Stonington Imaginal School Serves Up Rich Bread for the Journey

My heart is filled with gratitude and reverence for the sixteen plucky souls who accepted the invitation to join me for a tiny, on the ground Wisdom School in Stonington this past September 6-10. Officially we broke ground on my new book, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm. On a deeper level we engaged together in the soul-searching work of exploring the pandemic from the standpoint of imaginal causality and attempting to generate some of those missing “spiritual nutrients” in whose absence the heart of our collective humanity has been slowly withering. At the head of the list was an element I call “paschal courage:” not the reckless courage that states “God is on my side; I’m invincible!” but the quietly gathered equanimity of the cross that affirms “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.”

We studied, prayed, chanted, conversed till long into the night, did Gurdjieff movements, practiced Centering Prayer and tonglen, drank in the healing air of Stonington, and released the web of our hearts back into our planet. It was a wonder to be in each other’s presence again.

In this journey into what lies beyond the domain of death, our spiritual epicenter naturally constellated around our beloved Bob Sabath, who despite a still-compromised immune system in the wake of eight months of rugged chemotherapy, risked three days on the road and a week in a semi-secured environment to entrust his heart to the finer energies available in the physical presence of his fellow seekers. From his surrendered, invincible presence he gave us a teaching of astonishing clarity on Gurdjieff’s “Make Strong” exercise. Others in the group found themselves similarly walking on water, steadied by his extended hand, rising to renewed depths of inner resilience and courage as the week drew to a close and we prepared to return home and take on whatever lay on our plates.

Rebecca Parker encouraged us not to lose touch with—and to share as we could—the deep nourishment we had collectively received. In the wake of her invitation, the conversation has been flowing, and so far as I know, everyone is still alive and well and still substantially under the sway of that remarkable beauty coiled within the human soul when Christic love again becomes the master of the dance. Dear Bob, of course, called us all to the task at hand in his remarkable teaching, with a little help from his buddy Rumi:

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep.

Here is a bit of the ensuing conversation. First, a thoughtful reflection by Bill Espinosa:

Two mornings this last week I woke up to a familiar voice intoning the last line of the Heart Sutra:

“Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi savha”
Go further, go further and further and then further to the distant shore.

Or as the Dalai Lama explains it: Look deeper, look deeper and even deeper and deeper to understand the relational nature of reality where form becomes emptiness and emptiness form. I think Cynthia brilliantly took us deeper and deeper into the realities of the less dense worlds. I am grateful to Cynthia and to all of you for making this remarkable journey possible.

I think that on returning (and aided by the journey), it is also our three-brained-being duty to uncompromisingly penetrate deeper and deeper and deeper –a different kind of “gate, gate, paragate”—into the realities of our contemporary earthly Worlds 48 and 96. I know that I shield myself from the harshness of some widespread conditions and most of us envelope ourselves in comforting identities. I think we have a duty not only to do this work ourselves but to ask it of others around us even though it will not make us popular.

I continue to believe that as painful as COVID is, it is a harbinger of more profound challenges. It illuminates the deep-seated inequities in our society and it flashes orange, orange, red—like the California skies—to warn of the perils that ignoring nature could shortly bring. I think we all need to dig deeper here. Help may come from other worlds but I think that in important evolutionary ways, Earth is in human—our—hands. Thanks to all of you again for your presence, stories and love.

And a remarkable, “Emmaus” encounter recorded by Tim Shriver:

Let me add my thanks. And a quick story.

So, I’m riding my bike toward a beach path I’ve never visited on Saturday after my return. I get off the bike to cross a narrow wooden bridge that stretches over a small marshy inlet to an open beach. Ahead of me are two women—moving very very slowly. So, I slow down and notice they are mother and daughter—about 50 and 70 or so, a bit hunched, with baggy t-shirts and loose pants. The daughter is struggling with movements and wanting to turn around. They turn and face me and I could see the weathered faces of love and compassion. The two of them have travelled many roads together, I knew right away. The daughter with matted and unkempt hair was living with a difference—limited language, limited analytic intelligence, halting movements. The mother was living with the child of her creation. Somehow, I knew they’d been together for all their lives. 

So they started toward me and the mother cautioned her daughter: “Stop honey. Let the man go by.” But I was in no mind to go by. “No,” I said, “you come first. I’ll wait here and you take your time.”

A small smile inched across the daughter’s face and the mother said something nice like, “Thank you.” I stood my post waiting for them to traverse the 15 or so feet on the bridge to go by me. And as they approached, the daughter, wearing a bright red and blue hat looked up at me and her hat blew off into the marsh. She didn’t even notice and kept walking. But her mother turned to her and said, “Honey! What happened to your hat?”

“Wait,” I said, “I bet we can get the hat. It’s just down below us in the tall marsh grass.” I looked over and there it was, resting on the grass above the water level. Enter an old salt fisherman, worn out looking with a rod and stepping onto the bridge to cross over to the beach. The fisherman says, “Wait. I have a rod and a hook. Let me see if I can catch the hat.”

We all watched the old salt dangle his hook above the hat and with one easy motion, he hooked it and reeled it in. “Here you go honey,” he said. “I got your hat and you don’t have to worry about a thing.” The daughter, from under her uncombed and wild hair smiled broadly. The mother, helped her place her hat back on her head. “Say thank you to the man darling.” “Thaaaaannnnnnnk yooooouuuuuuu,” she said. And the old man couldn’t quite take it all in. He just looked at her with more love than a human knows what to do with. “O, don’t worry. I’m so happy I got your hat. You look so beautiful in that hat.”

Then the mother and daughter continued across the bridge, back to the land side, apparently foregoing their intended trip to the beach. And the old salt turned to me and said. “Sometimes, you know why you’re alive. That was the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time. My heart is bursting.”

And I just looked at him and thanked him. “Yes,” I said, “Sometimes we know why we’re alive. My heart is bursting too.”

Then he walked, ever so slowly, to the beach to fish as the mother and daughter walked onto land, down the road to who knows where. 

I don’t know more than that except that I felt all of you on that little bridge as a mother of great love and daughter of great struggle taught an old fisherman and me the path of receptivity and courage—maybe even paschal courage. Somehow, I know they’ve lived their whole lives making their minds and bodies and hearts into agents of the Imaginal, World 24—and maybe even the Christic, World 12. And they passed through the shock points slowly, graciously, with many years of practice in the art of love—and fearless love at that—the kind that just holds the post when everyone and everything else has left you.

And when it came time to be their students, I know it was each of you who helped me slow down and stay awake so I could see the master teachers as they passed. Love to you all.

Witnessing these words, Rebecca shared: “Wow, what a dialogue between what you offer as analysis Bill and Tim’s response with a living story. Feels like Tim gave witness to the complexity and call and love that you write about Bill. A conversation on courage – thank you to each of you for listening deeply with an enlivened heart – three centered knowing. I’m holding this one.”

This moment is both difficult and precious,
so it is protected fiercely.

Don’t go back to sleep!



Image credits from the top: Cynthia’s newly published Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm, courtesy Shambala Press; Sea Kayak Stonington blogspot, image courtesy of Michael Daugherty blog; Sunset Bridge image by Martyna Lucja, courtesy of Unsplash; Watercolor Earth image courtesy of Elena Mozhvilo via Unsplash.

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6 thoughts on “Stonington Imaginal School Serves Up Rich Bread for the Journey

  1. Still feeding off of Valle Cruces, this phenomenal sharing of the web from Stonington is a further nourishment for what is mine to do in the collective activation of the nutrients needed in this precious moment. Eye of the Heart is where I am seeding my residence now. Reading the book after Valle Cruces was a tremendous shockpoint! Thanks Cynthia and all of you for courageously standing your post and outflowing the aliveness that you all experienced at this on-the-ground gathering in Stonington.

  2. Cynthia — I appreciate your post, and thank you especially for the story about the mother, daughter, fisherman, and you. I am touched by it. So much happy heart bursting can happen by taking the time for a few moments of kindness.

    1. I sit here with tears of hope, and with everything in me saying yes to what has been spoken and shared in this blog. I read Eye of the Heart last week and it was as if what had been gradually shifting moved firmly into its new paradigm. What I had been sensing and feeling my way into is now clear. I am grateful. The story of the mother/daughter, fisherman, and Tim resonate in my heart with learning about the imaginal. I am in my latter years, but only 3 1/2 years into centering prayer, presence, I do not have 25-30 years to grow and mature in it, but after reading your book Cynthia, I am greatly encouraged that with commitment, openness to the imaginal, I will have what I need to do my part for our world. Thank you for writing your book at this time.

  3. Thank you, Jeanie! I love your comment that you are deeply ACTIVATED by my book. No author could hope for more. Thanks, too, for noticing the balance in the voices, a direct reflection of the balance (synergy) in the group.

  4. Receiving these living words and loving energy has left me feeling like I’ve participated in the Wisdom School… Thank you.

    I’ve also just finished reading your new book, first time through, Cynthia, and am deeply activated by it. As I open to what I can do imaginally from where I stand in my conscious circles, I’m reminded from your perspective, Bill, not to shy away from information flow in the more dense worlds (ouch!). And from your story, Tim, I’m reminded in the midst of the chaos to notice and ‘be-with’ the everyday loving relational realities around me.

    (Just to feed back one more level, also gratefully, please know that I’ve read this entire post with its different voices over and over for my experience of its balance, and where it asks me to rest. Thank you for the caring and precision!)

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