Cynthia Bourgeault's 2018 Aotearoa Visit

Cynthia has just left our shores with a hiss and a roar once more. After 60 of us spent a day with her in Wellington, 38 of us had four wonderful days with her at Te Moata Retreat Centre in the Coromandel Peninsula, and 60 of us enjoyed three days with her at Vaughan Park Retreat Centre in Long Bay, Auckland.

Cynthia began her teaching with a one-day event in Wellington at the Home of Compassion, which presented us with a summary of the key ideas that she subsequently offered over three days at the Vaughn Park retreat. She spoke to the topic of moving from Narrative Self to Witnessing Self, and energised all who attended.

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Following on from Wellington was the Te Moata retreat, which was Cynthia’s second offering of a Wisdom School in Aotearoa. Wisdom Schools help us learn to operate from the wisdom of our body, heart, and mind centres. Thus, a Wisdom School takes us through periods of conscious work, movement practice, attention of the heart, as well as the meditation and teaching that are more characteristic components of retreats. The Wisdom School moves daily through a rhythm of times of silence and times of speaking. This rhythm prepares us to be able to move more easily in our daily lives from the meditation cushion to our engagement with others in the world. Cynthia also offered major teachings during our four days.


Cynthia taught us the defining characteristics of her particular branch of the Christian Wisdom tradition. She explored each of these characteristics alongside the Omega Vision of Peter Spink. Peter Spink a Canon of Coventry Cathedral, England established, in the late 1970’s, a contemporary contemplative order called the Omega Order. He first came to NZ in 1983, to speak at the One Earth Gathering at Tauhara, Taupo and returned a number of times over the following years. Over that time he had a profound impact on a number of us here. During her early visits to NZ Cynthia was introduced to Peter’s writing and was so impressed that she made a trip to England to meet with him not long before his death in 2010. As the days of the Wisdom School unfolded we discovered how these two teachers (Peter and Cynthia) were drawing from the same deep well, both with a strong lineage to GI Gurdjieff and Teilhard De Chardin, and both having been drawn to Aotearoa and Te Moata!

P1010405We were gifted indeed to be offered intentional opportunities to ground the teaching in our bodies, and in our own place of Aotearoa. Pip Nicholls complemented Cynthia’s teachings with her facilitation of daily sessions leading us towards contemplative dialogue. Piripi Whānga shared his own rich perspective on what it is to live contemplatively together as Māori and Pakeha in Aotearoa. He calls this tikanga wairua, which He defines as ‘the practice of being at home to ourselves as related divine sparks’.


We drank from the riches of the teachings, the silence, the contemplative movement, the chanting and the community we shared. We soaked in the beauty of the Coromandel bush and the history of the sacred space known as Te Moata. On the final day, with knowledge of Fr Thomas Keating’s impending death in the US, Cynthia called each of us to step up in our contemplative responsibility as she herself will no doubt be called to. She reminded us that – in the midst of global unrest and climate change - there is hope. As Teilhard said, deep love flows over deep time.



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The retreat at Vaughan Park was Cynthia’s third offering during this visit to Aotearoa. During the 2.5 days participants received both teaching and practical skills. With a focus on non-dual consciousness, Cynthia described key features of different levels of consciousness. The Cloud of Unknowing describes these levels as lower active, higher active, lower contemplative, and higher contemplative. Each level brings with it differing levels of awareness and energy, the first three are mainly functions of the ego, while the fourth level moves beyond ego and has a different energy plane. Cynthia identified the lower contemplative self as being the level where self-reflection is present and termed this the Narrative Self. Moving to the next level, the higher contemplative, she named the Witnessing Self. The Witnessing Self perceives when the mind is stabilised in the heart.  Witnessing Self does not need to split the field of awareness and instead perceives with a holographic and synchronous resonance.



Much of the teaching was based on her book, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice. She also included explanations of writings/teachings from some of her own mentors -- including Father Thomas Keating, Beatrice Bruteau, and Bernadette Roberts -- on what lies beyond the higher egoic functioning states. The rhythm of each day was spent in silence, with periods of teaching and periods of meditation in an environment that supported these actions by the beauty of the beach and regional park which enhanced the sense of oneness with all, and of being present/conscious.

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Once again we in Aotearoa, and our Aussie friends, have been blessed with Cynthia's abundant sharing of mystical teaching and presence. With her visit has come an outpouring of grace on us all - those present in Wellington/Coromandel/Auckland, and those present in spirit. We are deeply grateful, too, for the behind-the-scenes organisation of Cynthia's time here by Bev Silvester-Clark and Pip Nicholls. Bev and Pip - the awhi (support & guidance) and ongoing contemplative teaching you offer to us all in the Contemplative Network is its own grace.

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Posted on 10/11/2018 by Lucy Hastings, Pat Neuwelt