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Exercising Contemplative Power…Conference 2013Cynthia Bourgeault

On October 18, 2013 over a hundred people participated in Envisioning the Future: Living from a Contemplative Heart. They came from across the county. Many had been part of earlier ICCD programs and for many this was their first encounter with us. The ICCD staff together with Cynthia Bourgeault led the participants to deepen the exploration of exercising contemplative power.

Cynthia is an Episcopal priest and modern day mystic.  She spoke of how the true nature of contemplative work is to awaken the heart to hear the cries of the world.  Contemplation is prophetic, communal and visionary. It is in the surrender so essential to contemplative practice that one becomes radically open to God’s future. “Surrender” used in this context is a word that expresses relationship rather than power over. It allows us to develop an interior alignment that opens us to new ways of acting in the world.

Using the insights from her most recent work, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity, she worked with us to understand that this Law holds the principle of enlightened proactive change for contemplative activists. She challenged us to live in paradox, ambiguity and complexity as well as to lighten up. Participants were then invited into a process of applying this Law to the federal budget crisis and the situation of women religious with the Vatican.  We did lighten up during the imagining process.  One group had us imaging the power that would come if we could dance with the bishops!

To listen to Cynthia’s talks from October 2013, click here.

As the weekend came to a close Cynthia inspired us to realize that we are part of the whole-that our heart is a holograph of God’s heart. It is our heart that is the organ of spiritual insight. She offered this insight in relation to surrender once again or kenosis. The surrender that is part of contemplative prayer leads us to “jump in” God’s round dance or perichoresis. That means to be part of the inter-abiding mutual love of the Trinity where the formless and infinite are always expressing itself in form, in us. The more we can stay in that dance the more grounded we will be when faced with suffering and injustice and need to respond. And when we respond we realize that we are not isolated…we do not act alone.

The work of the weekend only deepened our conviction that contemplative practice drives transformed consciousness and this drives transformed action. In the months to come ICCD will continue to reflect on this experience and how to exercise contemplative power. 

For information about Cynthia and her books and writings go to   www.contemplative.org

Watch ICCD’s Facebook page for more reflections from the conference in the months to come.

Nancy Sylvester, IHM

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