Substituted Love

In honor of Holy Week, I wanted to share with you an excerpt from my "Becoming Truly Human: Gurdjieff's Obligolnian Strivings" e-course, just now winding down. “And the fifth: the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred ‘Martfotai’, that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.” It’s one thing to be willing and able to help a fellow being: to send them strength, reassurance, even an energetic boost. But is it possible to actually change places with them so that we take the weight on our own shoulders and they are permanently set free? Definitely not, most spiritual traditions say. In the words of my Sufi teacher, a butcher’s son: “Every mutton hangs by its own leg.” Assistance, yes; baraka, blessing, clarity, counsel, and strength: in all these ways we can help. But spiritual liberation itself is non-transferable. You can’t become conscious unconsciously, by someone else doing it for you. It is the fruit of your own inner work. I raise this point, obviously, because we are now less than a week out from the beginning of Holy Week.

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Conversation and Flow: A Spiritual Practice

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about conversation and the necessity of paying attention to the flow of our words. Since, as Christopher Fry* has said, “Affairs are now soul size,” it seems that our conversations should be the same. It’s like a dance really, and if well done, can become an embodied spiritual practice emphasizing the three modes of attention, surrender and compassion. I took a social dancing class in sixth grade in order to prepare for school dances and to be ready for successful adulthood in the days when dancing with a partner was more than rocking back and forth or just jumping around in time to wild music. Our first attempts were very concentrated. Counting one, two, three to the music and making our feet move in a box-step pattern as we looked down at them generally kept us from stepping on our partner’s shoes. As the rhythm moved inside of us and we began to really feel the movement, our minds relaxed, our attention to our partners increased and enjoyment took the place of tension in our bodies. I remember vividly as an adult the time I waltzed at a parish dance with the father of

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Why “Wisdom & Money”?

"Wisdom & Money," continues the signature work of its predecessor Harvest Time: to engage with money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. For more than a decade participants in Harvest Time circles have met to share their money stories together, “get naked” with their finances, playfully welcome obscure parts of themselves to Levi’s Table, and support one another in risking money experiments. This work has always been grounded in spiritual practices drawn from a variety of traditions. But one set of practices has emerged as strongly attractive and life-giving in the way of transformation. These practices were drawn from the tradition of Wisdom Christianity. Why Wisdom? “Wisdom” identifies the mystical stream within all major religious traditions that recognizes a reality beyond the world of appearances and our human capacity and desire to be united with that reality. The teachings and practices of the wisdom path lead us – subtly, gently but reliably – out of the “sleep" of our habitual ways and into an awakened consciousness of our authentic being. Across religious traditions, especially in their monastic forms, the practices that enable this transformation are remarkably similar. Among them are forms of silence, sacred chant, meditative movement, and reflection upon inspired writings. Such practices may well have

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“Conscious Circle” Ingathering

I watched them disappear this morning into the snowstorm, making their way home through the Maine winter after an extraordinary weekend of prayer, tears-and-laughter, teaching, stories, and conversation. My tiny, plucky ‘conscious circle…how it tugged at my heart to see them go. I had called them all together, impromptu, about a month ago: a baker’s dozen of the most experienced and steady folks in the Wisdom network, to join me for a weekend here in Stonington (in February, utter madness!) to see if we could collectively begin to discern what the cosmos seems to be up to in the wake of that traumatic election upheaval and what Wisdom might expect of us in response. The conversation around this topic has of course been flowing nonstop on the social media since well before November 8, but so much of it has been at the horizontal level, driven by historical and political analysis—and of course, from the perspective of the now duly-chastened secular intelligentsia. Shock, trauma, disorientation, and/or denial have been the dominant modes in the circles I mostly travel in, a still-dumbfounded inability to fathom what happened and why. In times such as these, it is a traditional practice in the

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Ken Wilber’s “Trump and a Post-Truth World: An Evolutionary Self-Correction”

An overview and critique by Cynthia Bourgeault. Now that Ken Wilber’s paper on “Trump and a Post-Truth World” is officially posted and making its rounds on the internet, I feel at liberty to share my initial “cliff notes” and comments a bit more widely. My comments below were generated originally (and somewhat hastily) for a group of senior Wisdom students who are already working their way through this tract. It is still to be regarded as primarily a “working draft” for limited circulation, not a formal response to Ken’s thesis. The first part is a quick overview of the main points of Ken’s argument as I understand it. The second part raises a few points for feedback/critique/further reflection.   THE ARGUMENT IN A NUTSHELL Ken Wilber’s wide-ranging and fundamentally hopeful monograph is an analysis of the recent presidential election from the perspective of levels of consciousness as developed primarily according to his own Integral Evolutionary Theory. The powerful contribution he brings here is to move us beyond the reactivity gripping both sides of the political spectrum and offer a much broader perspective. He proposes that Trump’s upset victory reflects an “evolutionary self-correction” necessitated by the fact that the leading edge

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