When I slipped into my soul today, I was shocked. It didn’t fit. Was it too big or had I shrunk?
This began a couple of weeks ago.
A favourite source of spiritual speakers, Sounds True, presented one of my all time favourite teachers, Cynthia Bourgeault. For nearly an hour, I wallowed in the familiar voice, cadence, and wisdom of a beloved teacher.
Cynthia had come to Western Canada circuitously from the American Eastern Seaboard to become the teacher for a fledgling Contemplative movement.
Cynthia had my attention the moment I heard about her. She scored high in my scale of “People Worth Knowing” for a few reasons. She was an ordained Anglican priest who was female, a professor, and a Hermit. She made no secret of having been in love with a Monk who was determined to stay true to his vows. Cynthia’s book about this love describes how she became so frustrated with him at one point, she tried to beat him up.
She is a strong, independent, determinded and fiesty woman. She was someone I could admire.
Having worked in an administrative capacity in our small Anglican Parish, exposure to the biases of maleness within the Anglican faith was enough to cause me to want to raise flags and create a new chant when Cynthia arrived.
To set the record straight, I am straight. My comment is not laced with secrets, undercurrents or motives. I am not anti-male. What I am against is any form of domination – human over human, human over animals, human over life! It’s even hard for me to accept animal domination over animal, but I respect that I am ignorant in the world of base survival.
Prior to Cynthia showing up, I had been privy to the pain of two women priests in our faith. One priest was hired locally in a secondary role and the other had her own parish in the interior of our province. As a business woman who had bucked many challenges due to simply wanting to fulfill a call to my career, my soul ached for both these women. In the business world, one expects to meet some of the nastier aspects of life. In the world of religion, every time I met situations that were anything but love-filled, my morale had to be trumped with some rather hefty inner work with my Creator.
In fairness, I experienced bruising and sorrows of a male Parish Priest, too. In Northern Canada, I became a Parish Council member during which time “investigation prior to contempt” slipped frequently from my lips. The northern Bishop and the northern Priest battled more emphatically than two grizzlies during mating season. Scathing letters exchanged between these two men contained concepts that I had never seen in twenty years of big business.
I did not like any of this behaviour – towards men or women. Perhaps my heart is too tender to bear the bruising of expectations for people in the clergy. Perhaps it was meant to speed up my spiritual maturation. Whatever it was, I cannot appreciate or support male dominance in religion.
With Cynthia, none of this aspect of humanity, whether it affected her or not, tainted her quality, depth or breadth of tutelage. She was my oasis.
What did Cynthia teach me as a Contemplative? Vast amounts of invaluable insight, but here’s what I’ve been “wearing” the past week. During the Sounds True interview, she said:
“If you protect your heart, you don’t live genuinely. Jesus shows us his deep conviction that, lived experientially, love is greater than death. He shows us it’s okay to live at that depth of vulnerability and passion and authenticity and sincerity and have your heart broken because it is not the end of the story.”
This week, my heart is being broken. Once broken, it’s easy to have it broken even more. I am contemplating this condition.
Cynthia said her teacher told her:
“You have to find that which is within you which already lives beyond death and start to live out of it NOW – because that’s the only way to live life on this earth.”
Then she added, “Personhood, truly realized, trumps death, trumps physical disillusion and decay. Jesus is the master field of Love.”
Her timely words reshape my knowing, rekindle my willingness and re-size my being.
NOW. Where’s the crack that leaked me out of my soul…