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Heart Consciousness

Some rough notes by Ellen Beidleron after encountering ...

The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind: A New Perspective on Christ and His Message.
by Cynthia Bourgeault, ISBN 1590305809, Softcover: 223 pp. Shambhala, 2008.

What did Jesus actually teach? How often do we consider the teachings as a whole?

Over familiarity with Jesus in our Western culture may get in the way of appreciating Jesus' teaching. One Texas theologian remembers his sunday-school teaching: Jesus is nice and he wants us to be nice too.

The tendency to relate to Jesus through belief is characteristic of Western Christianity. But it was not necessarily the emphasis of the early church. Moreover, relating to Jesus through beliefs is not necessarily the only way for us today. The central challenge that Jesus offered was finding a new way of seeing the world and in "right practice."

Jesus repeatedly describes his teaching as the "kingdom of heaven." It is a foundational idea. What is the kingdom of heaven? Biblical scholars have debated it for centuries. Not where you go when you die. Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is at hand; it is within you. Not later, but "lighter." (... my burden is light)

The kingdom is not an earthly, political utopia, either. Jesus specifically denied it in his day. He said, the kingdom of heaven is not of this world.

Many have suggested that the kingdom of heaven is a code word for a state of consciousness, a new way of looking at the world with non-dual, or unitive, consciousness. Earmarks of non-dual consciousness are no essential separation between God and humans, or between humans and humans. All is one.

Jesus describes a complete mutual indwelling: God in us, we are in God, we are in each other. I am the vine, you are the branches. (The Gospel of John). Mutual abiding: whole and part live together in mutual, loving reciprocity.

No separation between human and human: Love your neighbor as yourself. We often hear it wrong. Not "as much as." "As" means "the same." Your neighbor is you. No competition between people who are in a sense "one."

Jesus as a master of non-dual consciousness, calling people to that transformed consciousness. Kingdom of heaven is what you see when you see from that unitive consciousness and live from that consciousness.

Because we have the ability to stand outside ourselves with a self-reflective consciousness. Metaphors can help us understand what this all means, as does the computer metaphor ...

We come into existence with a certain operating system, but have the opportunity to “upgrade.”

Our original operating system is a binary operating system -- built into the structure of our brain.

Subject/object oriented. We experience ourselves as persons with distinct attributes, not like the other. We experience others as outside ourselves. We think in terms of discriminating differences between objects and people. We experience ourselves as distinct, unique persons, different from every other person. We experience others as outside ourselves. We think in dualities, good versus bad, up versus down, etc.

Each one of us seems to be at the hub at the center of this perception of dualism. But it's a mirage, an illusion, as most 'wisdom'' traditions tell us. There is no ego, separate from everything else. The perception of separation is a function of the binary operating system.

Jesus, as it were, suggests that we can upgrade our operating system. Most people get stuck in the binary operating system.

But we have the capacity to upgrade or rather switch to another operating system that wss installed prior to the binary system.

This is the non-dual, unitive system. Bourgeault likes to call it 'the operating system of the heart.' (In contrast to the binary system that operates thru the brain.) Not separating, does not make distinctions.

Transformation of the mind means upgrading to heart awareness. Heart is not necessarily the emotional center. Heart is an organ of inner alignment, perception of the world as well as of the spirit. Heart picks up reality in a more profound way than does the brain.

Sufi teacher, Kabir Helminski writes,

"We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. In addition to the limited analytic intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative, and creative capabilities; and image-forming and symbolic capacities.

"Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification because they are operating best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection to the cosmic mind. This total mind we call 'heart.'" (From: Living Presence: A Sufi Guide to Mindfulness and the Essential Self, New York: Tarcher / Putnam, 1992)

The heart is an instrument that can receive signals from all sorts of sources. The heart, in this sense, is super-rational; picks up all kinds of information. Wisdom traditions see the heart as an organ of spiritual alignment, like a GPS (God-Positioning System). It allows us to go beyond the obvious and to pick up on things unseen as well as what can be perceived by the senses.

The heart is not based on separation. It perceives by means of harmony. Heart-awareness can be seen as an "upgrade of the operating system." It sees from a perspective of non-duality -- no essential separation between God and the individual; no separation between one individual and another.

It's a whole new way of seeing and being. It's a new way of seeing the teachings of Jesus and possibilities for the followers of Jesus. Jesus calls us to see with the mind of the heart.

Metanoia, is a Greek word that usually translates as "repentance," could be interpreted as 'going into the larger mind, the “butterfly” mind'.

How do we, as St. Paul says, 'put on' the mind (the consciousness) of Christ?

'Centering prayer' or reflection and the pointing experiment are exercises in repentance, of turning attention around and moving it back into the larger 'mind' or field of awareness (aware Presence).

This transformation is illustrated by the parable in St. Matthew ch. 20 -- the laborers in the vineyard -- one of the hardest parables to understand.

We cannot understand this parable if we hear it with a binary mindset -- the owner seems to act unfairly. You must shift your operating system to a more unitive consciousness to see that the owner is acting out of a place of abundance; there is enough for everyone. It represents a whole new way of seeing.

This parable gives us a hint of what Jesus is up to; he is trying to “fry our mental sockets,” to show us a whole new way of being and seeing. Until this mind shift has taken place, it is impossible to live the gospel. Jesus was probably the first in the Near East to model this non-dual teaching.

We live with hypocrisy and burnout because of the gap between our beliefs and the actual teaching of Jesus. In the past, very few people have been able to live in this 'heart consciousness,' but developments in the most recent decades indicate that more people than ever, and a growing number of Christians, are discovering this unitive vision with wonder, relief, joy and gratitude.