Wisdom Way Study, Chapter 3: Three Centered Knowing

This month, Marcella Kraybill-Greggo and Jeanine Siler Jones are teaming up to join Bill Redfield and Matthew Wright in highlighting a chapter of The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart as over 60 people in our Wisdom community join monthly for our zoom book discussion and deep dive into Cynthia Bourgeault’s seminal Wisdom book. You will find links to Bill and Matthew’s posts below.

Here, Jeanine and Marcella share their exploration of Chapter Three:

Christ the Redeemer – Rio de Janeiro

In our own engagement with Wisdom, we continue to return again and again to this book and to this particular chapter, “Chapter 3: Three Centered Knowing.”

 This chapter lays out for us the how of being more fully present and open to higher meaning and the physiology of transformation. Since human beings are “three brained” or “three centered”, this teaching is foundational to spiritual transformation as we seek to know with more of ourselves online and available. We usually have one center we rely on or have a natural affinity towards. The inner tradition practices invite us to cultivate our “blind” or under-used centers with the intention of integrating and balancing all three. Cynthia says:

When a person is poised in all three centers, balanced and alertly there, a shift happens in consciousness. Rather than being trapped in our usual mind, with its well-formed rut tracks of issues and agendas and ways of thinking, we see to come from a deeper, steadier, and quieter place. We are present, in the word of Wisdom tradition, fully occupying the now in which we find ourselves. (p.36)

First Generation by artist Chong Fah Cheong, public sculpture Singapore

Cynthia lays out how each of the centers function beginning with the moving center which relates to our embodiment. She describes two subsets of the moving center: instinctive and the moving center proper. The instinctive subset is like our hard drive and it operates all the systems of our bodies (breathing, digestion etc..). The moving center proper is like our software and it operates our interface with the outward world as we engage through movement, gesture, rhythm, and our five senses. Our relationship with our moving center begins with befriending our bodies and recognizing the perceptivity, guidance and capacity inherent there. Our body prayers, work with sensation and sacred dances all deepen our relationship with this center. We are invited to fully inhabit our bodies.

Fifth century Buddha, credit Sun Zhijun, Dunhuang Academy, China

Cynthia is clear, as she explains the emotional center, that she is not talking about the seat of our personal affective life. She distinguishes the emotional center from the heart as described in the ancient sacred traditions. “Growing up the heart” involves working skillfully with emotions and nervous system regulation, and ultimately it is our “antenna” for perceiving divine energy, purpose and connection. The emotional center is an organ for spiritual perception, “a bridge between our mind and our body and also between our usual physical world and this invisible other realm” (p. 35). Cynthia reminds us about the central teachings arising from the fourth century Desert Mothers and Fathers regarding the passions which divide our heart. When we get caught and cling to emotional reactivity or fall into mechanical emotional and thought patterns, we lose our ability to perceive clearly. Our heart opening Wisdom practices (chanting, Lectio Divina) and our practices of self-observation and surrender all allow us to be in relationship with our emotional center from a witnessing, non-identified place. This invites a life-long journey of touching into our true heart beyond the psychological self.

“Reflecting Minds” photo courtesy of Jaume Escofet

In the West we tend to think of our intellectual center as our brain. Yet, this Wisdom teaching reminds us we are three brained! We might think of our intellectual center as our left brain which is great at problem solving, reasoning, and dividing information into categories. As Cynthia reminds us, it is not always the tool for the job. Cynthia says “trying to find faith with the intellectual center is something like trying to play a violin with a saw; it’s simply the wrong tool for the job” (p. 31). And, in terms of our spiritual journey, we cannot rely on it alone or we will keep getting pulled back into thinking about God, ourselves and one another rather than experiencing and being in relationship together.

Jeanine speaks: As a long-time student of the Enneagram, I was captivated at my first Wisdom School listening to Cynthia unpack the three centers. The teaching resonated and built on my initial exposure through the Enneagram while also deepening the connections with my own lineage as a Christian. On a daily basis, this teaching frames my engagement of my own spiritual journey as well as those I accompany in therapy and Spiritual Direction.

Marcella speaks: A deep gift of learning about these three Wisdom centers of knowing is the recognition that this teaching is not about knowing more, but rather knowing with more of ourselves engaged. To know God/Mystery/Love with more of myself engaged, has been the deeply satisfying dimension of my own Wisdom journey these last 10 years. To come to understand that my formational years in East Africa actively engaged my movement center from an early age, and to be offered through this Wisdom teaching new language and validity for something I already knew in my body has been transformational. Now actively engaging and offering embodiment/incarnational practices in the classes that I teach at seminary, in meeting with people for spiritual direction, and in facilitating Wisdom practice circles has been a deep and wide grace of this “three brained” teaching.

This chapter ends with a beautiful poem by Jane Hooper that invites us into all three of our centers of knowing. It evokes our full bodied, whole-hearted, and clear-seeing mindful engagement. Please read it in its entirety on pages 38-40 of Cynthia’s The Wisdom Way of Knowing.

Please come Home

Please come home. Please come home.
Find the place where your feet know where to walk
and follow your own trail home.

Please come home, please come home into your body,
your own vessel, your own earth.
Please come home to each and every cell,
and fully into the space that surrounds you.

Please come home. Please come home to trusting yourself,
and your instincts and your ways and your knowings,
and even the particular quirks of your personality.

Please come home. Please come home and once you are firmly there
please stay home awhile and come to a deep rest within.
Please treasure your home. Please love and embrace your home.

Please get a deep, deep sense of what it’s like to be truly home.

Please come home. Please come home.
You and you and you and me.

May we wake up and remember who we truly are.

Please come home.
Please come home.
Please come home.

~ by Jane Hooper

YES! May we all… “Wake up and remember who we truly are”. 

Wisdom Waypoints encourages local Wisdom Practice Circles to revisit The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart in your own local gatherings this year. May we all glean the ‘next layer accessible for each of us’ as we engage  more deeply. May this book re-inspire our Wisdom Community this year! To find out how to get the book, a nd view other recommended books, please go to Cynthia’s Books or click here to purchase the book.

This resource was offered by Marcella Kraybill-Greggo and Jeanine Siler Jones. You may use these links to read more about Marcella Kraybill-Greggo and Jeanine Siler Jones on their Seedlings pages here on the Northeast Wisdom website.

5 thoughts on “Wisdom Way Study, Chapter 3: Three Centered Knowing

  1. According to Matthew, Jesus very simply says to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

  2. I wish I had time to participate…reading chapter 3 of the Wisdom Way of Knowing was a pivotal moment, I would say, in my life. Eventually Cynthia’s body-mind-heart explanation became central to the spirituality courses we teach to high school students. I share these in a blog entry, which will be chapter 9 in my forthcoming book: https://martinschmidtinasia.wordpress.com/2018/07/14/the-essentials-of-a-curriculum-for-self-understanding-the-body-mind-heart-framework-in-sss/

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