“There is a new monasticism that has been set loose in the world. It is not confined to literal cloisters of wood and stone but has developed and returned to the inner cloister of the heart. The walls of this new monastery encompass the whole world.” ~ Francis Bennett.


Continued from Homepage 

Alongside Jane Metcalfe, I worked closely with Fran in preparing many of her public appearances as well as presenting a number of six week online classes and intensives around the themes of Meditation and Awareness Practice, The Secrets of the Christian Mystics, The Teachings of Thomas Merton and The Practice of Surrender.

Fran was always very clear that her Full Circle Awakening teaching would consist of 3 main approaches, within the continuing and ongoing cycle/circle of awakening/awakened living, that for her, had been established through what she considered to be the two most influential paths to her own deep insight and experience of the Presence of God; Christian Contemplative Practice  Vipassana Buddhist Meditation (as well as the practice of  Atma Vichara – as taught by Ramana Marharshi).

Fran spoke at length about how, in her own journey, she needed both the transcendence available in Buddhist Practices and the Embodiment of the Awakened Perception/Perspective found in the Contemplative Christian path/the example of the story of Christ and the lives of the Christian Mystics. The sweet and tender way in which she experienced those two complimentary paths can be seen and felt in this icon that she painted when she was a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemane in Kentucky.

Jesus and Buddha 
Icon painted by Francis ‘fran’ Bennett 

I always got the sense that she viewed Self Inquiry and the Teaching of Ramana Marharshi to be a simple, direct ‘Being’ practice that was an allowing of both the transcendent and imminent movement of spirit – both up and out of the egocentric perspective and down and into the human body.

Fran often taught using The Cloud of Unknowing, a text from an unknown 14th Century English Mystic (most probably a monastic) and would point out the similarity of the practices taught in that text and the practice of Self Investigation – or gazing at the Self – that is found in the transcripts of Ramana Marharshi’s teachings.

Full Circle Awakening 

The 3 core aspects of her teaching (or practices) are:

  1. Meditation/Contemplation Practices
  2. Surrender Practice (mediation in action – that is, our ordinary daily lives lived with the conscious awareness and knowing of the Presence of God/Christ/Buddha Nature
  3. Service – having begun to integrate our experience of Transcendence into our personal, human lives in our relationships, our families, communities and so on, Fran was alway very keen to encourage us to practice some form of Service. She would often say that as we began to feel the Grace of God acting in our own lives, giving to others in some way that was meaningful to us and those we give to was a natural expression of the Awakened Heart.

Francis saw these 3 Practices as having a profound effect at each stage of the Full Circle of Awakening:

  1. Egocentric Perspective – the familiar state of human suffering, existential pain, seeking, looking outside of ourselves for fulfilment and satisfaction, pushing away what we do not like and grasping or holding onto what we do like. (Aversion, Craving, Delusion etc).
  2. Encountering Witness Consciousness/Transcendence – waking up and out of our conditioned belief and identification with Egocentricity
  3. Falling into Unity Consciousness/Open-Hearted Awareness/Awakening Heart – encountering Unconditional Love as our own Primary Nature and Being, expressing as our unique Personal Self
  4. Living an Awakened life with Egocentricity no longer at the centre but rather de-centralised and therefore less likely to be acting along the cycles of repetitive suffering/dysfunction and so on.

Fran was also convinced that the Circle of Awakening was Eternal. She freely admitted she could not categorically prove this of course, but her sense was that the circle and cycle of awakening continued to spiral onward, not only here in our earthly bodies, but beyond the moment of bodily death.

The vision Francis had of her Full Circle Awakening teaching is best illustrated with a graphic. The image below was created by Francis and rendered into graphic form by her friends Lynne and Jose Fuentes at Transformational Teaching LLC.