Welcome to a monthly series of posts from the leaders of Wisdom Waypoints Book Study Group. In January the class took up The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault. We invite you to follow along with these posts (links to the other chapters are at the bottom of this article), perhaps with your own small gathering. Lovingly re-read over and over, this little book is chock full of the basic tenets of the Wisdom tradition including its clear synthesis of the Benedictine Ora et Labora and Gurdjieff’s Three Centered Knowing and the central role of the heart.
Chapter VI describes the necessary soul gesture of surrender, which requires the willing deconstruction of our small self, or the passage of the acorn self into the oak tree (p. 64), through the balanced work of our three centers, a movement from the lesser to the greater self, a passage, consciously and voluntarily taken. We begin by letting go of our false sense of security—really a dismantling—and building the balance, acuity, and ease of use in our three centers to reliably access the stance of surrender, an open spaciousness of seeing with a relaxed inner stance that allows for a balanced, truly measured response. To walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil; and join in the divine dance.
We stand in a time of unparalleled challenges in our world; pandemic, world war and climate collapse. I am reminded of what Cynthia said in Chapter V, “we human beings are the consummate artisans of energy. It is our cosmic role, and we wield it whether we like it or not. But most of the time we wield it unconsciously and destructively…. unaware of the delicate homeostasis by which the visible and invisible worlds are held in harmony,” (p. 57). In this thin space of Eastertide let us to deepening our commitment to our practices and leaning in to shift the collective lens from scarcity to abundance – the manifestation of divine love – breath by breath.
I humbly suggest a counterintuitive proposal: our work is in our practices. It is time to deeply engage in the synergy of our centers and the time we find ourselves in. This is not news. We know it is our purpose to find our true self—it is our focused attention and intention that we waver in. Each of our core practices, meditation, prayer, chant, inner task, conscious labor and ora et labora, bring us into balance and dovetail into one another—increasing our awareness of our three centered knowing. If we are alert enough to sense the subtle energy transfer, we will feel the neural pathways building a network of connection between our inner centers and beyond; allowing us to hold the space and deepen the level of conscious compassion on our planet.
Years ago, when I was still actively engaged in equine training—all things horses—I watched a documentary on a legendary basketball coach, John Wooden; odd because I’ve never had an interest in basketball. But it was fascinating to hear the former players, ones even I could recognize, repeatedly making the same point. This coach had endlessly drilled them on the fundamental skills until they moved as one body. The truth in this resonated. I had been told over and over by equine trainers: you have to vary the routine because the horse gets bored. It wasn’t the horse that got bored; it was my inability to hold my attention that caused a break in communication, in our ability to dance. As fumbling as my efforts are here, I believe our basic entry point and ongoing attunement into this gesture of surrender is attention and intention in our core practices.
I like to hold the image of my three centers as Cynthia presented them in Chapter III: my body carries the affirming force, the intellectual the denying force and my emotional center, my heart, the reconciling force that serves as a “bridge between the mind and the body and also between our usual physical world and this invisible other realm (p. 35).” Attuning to this alignment is my endless work—breath by breath.
- Are we inviting a deepening of all our practices, so that our actions flow out in a letting go of fear as it rises each day to fall through it into spaciousness; that we might be able to “see the decisive action that must be taken… with courage and strength” (p. 75)
- Are we building in ourselves a fluidity of the inner gesture of surrender to “live and move and have our being” from it, that we might be agents in this needed reciprocal feeding within the “dance of divine self-manifestation (p. 63)?”
- Are we willing to release the Pea-seed of our being from the narrow view of “Peas in a Pod” culture, for the possibility of “the most profound fruit of the transformative process” in the release of our individuality to be a person?
My true self is not an individual because it is not found in the sensible world. It is illuminated “here below” only as I am able to make this passage known as surrender, either in a final, generous donation of my life or in the continuously renewed gesture of opening while still in this flesh (the latter act has infinitely more spiritual power, for it continuously binds the realms together). The illumination of my own innermost aliveness spontaneously lights up all the other colors of aliveness in the world around me and makes visible the rainbow through which my individual being is connected to all being. (p. 79)
Is this the clarion call of deep time, reverberated out over and over? We know it’s call: “Open our hearts to the whole.”
“Fall… fearless… into… love.”
Nan Delach offered this resource. Nan says: I am a long-time student of Cynthia’s lineage and a lover of trees, living on a piece of land in Bowling Green, Virginia, with my husband and a band of furry beings. I, like all of us, am finding my way. All paintings and photo images courtesy of Nan Delach.
Wisdom Way of Knowing Book Circle
A monthly series of posts from the friends and leaders of the Wisdom Waypoints Book Circle Series on: The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault