Welcome to a monthly series of posts from the leaders of the Northeast Wisdom 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. The study group is full, but 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 a willing deconstruction of our small self, our acorn (p. 64), and a balancing of our three centers, such that we can effectively articulate the gesture of surrender. A gesture of spacious openness—not a collapse into capitulation—but a relaxed inner stance that allows for a balanced, truly measured response. One with courage, strength and fullness of heart. 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. To walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil; and join in the divine dance.
This pandemic is forcing issues that have long been ignored. We must press on; a new paradigm is birthing or trying to be birthed. We are given images of this deconstruction: an acorn recognizes the possibility of an oak by falling, letting go of the limb, being broken open in the act and inviting the synergy of the shared fecundity with the soil. Similarly, the candle must surrender to the consuming of the tallow and wick for the “shining of the light.” Each an annihilation of the known. The global pause has brought a quiet to the world I don’t think could have been imagined: in this world shift how will we participate in midwifing a new paradigm? A shift from the lens of scarcity to one of abundance; the manifestation of divine love?
“Feel your feet!” 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.
All that is needed for this metamorphosis—opening the bridge between the realms—is in us, but this metamorphosis is not for our enlightenment; we know that is far too narrow. In Heather Vesey’s post on Chapters IV & V, A Call to Depth and Action, she says that it is our purpose to offer our being to “‘birth’ and ‘body’ the ‘names of God.’” This requires a sacrifice; we have to let go of the known and willingly move through the liminal—a breaking with the known, consciously done, if we are to put on the mind of Christ. To be made whole and become beings of light.
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 the Pod of our enculturation, for the possibility of “the most profound fruit of the transformative process” in the release of our individuality to be “transformed instead into a person (p. 78)?”
Ultimately, are we “a string in the concert of God’s joy…sounded through (p. 79);” in resonance with all around us? Remembering Isak Dinesen’s snake, whose beauty was in its quality of aliveness: are we ready?
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.” I think so.
“Fall… fearless… into… love.”
Nan Delach offered this resource. Nan says: I am a long-time student of Cynthia’s work. I have also worked with Robert Sardello and I am currently working as a teaching assistant in both the Introductory Wisdom School and The Divine Exchange courses offered by the Center for Action and Contemplation. I am a lifelong seeker and a lover of trees, living on a piece of land in Bowling Green, Virginia, with my husband and a band of furry babies. I, like all of us, am finding my way.
All paintings and photo images courtesy of Nan Delach, except for Chrysalis by Anja Hovland.
Northeast Wisdom encourages individuals and groups of all kinds to take up the study of The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart by Cynthia Bourgeault this year. Won’t you join us?