Understanding the Mystics Contemplatively — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Understanding the Mystics Contemplatively

Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers: Week 2

Understanding the Mystics Contemplatively
Sunday, July 19, 2015

As we begin our second week of introducing the mystics and non-dual thinkers who have had the most influence on my lineage, I feel some caveats are in order. As our brother Jim Finley says, it’s really not too useful to skim the mystics. It is far better to sit with them and savor them. However, in these few weeks I can only touch on each mystic. I hope that small taste will stimulate your hunger, and that you will treat yourself to spending more time with the teacher(s) who most intrigues you. You may find a friend for life!

Can seeing with the eyes of mystics really have relevance for our busy modern world? I think it is not only relevant but absolutely necessary to change our levels of consciousness, which many religious traditions have called growth in holiness or divine union. As Einstein (who himself might be called a secular mystic) said, “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it.” Dualistic thinking has caused many of our personal and global problems; our hope is that non-dual consciousness can bring healing.

Cynthia Bourgeault tells our Living School students that the more time spent in contemplation, the clearer the mystics become. Contemplation teaches the non-dual perspective of the mystics, so that we can better understand them. It also helps empty us of our preconceived notions so that we are more ready to receive the next experience of God. How silly to think that God must or could fit inside our human-made theologies! Would you respect a God you could understand with your little mind?

Through a regular practice of contemplation we can awaken to the profound presence of the unitive Spirit, which then gives us the courage and capacity to face the paradox that everything is—ourselves included. Higher levels of consciousness always allow us to include and understand more and more, although much of it is unsayable. Deeper levels of divine union allow us to forgive and show compassion toward ever new people, even those we are not naturally attracted to, or even our enemies.

Mystics have plumbed the depths of both suffering and love and emerged with compassion for the whole suffering world and a learned capacity to recognize God within themselves, in others, and in all things. If we can read with an attitude of simple mindfulness, the insights the mystics share can equip us with a deep and embracing peace, even in the presence of the many kinds of limitation and suffering that life offers us. From such contact with the deep rivers of grace, we can live our lives from a place of non-judgment, forgiveness, love, and a quiet contentment with the ordinariness of our lives.

Adapted from What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self, pp. ix-x

Gateway to Silence:
“Nothing can come between God and the soul.” —Julian of Norwich

Photograph (detail) by pedrojperez
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