Holding the Post: Leadership Skills for Wisdom Practice Circles

What Cynthia has initiated is nothing short of remarkable. By crisscrossing this continent (as well as planting seeds all over the world) in a couple of short decades Cynthia has built the foundation of an emergent Wisdom community. But where do we go from here and how might we assist in this process…? My sense is that at this juncture in time the propagation of Wisdom may best be spread by the further proliferation of Wisdom Practice Circles. These “at home” groups give participants the opportunity to share and deepen Wisdom practice. For some this affords the opportunity to put a toe in the waters of Wisdom in order to see if a Wisdom School might be the next step. For others who have had the experience of attending a Wisdom School, a Wisdom Practice Circle offers a chance to solidify, stabilize, and integrate the learnings that have taken place. But besides how Wisdom Practice Circles might serve our individual development, they also serve to promote community. They become the gathering lights around which Wisdom students can be drawn and nurtured. Thus, community by community, we are gradually establishing Wisdom outposts that dot the landscape. And these Practices Circles are

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“WHUR WE COME FROM…”

“Teachers of contemplative Christianity, who acknowledged the limitations of human knowledge and the inconstant nature of human sentiment, instead encouraged a commitment to practice. A scripturally grounded commitment to practice and service – rather than a reliance on unsteady belief and feeling – is the fulcrum of contemplative Christianity.”  ~ Paula Pryce, The Monk's Cell From time to time in the unfolding life of a lineage, it becomes important to stop and ponder together “whur we come from” (as my teacher Rafe used to call it): i.e., the fundamental understandings that called us into being as a particular expression of the wider tradition of Christian contemplative Wisdom. As the Contemplative Society, our flagsghip Wisdom vessel, now celebrates its twentieth anniversary and a new generation of seekers and board members assume their turn at the helm, it seems like an appropriate occasion for just such a moment of reflection. Wisdom, like water, is itself clear and formless, but it necessarily assumes the shape and coloration of the container in which it is captured. Between formless essence and manifesting particularity there is a reciprocal dynamism; you can’t have one without the other. Our own particular branch of the great underground river of Wisdom came

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“Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing”

FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN SOUTH CAROLINA DIOCESAN CONVENTION Bill Redfield, looking very professional and galvanized in his being, had to leave the board meeting immediately following the closing, ready to board a plane for South Carolina. We knew he was headed into new territory and had shared a prayer for his work with him before he left. Bill was bringing his ever-deepening understanding of the Wisdom tradition, within years of experience developing "Wisdom of the Body" (in part with Deborah Welsh and Lois Barton for their Wisdom Schools), to The Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. There he was prepared to risk becoming vulnerable in the best sense of the word. Bill was about to meet 250 people who were suffering a 'devastating' rent in the fabric of the Diocese with what he was calling "Wisdom of the Body: An Experiential Program of Healing." What follows is a teaching; an instructive illustration of Wisdom in action. Over the next few posts, Bill shares the progression he led this particular group through, along with his commentary. Born out of a "challenge (that) seemed to call out for an increase in Being," these five steps began with Wisdom

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“Gate, Gate, Paragate…”

“Gate, Gate, Paragate…” “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone utterly beyond…” We used to chant this ancient Hindu Chant in our small contemplative circle in Snowmass, Colorado, back in the early 1990s, during the “Advaita” phase of our work. I hadn’t thought of it for years, but it suddenly popped back into my mind this morning as the following exchange with a student suddenly flowed out of me, from where I do not know. I think I may actually have just encapsulated in about 800 words everything I really wanted to say in my next book, currently (and a little too Sisyphusfully) on the drawing boards. Anyway, for what it’s worth…. Happy formlessness, Cynthia   The question… Dear Cynthia, I have very much appreciated your teachings and approach to the spiritual life. I'm writing because I've been increasingly bothered for the last several months with the doubt that there is an actual spiritual, supernatural realm beyond our human experience. I truly believe we human beings have deep spiritual experience, even a mystical sense of union with God. But how can we know that this experience is connected to anything real beyond the perceptions of our brains? I just have this nagging

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The Creative Spirit of Northeast Wisdom

In the beautiful expression of our creatively looking forward into our future, my dear friend Mary Ellen Jernigan has eloquently expressed that the present trajectory of Northeast Wisdom was originally set by the heart-vision of Helen Daly. (See her December post: “What’s Next for Northeast Wisdom? A Short History to an Emerging Vision.”) On the occasion of the conclusion of Patricia Speak’s term of Board President and her departure from the Board of Directors, I would like to share a few appreciative reflections of her contribution to our organization. In the process, I would also like to express additional gratitude for the work of some of our other early leaders and contributors. As Mary Ellen acknowledged, it was the dogged persistence of John Daly, Helen’s husband, who gave Northeast Wisdom the form of an incorporated legal entity. Knowing Helen’s desires, John acted as our founding father. He invited a small band to serve as Board members, and together we slowly tread our way through the legal and organizational challenges before us. John also served as a dedicated Board member for those first couple or three years.  The early work was at times daunting, and it required a keen eye to

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