Sunday, November 27, 2016
"CYNTHIA BOURGEAULT, PhD, is an Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader. The author of several books, she lectures and gives workshops throuhgout North America and the world." (from her website)
This morning, as I was reading some of her lovely prose, it occurred to me how remarkably different is the path of the traditional follower of an established religion from that of the "unaffiliated mystic," who allows her experience to be shaped from within, rather than relying on outward authority or institutional sanction. Andrew Harvey calls the latter the "Direct Path" as opposed to that shaped or mediated by existing creeds and interpreters.
I hold Cynthia Bourgeault in the highest esteem. She is one of the most fluent and poetic spiritual writers/teachers of our time. Further, she has committed herself fully to her cause, maintaining a position as a staunch defender and modern interpreter of the authentic Christian faith at a time when many perversions and distortions of this religion are present in society.
Yet something struck me as I read her compelling prose this morning. What came into my mind was how very different her path has been from my own and that of others who follow the "Direct Path." She embraced a fixed tradition, one which provided her with a "container" for her beliefs and conduct. Her community gave her support and encouragement to explore fully the wisdom which had been handed down through many generations and today speaks to many who also follow this established path. She is a practitioner of a certain form of prayer and contemplation through a meditation that involves clearing the mind and sitting in silence to allow a quiet communion with God to occur.
I, on the other hand, had no familiar tradition, no external guide or school to direct me when I underwent spontaneous awakening of the Kundalini energies. My sudden awakening thrust me into a totally foreign state of consciousness. I was instantaneously thrown into extreme rapture, even though I could not even name that which was happening. I had no community nor even any books or basic resources to guide me. (This was before the internet existed and Kundalini was essentially unknown in the West at that time.) There were no ashrams or gurus in my vicinity (Kansas, l981). Few had even heard of yoga or meditation, much less Kundalini. I knew nothing of the inner energies, and in fact had never even had a massage.
I had seen a depiction of Bernini's famous statue of St.Teresa in Ecstasy and indeed in truth I now resembled her, though I had no vocabulary to describe this intensity within. When I called up a mental image of Shiva I was instantly filled with indescribable, totally sensuous rapture. The world became beautiful as I was enveloped in unconditional love.
When I tried to explain my recurrent bliss to supposed authorities (movement teachers, chi gong experts years later), they had no idea what I was talking about. I was left to rely on my guru within.
I had no one even to share my experience with.
For some fifteen years I maintained silence and solitude, continuing my blissful (and very simple) practice over the years as the energies integrated and settled within my system.
Ultimately, I wrote sacred poetry and a spiritual memoir and also set up a Kundalini blog and FB page as a way of "giving back" some of the gift that had been granted me.
Yet, despite the obvious difference in our experiences, I feel that in many ways my path and that of the Christian mystic such as Cynthia Bougeault point to a similar goal––spiritual union with the divine. We use different words to describe this phenomenon. She speaks of God and Christ, I of the Beloved Within. She meditates in silence and stillness. My meditation is movement, though now even that is ever so slight. She does not mention bliss as such, but bliss has been the guiding force in my unfolding. It has led me forward through a long and sometimes arduous journey.
Cynthia loves Teilhard de Chardin and Rumi, and so do I. Teihard speaks of the divinization of matter, of the divine human ultimately arriving at the Omega point where mortal and the ultimate are one. Rumi welcomes everyone into his tent, no matter their background or beliefs.
In many respects, she and I speak the same language, for the path of the mystic is much the same, east or west. It is the path of return, the coming home to who we truly are. It is what we all long for and seek constantly in our daily lives.
May you each find your own right way home, and become your true self.