Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward
to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love.
‘Stop hesitating!’ This has been my inner mantra throughout 2020. I have been saying yes to invitations to step up and lean in, even when I ‘don’t feel prepared enough’. That was true also when agreeing to write this blog for the Northeast Wisdom/ Wisdom Waypoints Book Study Group on chapters 2 and 3 of Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God, by Cynthia Bourgeault. The yes path. And, as I have attempted, multiple times to begin to write, my heart has felt full with the spiritual energy in this little book and the gratitude for its companioning in my own life through the years. Please read this as a heart offering for today. The richness and depth of this powerhouse book is to be savored and re-read and applied, for the rest of our lives.
As our Northeast Wisdom Council experienced the impact of the Wisdom Way of Knowing book circles in the spring of 2020 and considered what book to gather around in the fall, I felt a clear call for Mystical Hope. The conditions of COVID, racial reckoning and the election all pointed toward a deep need to gather around the wellspring of hope and mercy. At the time, Bill Redfield said, “be ready for a big response.” Well, Bill, you nailed it! We have had over 140 seekers asking to join and it has been quite an administrative love offering from Marcella Kraybill-Greggo, helping everyone find their way to a group. It seems many of us are deeply drawn and are feeling a resonate need for this Mystical Hope guidance and remembering.
So, like I have done before…in November of 2016 after Donald Trump was elected…in June of 2017 after my brother tragically died…and now again this fall, I have picked up this book and read back through, Lectio Divina style, allowing myself to be drawn in and find my bearings again as part of this larger gravitational field of love.
I collect myself and remember that I am not responsible for particular hopeful outcomes. I find daily practices that awaken me to the “luminous web” (Barbara Brown Taylor) seeking to dwell within hope, ready to receive the assistance that is leaning toward me, and act accordingly. I aim to remember the world of Mercy, and “wake up inside a warm-hearted and purposive intelligence, a coherence of which you yourself are part of the expression” (pg. 31).
Ever since early January I have turned intentionally toward a twice daily meditation practice. While I have practiced Centering Prayer in the morning for years, something in me ‘clicked’ and I stepped up the daily pace. A snapshot experience from a recent weekend zoom meditation retreat that my husband and I participated in remains with me. We woke to some kind of problem with our water heater and we were expecting a call and a visit from the plumber. Just before lunch, when our teacher was leading us in a heart centering meditation, and after a morning of longer silent meditation, the phone rang—the plumber was leaving a message. I was in an expansive place and briefly debated whether to let it go to voicemail. Instead, I felt drawn to move to the phone and bring along my expanded awareness and connection with my heart. As we spoke briefly about the problem and his arrival, I found myself feeling love for this stranger. I felt kindness and gratitude pouring out through me. My heart was warm and open toward him and the situation. It was a lovely extension of the meditation, not an interruption, but an exchange. The plumber was there during our lunch break, he was able to fix our water heater. All was folded into the retreat day, in a seamless way.
Mystical hope would simply be what happens when we touch (our) innermost ground and it floods forth into our being as strength and joy. Hope would be the Mercy—divine love itself—coursing through our being like lightning finding a clear path to the ground. (pg. 34)
If meditation is our core practice for turning off or down the domination of our egoic operating system so that our larger heart/mind can be experienced, then it does seem to slowly build the capacity to interact in the world from a place of wholeness, inclusion and expanded attention. We are “nurturing the capacity to perceive and respond to divine hope” (pg. 43). As Cynthia says, we are to “maintain a space of deep inner availability to God—deeper than thoughts, deeper than emotions” (pg. 54). When we practice this core gesture of surrender a “distinct warm heartedness” emerges (pg. 56).
What inside me can embody hope right now, can wake up in the “body of hope”? I place my hand on my heart and feel my heartbeat. I breathe there for a moment. I sink down, below my physical heart and my emotions, my thoughts, and all the outer conditions. I sense into, press into, the Heart of God. It is spacious there, it is kind and compassionate there. All is cared for there. “All the knot ends of reality come together in a huge tapestry of divine love” (pg 32).
I felt moved to spend last Tuesday, the evening of the first presidential debate, in meditation. I invited a few from the meditation retreat to join me. I felt the call to practice hope, to swim in mercy, to swim upstream toward the headwaters of love that might be able to hold all the suffering of this world in tenderness. My heart knew the way to go and I released it all, again, into divine love itself.
That is why I need this book right now. I need these words, this energy, our community of connected hearts all uniting in hope and trusting in the mercy, a divine exchange, as close as our heartbeat and breath. We swim in mercy as in an endless sea (Psalm 103).
…and you will know, in a way you cannot presently know, your absolute belonging and place in the heart of God, and that you are a part of this heart forever and cannot possibly fall out of it, no matter what may happen. (pg 52)
A Note from Northeast Wisdom:
Soon to be Wisdom Waypoints, Northeast Wisdom is offering Tuesday book study groups this fall which are now full. We encourage Wisdom Practice Circles to join us by revisiting Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God by Cynthia Bourgeault in your own Wisdom communities this fall. Whether in small, conscious and respectful groups on the ground, or online, as Marcella says, “May we all glean the next layer accessible for each of us as we engage more deeply,” and may Mystical Hope offer new inspiration in these challenging times. To find out how to get the book, and view other recommended books, please visit our Resources page.
Images are all from Paula Arai’s book Painting Enlightenment, Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra: The Buddhist Art of Iwasaki Tsuneo and shared courtesy of Laura Ruth who took photos directly from the book. All paintings are by Iwasaki Tsuneo; their titles from the top: Grain of Rice; Ringing Bell and Pilgrim on Earth. The photo above of the book cover of Mystical Hope was also taken by Laura Ruth.
Jeanine Siler Jones LCSW, is a practicing therapist who has been an Enneagram teacher for over 15 years and member of the Northeast Wisdom, soon to be Wisdom Waypoints Council. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she has been engaged with Wisdom work since 2009 and has been one of the primary igniters of Wisdom School Southeast. Since her deep dive into Wisdom work with Cynthia Bourgeault she has been playing with the Wisdom roots Gurdjieff brought to the west. Jeanine provided the initiatory series: Intro to the Inner Task: Eight Exercises in Sensation, Part I & II for the new Inner Practice page of Resources. She has contributed to a number of posts to the Northeast Wisdom/Wisdom Waypoints Home Page and Breaking Ground blogs, including Beyond the Basics, Our Hearts In Advent: A Southeast Arising Wisdom School.
Jeanine works with people interested in spiritually integrated therapy, is trained as a Wisdom infused Spiritual Director from Moravian Theological Seminary, and leads contemplative retreats and groups on her own as well as collaboratively, including Deepening in the Practices of Wisdom groups and Wisdom Schools in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault. Jeanine and her husband, Russell form Siler Jones Counseling. You may read more about her in Seedlings.