Stonington Wisdom Gathering Inner Task Given by Cynthia Bourgeault: Day Two

Image by Thomas Telhiard

Concentration: Inner Task for the day given by Cynthia at the Stonington Wisdom Gathering, May 29-June 5, 2022

And so for our inner task today, I invite us all to work with concentration. How can I bring more concentration to what I am doing today? To how I am being today? And for most of us, the word concentration has a very scary meaning. You remember being back in school and your teacher said concentrate. And that meant you furrowed up your brow and tried harder, and you just got more and more nervous, and more and more frightened. And the more you tried to concentrate, the more it slipped out of your fingers. But I think the tradition we’re looking at allows us to understand concentration from a whole different way, a much more physical way. In the physical world, when you concentrate something, you bring it into a smaller space, don’t you? So that it’s more intensely present in a smaller space. It doesn’t have anything to do with furrowing your brow and trying harder. It has to do with collecting and compressing something within so it becomes more vitally itself in a smaller space. So this in and of itself is a good clue, right? So the second is this, how do you do that? Well, depending on what you’re trying to concentrate, you squeeze the air out of it.

You know, if Rosie is rolling up her air mattress and all the air goes out of it, then you can fold it up and concentrate it in a smaller space. If you are freeze drying food, the thing that gets removed is the water. So you concentrate something by removing inessential excess baggage by squeezing all the air out of it. So when this comes to: how do I concentrate?

You know, if somebody says concentrate. If Heather asks us on the movements floor, when everything is going crazy, to concentrate, it’s not like furrowing your brow and trying more intensely. That’s just going to drive you crazy, make you more self-aware, more self-conscious. It’s removing everything that doesn’t intrinsically belong to the moment. So most of the air in us is created by our commentaries, our self-evaluation, our idle chains of associated tracks, our agendas that we’re actually carrying in our postures, our energy that’s flowing into supporting these facades — that’s all the air in us. And probably the biggest amount of air is created by the airspace: How well am I doing? Are they noticing me? This is air. If you want to get that mattress into your car, you’re going to have to fold it up. So I invite you as the task today to practice concentration, self-concentration, not by concentrating on the thing, but by concentrating yourself to be present to what you’re doing by squeezing all the air out.

So what this means basically is, as you go through the day, if you notice that you’re getting lopsided, and we all do, with the amount of stimulating ideas running through this room, you’re going to get buzzy in your head. When you find you’re beginning to get distracted, when you find that the real agenda running is, how well am I doing? Are people noticing? If there’s anything that’s pulling you out of the moment, stop, whether a stop has been called or not. Concentrate your attention in the region of your solar plexus and gather yourself together there and proceed again. Do the same thing, but in a more concentrated way. Does that make sense? This will be very, very good work if you want to play with that, because we’re talking in second body and a language about accumulating something. In other words, concentrating it. And the whole essence, I think, of inner transformation is about learning that when you concentrate on a task, you don’t concentrate outwardly on the task. You concentrate, inwardly, squeezing the air out of it so that you become more collected in a smaller space. And then the task does itself. See if that’s true today.

Cynthia Bourgeault’s Stonington 2022 Inner Work Exercise #2

Inner Task Series by Cynthia Bourgeault

Cynthia Bourgeault gave these inner tasks at the Stonington Wisdom Gathering May 29 – June 5, 2022. They were posted to the Facebook Wisdom Community as Inner Work Practices for June 2022.