What is Western Mindfulness ?
Western Mindfulness is a contemplative approach to mindfulness where in each moment one remembers that they have a choice, to be kinder to themselves, to others, and to Mother Earth and her critters. This approach to mindfulness came to prominence in southern France and northern Italy between the 12th and 14th centuries. Based on the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, this contemplative approach to living mindfully was made popular by as group of heretical neo-Gnostic Christians called the Cathar. Their rapid growth and acceptance by the local nobility, and commoners, became a concern to the Catholic Church. The Church eventually carried out genocide against the Cathar, having totally exterminated them by the mid to late 14th century. Along with the people, the church also removed all traces of their teachings.
In what could be best described as a real Da Vinci Code scenario, Russell Sturgess, while living in Italy and researching the lost (forgotten) teachings of the Cathar, uncovered their 'theology of love' in a set of 22 picture cards that were in essence, portable stain-glass windows. Surviving the genocide, and remaining hidden in plain sight during the Wars of Religion in France, that followed the demise of the Cathar, these images resurfaced at the beginning of the 17th century having been cleverly added to playing cards during the 15th century in Italy. Becoming a part of a card game called trionfi (triumphs), their real importance remained hidden. With the emergence of the Age of Enlightenment, the cards took on a new meaning and became part of a new game called tarocchi (tarot). It was at this time that their real spiritual significance was lost.
Their hidden spiritual meaning was revealed in 2006 when Russell Sturgess was able to unlock their deep mysteries. What they revealed was the detail of how to adopt this western approach to mindfulness as a way of life.
Introducing Russell Sturgess
From his teens, Russell demonstrated an understanding of agape (unconditional love) that defied his age. His upbringing saw him channel his passion into complementary health, as well as religion. By age 32 Russell was married with four children, serving as a lay-minister, and running a highly successful rural natural-therapies practice. However, a few years later he burnt out, which stopped his clinical work. Shortly afterwards he divorced, was on the verge of bankruptcy, had left the church of his upbringing, as well as being severely compromised in his physical health. It could be said he was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually bankrupt!
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The spirit of wisdom took control of his ‘education’, which saw Russell adopt a new approach to life inspired by Attitudinal Healing, a pragmatic version of A Course in Miracles taught primarily by Dr Gerry Jampolsky (Ca.) and Susan Trout (D.C.). Blending his Christian based knowledge with Attitudinal Healing, Russell began to explore a more progressive approach to a non-church oriented Christianity. Inclusiveness was central to this approach. Social justice and care of the planet, balanced with a commitment to adopting the type of love taught in the Sermon on the Mount, replaced the need for dogma and obedience.
It was in this place of enriched awareness that Russell discovered this western approach to mindfulness. It is this knowledge that Russell reveals in his latest book, The Spiritual Roots of the Tarot. Russell went on to convert this long forgotten medieval template of spiritual wisdom into modern vernacular and developed the Enhances Awareness Program (now called Pathways to Mindfulness), a personal, one-on-one mentoring program designed to assist people to live life more mindfully. To help people stay committed to a path of expanding awareness, compassion, and mindfulness, in addition to his role as a western mindfulness mentor, Russell also serves as a spiritual director using the path of the Beatitudes as a way to help people sustainably remember to be kind to themselves, to others and to the planet.
Russell's New Book
Russell’s new book, The Spiritual Roots of the Tarot, has been published by Vermont publishing house, Inner Traditions. Prior to being called tarocchi, tarot cards were called trionfi possibly inspired by the writings of Francesco Petrarch, attributed with being the founder of Renaissance humanism. Playing cards were introduced into Italy in around 1377 and were known as carte de giocare. When the additional twenty-two heretical ‘portable stain-glass windows’ were added their name changed. Their inclusion, whether by design or as suggested, being an attempt to avoid paying two lots of card tax, ended up with this medieval progressive interpretation of Christianity being lost 'in plain sight’ for centuries.
While living in Italy researching and writing his first book on this subject, Russell discovered that these twenty-two cards held ancient sacred knowledge that belied their more modern use for tarot reading. His new book, what some have called the real-life Da Vinci Code, contains the template for an approach to mindful living that would result in one being aligned with a love-centered consciousness. Russell proposes that this theology of love was the brainchild of the neo-Gnostic Christians called the Cathar, whose last days before being completely eliminated by the Church were primarily in and around the Milan/Florence region, the home of the first tarot cards. Russell produces plausible, circumstantial evidence that suggests the emergence of these special twenty-two cards off the back of the Cathar genocide was no coincidence.
Today, Russell uses his book as the framework for his work as a spiritual director. The template of these cards described in this book, provides a step-by-step pathway based on the Beatitudes, that are infused with symbology that is filled with progressive Christian principles. If you are seeking a progressive approach to your spiritual life, this book may be well be one that you need to read. It can be sourced from most bookshops and online book sellers and is available in The Shop on this website for Australian delivery only.
The Spirit of the Beatitudes
"...a life lived in Christ's Spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes, is "blessed", and that only the person who becomes a "man or woman of the Beatitudes" can succeed in communicating love and peace to others."
Pope Saint John Paul II - May 20, 1990