This is the fourth and last in a series of posts that are introducing our upcoming “Wisdom Group Leadership Training” event to be held at Hallelujah Farm late in November. This event is being led also by my teammates—Lois Barton and Deborah Welsh.
The event is currently full and has a waiting list. If there is continuing interest, however, we would look forward to the opportunity of repeating the training in 2018. If you are even remotely interested, don’t hesitate to let me know at Bill Redfield. Further information about this retreat can be found on the event page.
Because Wisdom is often referred to as that underground stream that feeds all the world’s great spiritual traditions, it seems assumed by many that Wisdom requires a religious container for its fullest and deepest expression. And that may be so. I have certainly seen firsthand what the infusion of Wisdom programming can bring to the growth and vitality of a parish. Indeed, the present challenge to the Church and to other religious institutions is to develop the means by which, through specific Wisdom and contemplative practices, people can begin to access these deeper levels of being. Actually, this can be accomplished with a minimum of resources. Indeed, in our November Wisdom event, we will be presenting specific programming possibilities that participants can bring back to their churches and religious institutions.
But what about reaching those who are not connected to a church or other spiritual community…?
I recently led a retreat for a dozen self-selected faculty members from a small college. The purpose was to introduce contemplative practices in order to deepen their writing. From many different departments, the faculty were also from several diverse religious backgrounds, but most were presently unaffiliated. Although not self-identified as such, perhaps they could be considered in that growing category of “spiritual but not religious.”
Besides some basic Wisdom teaching and the introduction of Wisdom practices, they were given stretches of time to work on their writing during this four-day retreat. On the final night in a sort of recital, they shared with the entire group what they had been working on. Although the writings were of various forms and of diverse subjects, I was completely blown away both by the heart-quality of them all and the warm generosity by which each shared piece was received. I found myself wondering anew if the seeds of Wisdom could be planted in an educational institution in a similar way that they had been planted in the church that I had served…
I love how Wisdom practice fits so seamlessly and so effortlessly into the greater depths of the Christian faith. As compared to the contemporary more “mental” expressions of Christianity of our time, I love how Wisdom practice gives grounded substance to our tradition. Christianity’s deepest identity in self-giving love tends to keep Wisdom practice securely situated in a deeper surrender. And, while beyond my own direct experience, I have the hunch that this is true in other spiritual traditions as well.
But what about those outside any religious tradition? Can Wisdom find a home in the hearts of those without such a grounding? These questions are especially poignant since so many secular expressions of mindfulness and contemplative practice today seem to be so easily and so unconsciously used to bolster the ego’s perceived advancement.
So, can Wisdom’s deeper surrender of self-giving love be conveyed to and then practiced by those outside the container of a spiritual tradition? While once I had serious doubts, both my recent experience and the desperate needs of our world are encouraging me to take a second look.
Our Wisdom Event in late November will explore all kinds of contexts within which Wisdom programming may be placed. This, in our time, is a very fertile issue with which we are being called to grapple.
Bill Redfield met Cynthia 27 years ago, when he began a practice of Centering Prayer. As an Episcopal priest and clinical social worker, he has long been interested in the intersection of spiritual development and psychological development. Since reconnecting with Cynthia over a decade ago, he has been a participant in her Advanced Wisdom group. Bill has spent most of his adult life leading groups of various kinds, and has taught group process and group development in several graduate social work and graduate education programs.
The upcoming training in leadership skills for Wisdom groups represents a confluence of life interests for Bill. It is an opportunity to serve this particular juncture in Wisdom where more and more people are hungry for direction as they bring their enthusiasm for the Wisdom tradition to their local communities. Bill brings to this his love of Wisdom and experience, as well as his long established post-holding partnership with Lois Barton and Deborah Welsh. For more information about Bill, Lois and Deborah, please see Part I, Part II and Part III of this series in the Breaking Ground section of Growing! and visit Our Teachers’ page.