Finally, in Chapter VIII Cynthia reminds us of the tools we have to awaken our hearts, the task to which we were born: “…only with awakened hearts are we actually able to fulfill our purpose within the cosmos and take our place in that great dance of divine manifestation” (p. 100).
In our current reality, as we move from pandemic to endemic, Cynthia’s words ring out:
…Start with what you have…. Remember that this awakening is intended…. An inner yes is all it takes. Once the willingness to begin takes over in you, whatever you need will come to you. And you’ll be able to recognize it. (p. 113)
You do not need a group. You do not need an in-person retreat. Yes, those things can make it easier, but they are not necessary. We have everything that we need in order to begin, or continue, our Wisdom path.
Here are the tools of Wisdom. A reminder, for most of us, to continue to build these into our days:
A few words on each.
Strive for Three-centered awareness. For most of us that means building a STOP exercise into our day where we sense our feet or return to our breath in order to awaken the moving center.
The Benedictine rhythm of Ora et Labora can also enliven our days, particularly if our physical, practical work is done with attention—conscious practical work.
Centering Prayer, with its practice of kenosis, letting go, remains the primary practice for Wisdom seekers. There are now online resources for learning centering prayer. The goal of meditation is not to attain “prolonged states of altered consciousness” (p. 104). The goal is to become fully conscious and present in daily life.
Chanting is my go-to practice. When I am unable to do anything else, I chant.
During my 8 months of treatment for stage 3 breast cancer in 2017, I was unable to do Centering Prayer. But I knew that chanting was needed for my healing, and I chanted daily. Chanting wakes up the emotional, or feeling, center, and “sets it vibrating to the frequency of love and adoration, while feeding the body with that mysterious higher ‘being food’ of divine life” (p. 105). I am quite convinced that the primary reason that my voice was not affected by the high doses of chemo and radiation that my body was subjected to is because I was “irrigating my body with healing vibration” (Therese Schroeder-Sheker, in a personal correspondence). When we chant we use breath and tone—out of which “the divine Source brought the created realm into being” (p. 105). Cynthia reminds us that our true voice reveals our true self.
Chanting group on Zoom
As we all know, chanting in a group is a powerful practice. For two years this has not been possible in person for many of us. Even before this pandemic, I would often listen to a body of chant (like Paulette Meier’s beautiful Quaker chant collections, or Darlene Franz’s wisdom chants) and sing along. Although it is not the same, we can chant together in real time, through Zoom. Currently, Elizabeth Combs and I are offering a weekly chanting session that is open to all; click here for more information and to join the Wednesday chant gathering.
A way of “ingesting” the Word. If you are not already doing this, try “replacing the morning news with fifteen-twenty minutes of lectio” on any sacred text you choose (p. 110). The Gospel of Thomas is a powerful Wisdom text which lends itself to Lectio.
Cynthia reminds us that: “Surrender is the awakening of the heart.” Surrender underlies all of our Wisdom practices, and that, without it, “all the other spiritual practices remain merely pious busywork.” Cynthia quotes Kabir Helminski: “Surrender is always ‘being actively receptive to an intelligence that is greater than that of ourselves ‘” (p. 111).
“…when the eye of the heart has been purified it can look directly into the imaginal realm and clearly perceive what has not yet been born in time…” (p.117)
Many of us have been astounded at the timing: how Cynthia’s first Mega Wisdom School in 2015 was made available through the Center for Action and Contemplation in August of 2019, and that the Divine Exchange Wisdom School of 2018 became available in 2020. The Wisdom Waypoints Board started what have become Wisdom practice circles through Zoom in January of 2020, just prior to the shut-down of pandemic. It seems we have been tapping into the imaginal so that Wisdom teaching is available to all who have internet access, throughout this strange time of global pandemic and beyond….
I will end with Cynthia’s last words of the book:
….the shortest course in Wisdom is never about ideas and practices.
It is about traversing those twelve inches between the head and the heart. (p. 119)
What a time for Wisdom!
Susan Latimer says: I was born and raised in Southern California and spent most of my time outside or singing and playing the piano. From an early age I found God in Creation. After a Master’s Degree in music performance, a long time of discernment led me from music to the Episcopal priesthood as a vocation. This year I celebrate 30 years of ordination. I am married and have two grown children, and am currently the Rector of The Church of the Good Shepherd in Hemet, CA.
From the beginning I longed for an embodied Christianity, one that really took the incarnation seriously. I found some pieces in my work with Linda Kohanov (Eponaquest), through experiential work with horses, in the mid 2000s. There I first learned to sense my body, to learn from it, and to sense connection at the heart level with another sentient being—the horse. But when I finally attended a Wisdom School (Kanuga, 2015) led by Cynthia Bourgeault I knew I had found what I longed for. Since then I have led Wisdom practice circles and retreats, been in Law of Three practice groups, moved back home to Southern CA, begun to write sacred chants, attended many Wisdom Schools, worked as a TA for the Center for Action & Contemplation for Cynthia’s Introductory Wisdom School e-course, led and co-led many Wisdom practice circles through Northeast Wisdom/Wisdom Waypoints, and led retreats on Living and Dying as Spiritual Pilgrimage, and The Spirituality of the Voice. I have also been blessed to study in the contemplative musicianship program with Therese Schroeder-Sheker.