Joan Borysenko – Summary of 7 Paths to God: The Ways of the Mystic

This week’s meditations in Fr Richard Rohr’s daily newsletter were about freedom – inner and outward.In todays summary he suggests the 7 ways to freedom presented in a book by psychologist Joan Borysenko. Here they are.

Practice: Deepening Our Freedom

Dr. Joan Borysenko, PhD, is a cancer cell biologist, licensed psychologist, and author living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She offers us practices that support our contemplative journey to deepen inner and outer freedom in her book 7 Paths to God: The Ways of the Mystic. I invite you to spend some time with these precepts over the next few days. Which one seems most able to lead you to greater freedom and perhaps even emancipation?

  1. Reflect on love. When you are feeling zealous or righteous about anything, reflect on whether you are doing God’s Will, your own, or someone else’s. Ask the question “Is my belief or action respectful and kind, or is it based on anger or judgement?” If the latter is true, pursue the personal healing required to give up the childish things that St. Paul spoke about.
  2. Act with integrity. Integrity means “wholeness.” Actions are whole when they conform to inner beliefs. . . . The tension that results when actions and beliefs are out of accord leads to anxiety, depression, and loss of will.
  3. Study the Ten Commandments as well as the remainder of the Book of Exodus. Do you, in fact, keep the commandments? [Exodus 20:1–17] Go through each carefully, writing down your reflections on each one. What would it personally mean to you to keep them wholeheartedly?
  4. Study the precepts of a religion with which you are not familiar. . . . Write down the precepts that relate to, and reinforce, the Ten Commandments. Write down other precepts you find valuable. If you are so moved, form the intention to follow these precepts in your life. [1]
  5. Do not judge other people’s path or lack of a path. The zealous outlook . . . can easily degenerate into the belief that your way is the only way to God. . . . So what if the disciplines you practice have changed your life and brought you closer to God, but others seem uninterested in following your advice that they do likewise. . . . Preaching and proselytizing in order to save others is disrespectful unless they have asked. The slogan “Live and let live” is a wise one.
  6. When you are wrong, promptly admit it. This is part of the tenth step of Alcoholics Anonymous and the other Twelve Step programs. Since self-righteousness is a pitfall . . . you can minimize it by staying scrupulously aware of your actions and words.
  7. Do an active, fun activity daily. Your wonderful capacity for discipline can also breed rigidity and compulsiveness. Refresh yourself on a regular basis by doing something active that is fun, if your physical condition allows it.

[1] Books on comparative religion such as Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions (HarperOne: 2009, ©1991) or Kristin Johnston Largen’s Finding God Among Our Neighbors: An Interfaith Systematic Theology (Fortress Press: 2013) could offer good starting points.

Joan Borysenko, 7 Paths to God: The Ways of the Mystic (Hay House, Inc.: 1997), 83–86.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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