let those with ears to hear, hear,” scholars tell us he was speaking as a teacher of Jewish wisdom, appealing not just to the head but to the whole person of his listener: heart, body, mind, senses, imagination. —Christopher Pramuk

Friday
Wise fools are always formed in the testing ground of exile when the customary and familiar are taken away and they must go deeper and much higher for wisdom.

 

Creating a Rule of Life

In this week’s meditations on Wisdom, we mentioned the power of the monastic way of life. Few contemporary writers speak about modern monasticism with as much depth and clarity as spiritual teacher Beverly Lanzetta. She notes that an important aspect of any monastic community is a rule of life, or code of conduct.  In her recent book, A New Silence, Lanzetta explores ways in which the everyday contemplative practitioner can deepen their commitment to love of the Divine. She writes:

Over the years, I have composed and followed a personal rule of life. I include below excerpts from the original and longer rule, which you may find helpful in writing and living your own code of conduct.

1. Be faithful to the Divine in all that you do. Put the Divine will before your own. Ask, “What would God do?” and wait for the answer. Do not allow personal attraction or gain to cloud decision-making, or your soul’s intentions to be compromised.

2. Be simple of purpose. The basis of simplicity is centering on God. The heart of the monastic life is to live in God’s presence.

3. Love all of creation with Divine compassion. Total commitment brings change. Give to life your unparalleled commitment, and complete love, one that is without self-interest.

4. Offer yourself as a place of prayer. May your presence be one that heals divisions and expands hearts.

5. Be attuned to the splendor of creation, and the gentle web of existence. Celebrate embodiment. Actively work—both within yourself and in the world—to make the holy manifest.

6. Refrain from possession. Remember the transient nature of earthly life. Possession can occur on all levels: physical, emotional, psychic, spiritual. Love expands the spirit, possession contracts it.

7. Pray daily to grow in humility, and to be empty of the false self. Offer over to the Divine your regrets, sorrows, doubts, motives, and unresolved desires.

8. In all you do, practice nonharm. Make a small footprint, tread lightly, become aware of the impact your actions have on others. The refusal to reflect on your motives leads to suffering (for others and also one’s self).

9. Treat all religions and spiritual paths with honor and respect. Enter silence. Keep faith alive.

10. Create community wherever you are. Make of your heart a home for the homeless, a refuge for the poor. Pray for the well-being of your monastic sisters and brothers.

I invite you to spend some time this week contemplating the rhythm of your own life. Without judgment, reflect on how you spend your time, what you pay attention to, and where your energy goes. Does the rhythm of your life honor the relationships and values that are most important to you? Is there some degree of balance between work and rest, solitude and community? Be open to the movement of the Spirit. How might God be inviting you into greater freedom, integrity, and love through the rhythm of your daily life?

Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.

Reference: 
Beverly Lanzetta, A New Silence: Spiritual Practices and Formation for the Monk Within (Blue Sapphire Books: 2020), 286‒287.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings. 
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Wisdom

Becoming Wise Fools
Friday, February 26, 2021

Those who will lead into the future will have some hard-won wisdom. We might call them the “holy fools.” By the holy fool I mean what the Bible and mythic literature have always presented as the “savior.” They are persons who are happily, but not naïvely, innocent of everything the rest of us take for granted. They alone can trust and live the new work of God because they are not protecting the past by control (conservatives) or reacting against the past by fixing (liberals). Both of these groups are too invested in their own understanding to let go and let God do something new on earth.

According to the pattern, the wise fools are always formed in the testing ground of exile when the customary and familiar are taken away and they must go deeper and much higher for wisdom. As a result, they no longer fit or belong among their own. Yet paradoxically, they alone can point the way to the “promised land” or the “new Jerusalem.” Conventional wisdom is inadequate, even if widely held by good people.

I believe that there are two necessary paths enabling us to move toward wisdom: a radical journey inward and a radical journey outward. For far too long we’ve confined people to a sort of security zone, a safe “lukewarm” midpoint, which the Bible warns us against, as to the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:15‒16). We’ve called them neither to a radical path inward, in other words, to contemplation, nor to a radical path outward, that is, to commitment on the social issues of their time. We prefer to stay in a secure middle position, probably because these two great teachers, the inner and the outer way, both cause pain. Failure and falling short are the best teachers; success has virtually nothing to teach us on the spiritual path.

It is Paul, one of the “holy fools” of our Christian faith, isolated but enthralled by a vision of universal Gospel, who can say, “Make no mistake about it: if you think you’re wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then you must learn to be a fool before you can really be wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). The holy fool is the last stage of the wisdom journey. It is the individual who knows their dignity and therefore does not have to polish or protect it. It is the man or woman who has true authority and does not have to defend it or anyone else’s authority. It is the child of God who has met the One who watches over sparrows and fashions galaxies, and therefore can comfortably be a child of God.  They and they alone can be trusted to proclaim the Reign of God.

Reference: 
Adapted from Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (Crossroad Publishing: 2015), 118–120, 133–134.

Story from Our Community:
The whole way has been / wisdom, calling / waiting, waiting, / just there, through those / trees. / Take a rest here, / in the center of the circle. / Lay your doubts and fear / here, by the fire. / Rest in this / love; / it is always all that / is. —Lynnly T.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings.
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Wisdom

Moving beyond Conventional Wisdom
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Here are the three further “ways of knowing” that can allow us to access greater wisdom:

Images: Imaginal knowing is the only way that the unconscious can move into consciousness. It happens through fantasy, through dreams, through symbols, where all is “thrown together” (sym-ballein in Greek). It happens through pictures, events, and well-told stories. It happens through poetry, where well-chosen words create an image that, in turn, creates a new awareness—that was in us already. We knew it, but we didn’t know it. We must be open to imaginal knowing because the work of transformation will not be done logically, rationally, or cerebrally. Our intellectual knowing alone is simply not adequate to the greatness and the depth of the task.

Aesthetic: In some ways, aesthetic knowing is the most attractive, but I think it’s often the least converting. Art in all its forms so engages us and satisfies us that many go no deeper. Still, aesthetic knowing is a central and profound way of knowing. I’ve seen art lead to true changes of consciousness. I have seen people change their lives in response to a novel, a play, a piece of music, or a movie like Dead Man Walking. Their souls were prepared, and God got in through the right metaphor at the right time. They saw their own stories clarified inside of a larger story line.

Epiphany: The last way of knowing, which I’d think religion would prefer and encourage, is epiphanic knowing. An epiphany is a parting of the veil, a life-changing manifestation of meaning, the eureka of awareness of self and the Other. It is the radical grace which we cannot manufacture or orchestrate. There are no formulas which ensure its appearance. It is always a gift, unearned, unexpected, and larger than our present life. We cannot manufacture epiphanies. We can only ask for them, wait for them, expect them, know they are given, keep out of the way, and thank Someone afterward.

I have to imagine that Jesus’ consciousness was developed by all these ways of knowing. Scholar Christopher Pramuk describes how Jesus engaged his listeners and followers in ways far beyond their minds. He writes:

When Jesus of Nazareth prefaced his enigmatic sayings with the words, “let those with eyes to see, see, let those with ears to hear, hear,” scholars tell us he was speaking as a teacher of Jewish wisdom, appealing not just to the head but to the whole person of his listener: heart, body, mind, senses, imagination. Like a lure darting and flashing before a fish, Jesus’s words dance and play before the imagination, breaking open our habitual assumptions about “the way things are.”. . . To be “born again” is to break free of the stultifying womb of conventional wisdom. . . . [1]

References: 
[1] Christopher Pramuk, “Theodicy and the Feminine Divine: Thomas Merton’s ‘Hagia Sophia’ in Dialogue with Western Theology,” in Theological Studies 77, no. 1 (2016), 54–55.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2020), 127­–132.

Story from Our Community:
The whole way has been / wisdom, calling / waiting, waiting, / just there, through those / trees. / Take a rest here, / in the center of the circle. / Lay your doubts and fear / here, by the fire. / Rest in this / love; / it is always all that / is. —Lynnly T.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings. 
Read Full Entry

Wisdom

Seven Pathways to Wisdom
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wisdom is clearly more than mere intelligence, knowledge of facts, or information. Wisdom is more synthesis than analysis, more paradoxical than linear, more a dance than a march.

In order to grow in wisdom, we need to move beyond cerebral, rational knowing. As wisdom teacher Cynthia Bourgeault puts it: “Wisdom is not knowing more, but knowing with more of you, knowing deeper.” [1] I’ve created a list of seven “ways of knowing” that together can move us toward greater wisdom. Here are the first four:

Intellect: The lens that we most associate with knowing is intellectual knowing. It’s the result of formal education and it has to do with science, reason, logic, and what we call intelligence. Most of us are trained to think that it is the only way of knowing or the superior way of knowing. Yet that isn’t necessarily true. Seeing intellectual intelligence as the best or only way of knowing is actually a great limitation.

Will: The second way of knowing is volitional knowing. It comes from making choices, commitments, and decisions, then sticking with them, and experiencing them at different stages. Anyone who has made and then kept vows knows what I’m talking about. It is a knowing that comes from making choices and the very process of struggling with the choices. This knowing is a kind of cumulative knowing that emerges over time. The Franciscan scholar John Duns Scotus (1266–1308) felt that volitional knowing, or will, was higher and closer to love than intellectual knowing.

Emotion: Great emotions are especially powerful teachers. Love, ecstasy, hatred, jealousy, fear, despair, anguish: each have their lessons. Even anger and rage are great teachers, if we listen to them. They have so much power to reveal our deepest self to ourselves and to others, yet we tend to consider them negatively. I would guess that people die and live much more for emotional knowing than they ever will for intellectual, rational knowing. To taste these emotions is to live in a new reality afterward, with a new ability to connect.

Senses: Bodily or sensory knowing comes through the senses, by touching, moving, smelling, seeing, hearing, breathing, tasting—and especially at a deep or unconscious level. Becoming aware of our senses in a centered way allows us to awaken, to listen, to connect. It allows us to know reality more deeply, on our body’s terms instead of our brain’s terms. It is no surprise that Jesus touched most of the people he healed. Something very different is communicated and known through physical touch, in contrast with what is communicated through mere words.

Tomorrow I will continue to describe three additional ways of knowing that can deepen our ability to know and love the world more fully as Jesus did.

References: 
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, An Introductory Wisdom School: Course Transcript and Companion Guide (Wisdom Way of Knowing: 2017), 2. Please note: Today is the last day to register for Cynthia’s Introductory Wisdom School online course.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Franciscan Media: 2020), 121–127.

Story from Our Community:
My transformation story has sudden, short bursts of enlightenment and long, slow, gentle awakenings. During my journey I have discovered Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault. I am eternally grateful to these spiritual giants who continue to guide and inspire me. —Jude M.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings. 
Read Full Entry

Wisdom

The Benedictine Wisdom of “Ora et Labora”
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

If Jesus was a wisdom master who sought to transform the consciousness of his disciples through a way of life, the desert communities that sprung up in the fourth century may have been an attempt to carry on that traditional way of teaching. Cynthia Bourgeault, an accomplished wisdom teacher in her own right, traces the movement of Wisdom from the desert to the monasteries and into the present moment, honoring it as one of the foundations of her own wisdom schools:

One of the streams of Wisdom comes from very, very deep in the Christian tradition—the Wisdom of Benedictine Monasticism. Saint Benedict, in the fifth century, drew from an already well-established stream of transformational Wisdom that came out of the deserts of Egypt and Syria via a first generation of people who really wanted to practice what it means to put on the mind of Christ. Saint Benedict became heir to this and shaped it into a massive, stable container, which has been the foundation of Christian monasticism and monastic transformational practice in the West for 1,500 years. Its brilliant and stable legacy of “Ora et Labora”: “Prayer and Work,” offers a fundamental rhythm for the balancing and ordering of human life, and for the growing of that beautiful rose of Wisdom.

Joan Chittister, a vowed religious sister of the Order of Saint Benedict, explains how the Rule of Benedict provides an opportunity for transformation for everyone who chooses to follow its wisdom:

All in all, the Rule of Benedict is designed for ordinary people who live ordinary lives. It was not written for priests or mystics or hermits or ascetics; it was written by a layman for laymen. It was written to provide a model of spiritual development for the average person who intends to live life beyond the superficial or the uncaring. [1] . . .

Benedict was quite precise about it all. Time was to be spent in prayer, in sacred reading, in work, and in community participation. In other words, it was to be spent on listening to the Word, on study, on making life better for others, and on community building. It was public as well as private; it was private as well as public. It was balanced. No one thing consumed the monastic’s life. No one thing got exaggerated out of all proportion to the other dimensions of life. No one thing absorbed the human spirit to the exclusion of every other. Life was made up of many facets and only together did they form a whole. Physical labor and mental prayer and social life and study and community concerns were all pieces of the puzzle of life. Life flowed through time, with time as its guardian. [2]

References:
[1] Joan D. Chittister, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today (HarperSanFrancisco: 1991), 4.

[2] Chittister, 74­–75.

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, An Introductory Wisdom School: Course Transcript and Companion Guide (Wisdom Way of Knowing: 2017), 4. Learn about and register for Cynthia’s online Introductory Wisdom School.

Story from Our Community:
My transformation story has sudden, short bursts of enlightenment and long, slow, gentle awakenings. During my journey I have discovered Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr and Cynthia Bourgeault. I am eternally grateful to these spiritual giants who continue to guide and inspire me. —Jude M.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings. 
Read Full Entry

Wisdom

Learning the Wisdom of Jesus
Monday, February 22, 2021

Although we cannot be a part of Jesus’ original “seminary of life” as the disciples were, contemplative theologian Beatrice Bruteau (19302014) proposes that we can learn the wisdom of Jesus by drawing closer to him, eventually coming to live out of the same consciousness he shared with God. She writes: 

[Jesus as teacher] wants us to experience his freedom. . . . He wants us to enjoy his self-realization, his union with the Source of Being, whom he calls Father. It’s his own interior experience that he wants to share.

This means that the rest of us are to have this kind of experience. Whatever is reported of Jesus, therefore, is to be replicated in us. Just go through the Gospels and find out what he is like. It’s a revelation of what is in store for you, what is expected of you, what is promised to you, and what you in your profoundest reality always already are. What he experiences in his consciousness, we are to experience in ours. We are to enter into his very heart, the center of his being. . . .

Entering into the heart of Jesus means also entering into our own heart, the center of our being, the core of our existence. . . .

Jesus, as disciple-maker, calls himself the Way, hodos, a road [John 14:6]. The road is something you can walk on; it gets you from here to there. Jesus is such a path. The passing from depth to depth on the way into his heart corresponds to a passing from depth to depth in our own heart, where “heart” means the core of our existence, not just the seat of the affections. We can walk on this road which is Jesus first by petitioning him, then by studying him, later by imitating him, and by dialoguing with him. But after we have practiced these disciplines for some time, if we are to enter his heart, we must get into his own consciousness.

In order to share Jesus’ consciousness, Bruteau suggests that we take the Beloved Disciple who “reclined on the breast of Jesus” at the Last Supper [John 13:23] as our model.

In order to move closer to the heart of Jesus, we “lean back toward” him by sinking back into the depth of our own consciousness, sinking down toward the center of our
being. . . .

Each deeper level that we sink to . . . brings us closer to the heart or center of Jesus, because it is bringing us closer to our own center. . . . As we move back and down and in toward our [own] center, we are overlapping, so to speak, with the reality of Jesus more and more, as we come to corresponding levels of his being. . . . We are coming to know the Sacred Heart from the inside. . . . And our “inside” is coming to be more and more coincident with his “inside.” His Heart is becoming the heart of our heart.

Reference:
Beatrice Bruteau, Radical Optimism: Rooting Ourselves in Reality (Crossroad Publishing: 1993), 91–92, 94, 98.

Story from Our Community:
In reflecting on the non-dualistic view of Jesus (and ourselves) as human and divine, I was reminded of the quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” Thank you to all at CAC; your beautiful work is changing my life and so many others. —Bob B.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings. 
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Wisdom

A Seminary of Life
Sunday, February 21, 2021

To understand the world knowledge is not enough, you must see it, touch it, live in its presence. —Teilhard de Chardin, Hymn of the Universe

Suppose a superstar of knowledge moves into your house as a boarder. With three PhDs after his name, he sits at your supper table each evening dispensing information about nuclear physics, cyberspace, and psychoneuroimmunology, giving ultimate answers to every question you ask. He doesn’t lead you through his thinking process, however, or even involve you in it; he simply states the conclusions he has reached.

We might find his conclusions interesting and even helpful, but the way he relates to us will not set us free, empower us, or make us feel good about ourselves. His wisdom will not liberate us, it will not invite us to growth and life; indeed, it will in the end make us feel inferior and dependent. That’s exactly how we have treated Jesus. We have treated him like a person with three PhDs coming to tell us his conclusions.

This is not the path to wisdom nor is it how Jesus shared his wisdom with those who wanted to learn from him. Rather Jesus teaches his disciples through his lifestyle, a kind of “seminary of life.” He takes them with him (Mark 1:16–20) and watching him, they learn the cycle and rhythm of his life, as he moves from prayer and solitude to teaching and service in community. As Cynthia Bourgeault explains in her book The Wisdom Jesus, he taught as a moshel moshelim, or a teacher of wisdom. [1] He doesn’t teach his disciples mere conceptual information as we do in our seminaries. Rather, he introduces them to a lifestyle and the only way he can do that is to invite them to live with him. He invites us to do the same (see John 1:39).

“But the crowds got to know where he had gone and they went after him. He made them welcome and he talked to them about the kingdom of God and he cured those who were in need of healing” (Luke 9:11). Can’t you just see the apostles standing at Jesus’ side, watching him, noticing how he does things: how he talks to people, how he waits, how he listens, how he’s patient, how he depends upon God, how he takes time for prayer, how he doesn’t respond cynically or bitterly, but trustfully and yet truthfully? Can you imagine a more powerful way to learn?

Luke tells us that Jesus walked the journey of faith just as you and I do. That’s the compelling message of the various dramas where Jesus needed faith—during his temptation in the desert, during his debates with his adversaries, in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. We like to imagine that Jesus did not doubt or ever question his Father’s love. The much greater message is that in his humanity, he did flinch, did ask questions, did have doubts—and still remained faithful. This is the path of wisdom.

References:
[1] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 23.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self (Crossroad Publishing: 2015), 14, 108, 118.

Story from Our Community:
In reflecting on the non-dualistic view of Jesus (and ourselves) as human and divine, I was reminded of the quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” Thank you to all at CAC; your beautiful work is changing my life and so many others. —Bob B.

Image credit: Mark Kauffman, Howard Thurman (detail), photograph, copyright gettyimages.com, used with permission.
Image inspiration: Pictured here are the hands of the Howard Thurman, revered theologian and inspiration for civil rights in the 20th century. We see a profound gentleness in the way Thurman holds his glasses; the same timeless and human gentleness that permeates his writings and teachings.
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