We meditated yesterday on the potential that mind-expansion has to turn the ugly to the beautiful and to steer the powerful energy of anger into good work and healing work.

“Stargazer.” Image by steve loya on Flickr.

How do we expand our minds?

One way is through beauty itself.  Whether it is seeing the beauty of birds or hearing their songs; or the beauty of a blue sky or a sun rising or setting; or the ocean pounding its waves upon a welcoming shore; or the beauty of an athletic accomplishment—a last minute long basket made, a perfectly pitched game, a long pass executed perfectly, a figure skater skating wonderfully—beauty is everywhere.  In babies we encounter and young people alive and ready for life to lift them off their feet, or old people serene and joyful and smiling. 

In pictures of our earth from space; or of space and its wondrous goings on from telescopes and from earth itself.  There is no shortage of beauty.  Only of our capacity to be with it and drink it in and make it our daily food—even and especially when times are fierce.  So that the awesome trumps the awful.  And that we learn the difference and live lives that honor the awesome and not the awful.  Lives of Gratitude and Thanks and not taking for granted.

Original trailer of Baraka, A World Beyond Words, a 1992 non-narrative documentary film directed by Ron Fricke. Recompilation by Jarrod Factor.

Lives of the mystics that we are, therefore.

And of the prophets that we are, a willingness to stand up and be counted, to say Yes (the word the mystic or lover in us speaks); And No (the word the prophet in us speaks).

We expand our minds by making our Yes yes and our No no and following through—as Jesus advised.

We expand our minds by allowing the cosmos and the cosmology stories of our ancestors and of today’s science into them, thus moving us beyond anthropocentrism of the modern era (Descartes: “I think therefore I am”) to the truth that,“the universe exists, therefore we are.”

We expand our minds by receiving the suffering of the world as a grace to open and expand our hearts even as they break.  Heartbreak can expand the heart and make it green again.  Tears can water the heart—and grow it.  “When your heart breaks, the whole universe can pour through,” says Joanna Macy.

Using African-American traditional spirituals, the Revelations suite by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Video by The Kennedy Center.

Silence too expands the heart and mind.  Practice it frequently.

We expand our hearts by calling on our creativity, what Hildegard of Bingen celebrated as our “greening power” that is itself the Holy Spirit at work in our imaginations and birthing our values via our bodies (“all art is bodily” says potter and painter M. C. Richards) into the body politic.

It follows that each of the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality—the Via Positiva, the Via Negativa, the Via Creativa and the Via Transformativa—expand our hearts.  And in each of them, though differently, there emerges Joy.  “Joy expands the heart” (Aquinas).


Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 21, 131-137, 173-178.   

And Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 45-104, 189-201, 231-236.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: The Wave Trail, Kanab, United States. Photo by Christopher Ruel on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What ways do you find for expanding your mind (and heart and imagination)?  Have these ways evolved over the years?


Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit


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14 thoughts on “Expanding Our Hearts and Minds, continued”

  1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Today you ask us in our Queries for Contemplation: “What ways do you find for expanding your mind (and heart and imagination)?” I practice what I call “Lectio Divina in Four Dimensions.” In this I read and meditate on the passage, then I rewrite the passage so it fits my situation. Then I make it a song that I play and sing, and finally I actually color a design on the Bible passage or whatever sacred writing, with colored pencils to highlight what I was meditating on. I have rewritten and published two of these works: THE WAY OF THE EARTH which is a rewriting of the Gospels and the Apocalypse with a female Christ-figure who teaches the “Gospel of the Way of the Earth” rather than the “Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.” And I have published one more of these which is titled, THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON: ACCORDING TO… me.
    “Have these ways evolved over the years?” Yes, they started with just reading and coloring the text with colored pencils. Later I added singing, and finally published the finished product.

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    How I consider Beauty is with my six senses…
    I open my eyes… looking to see the light, colour, shape and form of beauty
    I open my ears… listening to hear the symphony of the sounds of beauty
    I open my mouth… to taste the succulents of the reality of beauty
    I open my nose… to smell the scents of beauty, breathing it in and out
    I open my whole body… to experience the touch of beauty upon my skin
    I open my heart, mind, soul and spirit… to imaginatively, intuitively and creatively come into alignment, balance and harmony with the reality of this beauty that is above me, below me, all around and within me… ever present in its presence… surrendering, acknowledging, and responding to that Great Mystery… that ever unfolding, evolving, and emerging goodness within the all and the everything of creation. In and through the simplicity of my human senses… I awaken consciously… to the reality and truth… that paradise is not lost… but rather it is here, now… simply to be found.

  3. Avatar

    Yes Matthew, you remind us of the ongoing faith and values of the mystical spiritual traditions and indigenous spirituality throughout human history, in spite of the past and present human suffering and injustices, — the Living Presence of Divine Love~Wisdom~Truth~Justice~Beauty~Joy~Creativity~Oneness~Compassionate Action… in our inner and outer lives, in All of our ongoing Sacred co-Creation~Evolution of our Eternal Souls in the Cosmos of our Source~Creator….
    ?❤️?

  4. Avatar

    “We expand our minds by allowing the cosmos and the cosmology stories of our ancestors and of today’s science into them, thus moving us beyond anthropocentrism of the modern era (Descartes: “I think therefore I am”) to the truth that,“the universe exists, therefore we are.””

    I get a little tangled here. It seems to suggest that mind emerges out of matter. That because the universe is, I am conscious. If I’m equating the universe with the mind of God, OK. But I think the mind of God goes beyond the material universe and that matter, let’s say, descends out of mind and not that mind ascends out of matter.

    To move Descartes out of, or beyond, anthropocentrism, I would broaden the
    context to say ‘Consciousness exists, therefore reality is.’ This would take us beyond human thought, into the thought of other organic beings and even into the transcendent realms of angels and God.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Dana, Thank you for your comment. Today, after Matthew said, “the universe exists, therefore we are” and in response you wrote, “I get a little tangled here. It seems to suggest that mind emerges out of matter. That because the universe is, I am conscious. If I’m equating the universe with the mind of God, OK. But I think the mind of God goes beyond the material universe and that matter, let’s say, descends out of mind and not that mind ascends out of matter.” In your ruminating about the universe and God, and the mind of God and matter, our view of God and the universe in Creation Spirituality is an idea called, “panentheism.” What panentheism teaches is that God is in All things, and All things are in God. Though I know it might sound paradoxical but remember in the book of Acts where St Paul speaks of God as the one in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

  5. Avatar

    The Rev. Dr. Jacqi Lewis did a session at the last Center for Action and Contemplation CONSPIRE conference in the fall on the Zulu concept of Ubuntu, which is a greeting that can mean “I am because we are” or “I am because you are”. Descartes’ pronouncement is narrow minded and limited in comparison to this communal understanding of who each of us is, always in relationship.

    Expanding heart and mind can happen from wondrous and awesome beauty–but also, in my experience, from great suffering that can open us to the suffering of others and ultimately to the suffering of our planet and all of creation. We can say Yes even to that pain as it breaks us open and softens us and No to all the forces that contract our hearts and minds and try to make us forget our connections to all–and our responsibility to acknowledge the evils of fear and injustice and to work for peace and justice.

    1. Avatar
      Jeanette Metler

      Sue, I very much appreciate the beautiful truth spoken within your comment. Thanks for sharing! Jeanette

    2. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Sue, You write today, “…in my experience, great suffering can open us to the suffering of others and ultimately to the suffering of our planet and all of creation.” I am in total agreement with your comment, in fact, what comes to me is Viktor Frankl and his book, THE HUMAN SERACH FOR MEANING. Even when he was riding in the box car that was taking him to Auschwitz he was still able to affirm the beauty outside. He could see through the slats that creation still went on and it was still beautiful. And there were heroic acts inside of the camp, and those who came out of that experience, like Frankl, with a gift to share with the world.

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