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Pentecost 2015 (letter from Cynthia)

Dear Wisdom Friends,

I guess you’re all wondering what happened to me last week.

The long and short of it is that on Saturday a week ago, while driving down from Maine to Massachusetts for our upcoming Ascensiontide Wisdom retreat at Glastonbury Abbey, I began to feel decidedly strange behind the wheel, needing to muster my entire concentration to keep from passing out. I spotted one of those blue hospital signs at a freeway exit and decided to follow it. A good intuition, it turns out! I was admitted with what’s known as acute third degree heart block (which means that the heart’s electrical system is essentially in total meltdown), and emerged from the ordeal three days later with a new pacemaker happily ticking away in my chest.

It’s not exactly as if this came out of the blue. For a couple of years now I’d been complaining about difficulty with shortness of breath walking up hills, and I could tell inwardly that something was off. But my cardiologist had been focused on arterial issues rather than electrical ones, and the electrical system gave no outward signs of misbehaving. Just last January I’d been given a clean bill of heart health.

Glad I didn’t take his recommendation to begin a regular cardio fitness regime!

This has all turned out as well as possible. While a heart block is definitely a serious condition (worst case scenario is progression to sudden cardiac arrest), it is also one of the most easily treatable. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am literally bionically reborn! My new high-tech pacemaker is programmed to cue off my natural atrial electrical impulse (the “top half” of the heartbeat) and help the ventricular impulse (the “lower half,” which was getting blocked) to synchronize. The result is that I am simply, fully “me” again, back in the ballgame with the old familiar pizzazz, and my eyes still blinking in wonder.

Granddaughter Ava's perfect rendering of Cynthia before and after.

Granddaughter Ava’s perfect rendering of Cynthia before and after.

There is so much to be grateful for. If you have to have a medical emergency, this is about as cushioned as it gets. I was under 24-hour cardiac surveillance at a fine hospital until the surgery could be arranged, with the emergency pacemaker (if it came to that) right in the room. My daughter Lucy lives nearby, and was there at my side throughout the whole adventure—and now, is providing a wonderful space for recuperation while my new device and I settle in together. Best of all, my brilliant senior wisdom students, spearheaded by Bill Redfield and Patricia Speak, rose to the occasion magnificently and jointly co-created a memorable ascensiontide retreat.

And from around the world, your love and prayers poured in. I felt deeply “carried,” by a higher hand.

Everything being equal, I will receive the “all clear” from my pacemaker surgeon tomorrow and make my way back to Maine over the following two days, slowly resuming my normal activity (on which there should be no limitations). Thank heavens, it was already a “hermit time” in my schedule, deliberately left wide open for writing and family visits.

The spiritual implications will take a bit longer to sink in. But for the moment, this is what’s uppermost in my mind:

For many years now during my evening psalmody I’ve chanted the line from Psalm 139: “the number of my days was appointed before one of them came into being.” And I think it’s Ecclesiastes where one finds the line, “Lord, make me to know the number of my days.” I know I’ve sung it in the Brahms Requiem. In fact, just six years ago at my first husband Cal’s memorial service.

Well, for better or worse, I now know the number of my days: 68 years, 2 months, 3+ days. Without being overly alarmist, it’s pretty clear to all concerned that the situation I experienced this weekend was not going to self-correct. Without those equal infusions of grace and modern technology my life would even now be winding down, or wound down already. As it is, I apparently have a 10-15 year medical extension, easily renewable if the rest of the one horse shay holds up.

CynthiafamIt’s not like I’m now living on borrowed time, for this second wind that’s been given to me is fully my own life in this skin and bones, on this precious planet, and I intend to make the most of it. But you could say, perhaps, that it’s borrowed time from the Imaginal realm, a bit more space to explore the crucial dimensions of being finite, of bringing this all to a conscious fulfillment. And as I gradually get back into the rushing river of my life, I will try not to let this precious realization slip away.

Boundless thanks to all! In both realms. May I use this extension consciously and gratefully,




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55 thoughts on “Pentecost 2015 (letter from Cynthia)

  1. What a beautiful, clear-sighted, compassionate letter. I am beyond grateful that your time on this earth in your precious body has been given new life, undergirded by a steady heartbeat. I will get this letter out via all my social media and email channels.

    I have found myself, in the midst of the many transitions facing me, returning again and again to that line from Mary Oliver: “Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I have been blessed with stamina, will, and a sturdy physical vehicle. And, I am in that place where I can no longer tell myself I can do it all. That the cadence drumming just beneath the surface of all I do, “Next, and next, and next, and next,” is costly. The blessing and grace is that with that realization has come increased clarity about what is mine to do, and what is best left for others to do.

    It is a great joy to be traveling this road with you. Here’s to many more miles on the road that is ours to travel. Love, Robbin

    P.S. At Cynthia’s request, following is the Mary Oliver poem—The Summer Day—I quoted from. I found a video of Mary Oliver reading her poem:

  2. Cara Cynthia,
    Grazie a Dio for modern technology!
    Every day I spend here at school and walking the streets of this ancient and holy citta` I am so grateful for the Pentecost week here with you some years ago and for the sacred introduction to Assisi. I have months of school ahead, proficiency in Italian and becoming an Assisiana (woman of Assisi) with the vision of someday being able to anchor programs for our community here in this wonderful environment. My sits alternate between Santa Chiara before Vesperi in the evening and the MM cappella in Basilica San Francesco.. grazie a Dio per questi locali luminosi !
    Benedizione a te Cynthia! and healing wishes for a gentle and full recovery,
    with love, Susan

  3. Cynthia, feeling enormous joy and thanksgiving
    that you are well
    and that you and your ministries will continue!
    We all need you beyond words,
    yet we have to have the courage
    to be who we are in Yeshua.

  4. Ahhh Susan,

    It gives me so much joy to picture you there in your heart home, doing what you know is your perfect unfolding! Can’t wait to book in at your Assisiana retreat house…McCutccianni?!

  5. Dearest Cynthia,

    As I am sure is true for all of your students and friends, your voice and presence are with me every day as the teaching (in person, through your books and the ones you invite us into) continues to inform my life and encourages me to embrace every aspect of it in an ever deeper way. But when Robin let us know what was happening (thankfully on the day before you actually got the pacemaker) my heart and mind and prayers were even more constantly full and overflowing with gratitude for you, for the fact that you continue to share with us your deepening and widening journey through this world. Laughing, weeping, working praying, with this community, whether we are together or apart, has given a new resonance to my world in the last three years of being on the wisdom road. I just completed my final residency (before the graduation in January) in the MFA program. One night a young man in his twenties, standing on the doorstep outside our dorm, opened his heart to me, how he was on a spiritual search, how he had left a traditional church because of their narrow stance on who was “in” and who was “out,” how he wanted to write more than anything else. After listening for a long time, I explained just a tiny bit about what the wisdom tradition is and offered to have a list of books for him at breakfast. I made it small at the start (your Wisdom Way and Wisdom Jesus, Rohr’s Everything Belongs). That may have been it but I gave him my e-mail for when he wants more, not that he won’t find them on his own. Sure enough, he found me at breakfast for his list. It was one of those “gift” moments for me. I am thankful beyond telling for the fact that this was all safely resolved, that you were alert to your own body and saw the hospital sign at the moment you did, that you were close to your family as well as part of our wisdom community. We loved loved the picture of before and after. Charles said “it looks just like her.” I too have long loved that Mary Oliver quote. Some words that have lately felt immediate to me are from a poet “Lia Purpura in a book of essays entitled “On Looking.” She said: “It is the noticing that cracks us open.” That seems as good a summation for the wisdom journey as any: “It cracks us open.” My heart is full of love and gratitude for you and for your new bionic “reminder for the heart.” Much love, Susan

  6. Dearest Cynthia
    No words. A sigh. Tears. Gratitude that matter and spirit continue to kiss in the being that is Cynthia Bourgeault a bit longer. May you “allow the soft animal of your body to love what it loves,” to continue in Mary Oliver’s wisdom. Rest.
    Love, Joan

  7. Dearest Cynthia,
    My heart is full with gratitude for your continued presence with us . There is also the feeling of a window opening to that precious ineffable presence that binds us all to one another, for which I have no words. Pentecost alive and active in your letter.
    With much love,

  8. Ahhh…great gratitude for your good listening to your body as you drove, for family, for hospitals, for community. Rest well, knowing we are all connected and continuing to join you in Love as you and your pacemaker get to know one another. Here’s to many years of happy collaboration!
    Blessings, Jeanine

  9. Cynthia, how beautifully you express yourself with life events of these past days. Our prayers have been answered! Enjoy your new friend and the hermit time. Take care, Anne Rawls

  10. So glad to hear that you are well. That fatigue and shortness of breath should all go away. The heart needs that extra kick from the atrium. Be well, enjoy your rest and be thankful, the incident happened where it did!

    with great affect and respect,

  11. A gift to us on Pentecost Monday. Sending lots of prayers out, for your health and with gratitude for your healing. Meet you in Assisi?

  12. Wishing you some precious hermit time in the coming days. Thankful that the wonders of technology can keep your heart on track so that bigger heart can expand all the more and share its ŵisdom. Looking forward to Holy Isle. All blessing Kate x

  13. Brings tears to my eyes that you are alive and well. Forge on my dear. I would again urge you to take it a bit easier, but I know I’d be wasting my breath.

  14. Dear Cynthia,
    Thank you for having helped me to understand what you mean by “But you could say, perhaps, that it’s borrowed time from the Imaginal realm, a bit more space to explore the crucial dimensions of being finite, of bringing this all to a conscious fulfillment.” Aren’t we all still exploring the finite coexisting with the infinite. I had a dream a few days ago that I want to share with you. In the dream I said to the caterpillar, “The world is wonderful.” The caterpillar said, “I don’t understand, and I understand.” I was so stunned by the answer that I unfortunately woke up. Without knowing you I wouldn’t have had that dream.
    Do get well soon,
    With much love,

  15. Thank you for your transparency about your health and heart – in this you continue to be a teacher. Gratitude is the word that arises, for your recovery, for your sharing and your teaching. With gratitude, Rebecca

  16. Dear Cynthia,

    Heart’s prayers coming your way, now and during your hermit time.

    With gratitude, love, joy, and wonder for how your latest story has unfolded, and for your presence continuing in this life.

    Carole Pentony
    Houston, Texas

  17. Whoosh! This was indeed a wake up call. Indeed this could have happened anywhere and any situation in the world. But happened is such a providential location with family at hand. You are not meant to depart this earthly realm yet. Thanks be to God. May such Imaginal oversight continue to look after you, for your sake, your family’s sake, and ours. Good to hear you still have much heart yet. Keeping you in my prayers as always, Cynthia.

  18. Thank you Robbin for this update which came completely as a surprise and thank you Cynthia for being in the right place at the right time so that you were well looked after. Sending much love and healing prayers from us both. J & A

  19. My dear Cynthia,
    Deep gratitude for your intuition and the skills of the medical persons. How blessed we are to continue to have your presence with us.
    Know of my continued prayers that all may be well ! Do pace yourself!

    With love, Mary Ann

  20. Dear dear Cynthia,

    Bravo! to your marvelous recovery via modern technology as we send our prayers and loving wishes to you from across the globe. You are a beacon of light and life for me and for so many. The way you share your story is yet another teaching in humility, grace and gratitude. May your retreat be a time of great joy and rest. A second life indeed! A gift for us all.

    with love, Anna

  21. “May I use this extension consciously and gratefully”
    and with courage also! ONWARD friend.

  22. Dear Cynthia,

    We have not met in person yet but I’ve met your through your writing. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I am afraid of dying, of leaving life un-lived. It’s probably because I’m only 32. It is an interesting thing to think about my days already known to my creator. It would mean that there is some kind of pre-arranged agreement between us about my life here on Earth. I don’t know if that is comforting or not yet but I am happy to hear from you and happy that I will continue to hear from you. May you find peace in this season of recovery.

    Lots of love,


  23. Dear Cynthia,
    How deeply grateful I am for all the events of a grace perceived, in all manner of being, by your precious spirit. So happy for your healing, feeling deep relief for this and joy. You had been very much on my mind for the past week……so thankful for your Presence still here, creating that Morphic field of love and resonance that all of us wisdom students have with you, truly an ongoing gift…..like functioning with love and prayers constant and yet unconscious because they are always there…..one large organism, one heart, one mind, a mirror of the body of Christ and yet the same. Like Robbin and many others, I am leaning into a big life transition, learning to let go, unlocking old patterns, an inner loosening of my Spirit and trying to enter into the sacredness of soft surrender even if I keep wrestling with it in a Jacobian way….continuing to strip down, co-arisings that are constantly occurring, all happening at once with deep interconnectivity. Thank you for the reminder to pause and reflect on “the crucial dimensions of the finite and what conscious fulfillment could possibly look like”……I continue to search deep, feel deep and love deep……..So grateful you continue to teach me, and all of us, the wisdom way, in all you do and how you walk in this world…..As ever, Big Love, Deep bow, Dawn Walker

  24. Dear Cynthia,

    Thank you for your beautiful letter. So much gratitude for each step of your experience that has offered you a second wind and a new knowing of your heart’s wisdom. As your heart and the pacemaker make relationship and find a deep coherence, rest in the love that is surrounding you.

    Love, Ruth

  25. All Love and Blessings Cynthia. You are in my prayers too 🙂 May God’s healing gift in this be fully received on every level.
    Lovely to see you with your girls!! (the photo!)

  26. What a relief – enjoy the blessing of this adjoining still pond before you re-enter that rushing river of life.
    The work that is coming through you as a channel is greatly valued most appreciated and a huge spiritual recharge – thank you.
    Capital drawing by Ava – its quite stunning in capturing its essence esp the eyes. She also has your eyes – the lighthouse [?] pic of the 3 eyes.

  27. Dear Cynthia,
    In state of surprise to hear of your “heart” matter and at the same time, in deep gratitude to hear you are healing, and being cared for by your loved ones. The picture is precious. I am not surprised that you were “carried”, yes you/we are blessed. You are in my prayers.
    With love, gloria

  28. Great gratitude for your return to health. All parts worked together for the best for you. May your hermit time continue your healing.

    With gratitude,

  29. Dear Cynthia,
    Deep blessings for your healing. Deep gratitude for your sharing your experience on the edge of this finite physicality. Deep Love for the way you hold and create the morphic resonance of our wisdom community so that each of us may continue to stand more fully in our essence in the indivisible unity. Thank you thank you thank you. Namaste, Elizabeth Combs

  30. What a gift your letter is to us. Hearing of your heart’s misbehavior made my heat skip several beats as well. Thank you for you r kindness to write us and send us that darling picture of three powerful women. God heal your heart, bless the staff that put in the pacemaker and cared for you, and have a wonderful time of quiet while you recuperate. You certainly have been running all out for a while now. God’s peace. Norma Hanson

  31. Thank you for the gift of the letter to us. I think we were all holding our breath until the letter came. I hope your time of quiet can indeed be healing to all parts of you, mind, body and spirit. You have been going all out for so long. I hope you heed this warning that was given to you. You are such a remarkable and wonderful person. We want you around for as long as God does. Much love, Norma

  32. Hi Cynthia,

    Prayers for healing and courage. I have almost the exact symptoms as you – and am following through with the cardiologist.

    I quote you often at Eucharist and in my spiritual direction ministry. Thank you and all who offer us so much spiritual nourishment!

    Pax et Bonum!

    Jim Calderone, OFM

  33. Dearest Cynthia,
    Mercy goodness! I can’t tell you the gratitude I feel for the healing place in which you find yourself, for your intuition to follow that blue sign, for the technology and the love that brought you through this life event, and for the model you continue to be of utter graciousness and wisdom. This gift of an extended life is a gift of LOVE to all of us also. November at Kanuga will be all the more precious. Love and blessing as you continue this ever-unfolding journey. Loving you, Robin

  34. Dear Cynthia,

    Thank you for being honest and clear in your letter. Thank God you had an eye open for the blue hospital sign.
    I wish you well as you enter this new chapter of your life. I’m sure you will keep the rest of us on tip toe as you bring forth new fruit from this gift of more time in this part of life.
    Love and blessings,

    David Rolfe

  35. I just got the info on your heart issue. What a beautiful statement with such clarity acknowledging the reality of modern medicine as well as the grace of God’s presence for your recovery. Deeply grateful for your spirit, intelligence, leadership and friendship shown to “us” beginners in the pursuit of awareness and experience of God’s grace. Oscar Dowdle

  36. As a small group of us gather to participate in Four Voices, you will be in our hearts with refreshed gratitude. May your recovery and hermit time keep pace with your Maker.
    with love,

  37. God’s timing is always perfect…….and I am thankful that you were listening and followed that inner knowledge. Blessings on your continued journey and healing. Judith Ann Donaldson, Vancouver.BC

  38. From this quiet island in the Salish Sea, still surrounded by your wisdom and strength, I send heartfelt gratitude for your vision, intuition and gifts so willingly shared. May you continue to heal as you are held in prayer by the many friends who love you.

  39. Dear Cynthia,
    I give great thanks to God for your right discernment when feeling odd driving and following the blue sign. We live in an incredible age and it is heartwarming to know that your heart rhythm detour is of short duration with a good prognosis for the future. You are a gift to so many of us and we’d like to keep you around! I am enjoying your Voices of Discernment workshop and look forward to the Wisdom School in November. You will be in my prayers as you get back up to speed.
    Blessings, Nancy (the Tucson interloper from Prescott, AZ) ( No longer self-referencing as the right brained space cadet thanks to you and a growing meditation practice)

  40. Cynthia,
    So many wonder words and wishes have been sent to you. Please add my love and prayers to your sanctuary and healing. I have taken out several of your books for summer re-reading. It is with such deep gratitude that you are given more time for your heart-filling message of spiritual living. I recently am aware of a new area for my growth: working with my stiffness/infexibility around how I manage my life. I hope such an understanding will open up new possibilities and horizons.
    Much love and unfathomable appreciation; continue healing!

  41. Having been at your recent retreat in New Zealand I read this with my heart in my mouth as what an amazingly demanding schedule you keep up was so apparent, and commented on by many. Just do know you are most welcome to change the pace, wouldn’t it be a treat to be able to express gratitude to such a wonderful teacher by giving up as much as you need of your teaching time. Much wellbeing prayers coming your way, and, perhaps paradoxically, I’m also thrilled for you that you may find even more energy on the other side of this. Go Cynthia.

  42. Dear Cynthia,
    I am so thankful that you are enjoying a “second wind!” … Your teaching, leadership and life’s witness are so important to me…to so many! I read, and re-read your books. . . Thank you for your loving, blessed way of living! I’m older than you, yet I feel as if you are my older sister in helping me to learn more and more about the Love and Presence of God! Your book, Love is Stronger Than Death, infinitely helped me when my husband was taken far too soon . . . I wish for a time to share that with you one day. Happy healing dear Cynthia! Love, Sandy (Brownsboro, Texas)

  43. So sorry to hear you were ill but very happy all is well This is a voice from the past but still on this side of the sod S/.

    • OMG, Sandy, the best news I’ve had all day!!! Are you really and truly 90 this year? However that may be, you have given me infinite joy with your reconnection. Please rest assured that you are NOT a voice from my past! p.s: still running?)

  44. Dearest Cynthia,
    I am grateful for you and for each day we engage the work of our lives in this realm. I am always thankful for and in wonder of this beautiful community that has coalesced around your work. If it is technology to be thanked for allowing you to spend more time with us, then I must also feel thankful for the technology that has given us the vision to see our human world as the place of divine emanation which you have invited us all to partake in.

    Love you,

  45. Dear Cynthia,
    As always, full of grace and inspiration! So grateful to hear the good news of your returning health. Would love to reconnect with you sometime when you are visiting Colorado!

    Love, Carol

  46. Ah Cynthia, thank God you are on the mend and energy is returning. I am so grateful for your presence and givenness on this planet – and how you walk the walk so truly and generously. The retreat here with you was such a richness…and we all are praying for you and with you…health and healing and light and much, much love winging your way – Magdalen

  47. Dear Cynthia,

    I’m so glad to hear that this was only a health scare and nothing more. I’m in touch with Gwen about an alternative therapy that I have found immensely helpful myself that has to do with one’s electromagnetic health. I’ll ask about your situation.

    As Rafe taught you, this will just be more fodder for growth – and we will all benefit. As someone said above, your words both in person and through your books are with me on a daily basis. The value of such things are incalculable.

    With fondness from Hong Kong,


  48. My goodness what an ‘end’ to a long journey to Australia and New Zealand. Having just done the Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers with you, it was rather shocking to read of this, but am so pleased that you are going well with technology to assist when needed. Prayers for continued well being and health.

  49. Dear Cynthia,
    I learned your news from Ward. Thank goodness you listened to your heart – of course you always do. Glad your nous is getting a boost. Rest well, and I hope our paths will cross next year.
    Much Love,

  50. PS. Enjoyed reading Sue’s post from Assisi. My niece had a baby last Friday and named her Clare. Baby Clare is getting Assisi pictures from Great Aunt Dianne!

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