Cynthia Bourgeault’s new book Mystical Courage: Commentaries on Selected Contemplative Exercises by G. I. Gurdjieff, as Compiled by Joseph Azize is available for purchase. This collection of six G.I. Gurdjieff exercises from Joseph Azize’s book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises illuminated by Cynthia’s own commentaries for, in her words, “a broader spiritual audience…connecting the dots between the familiar world of Christian contemplation and the brave new world of Gurdjieffian metaphysics and nomenclature…” (pg. xi).
Cynthia worked these six exercises herself, with a small group of friends who have decades in the work, before bringing them to the larger Wisdom community for our collective work together—a suggested “pandemic homework” specifically gathered for these times.
In her introduction Cynthia speaks about the step in the Gurdjieff work that takes us beyond the pause and adaptations necessitated by the pandemic. She speaks about the opportunity when stopped in our tracks to lean “into the awkwardness of that ‘caught-in-the-act’ exposure to explore one’s own repertory of habitual postures and attitudes that are somehow complicit in this mess” (pg. vii). How to enter into these times without “sidestepping” a “self-reckoning that might bear within it the seeds of genuine remorse and a new beginning?” (pg. viii).
These exercises provide what Cynthia calls the “missing link” to that end. That we may learn to sense, feel and think ourselves from an embodied state, grounded in our three centers, growing our capacity to be present “to higher faculties of perception embedded but not yet activated within us”—a perception that allows us to experience the “assistance coming towards us from the worlds beyond our own” (pg. xi). That we may practice towards building a body that knows how to ground in sensation and direct our conscious attention in order to “sustain the vision and connection we humans so desperately yearn for” (pg. ix).
Cynthia speaks about her own process in the introduction, finding the way toward a series of exercises that, in its entrainment with the Four Ideals exercise, “has deep healing potential for our planet exactly where it is pinned right now” (pg. xii). And she is careful to note that these are only six of more than forty Gurdjieff exercises collected in Azize’s book; exercises that were often given a single practice at a time, to specific people in particular circumstances, for their personal inner work. This is a collaboration, in that Joseph Azize has allowed the basic text of these six exercises to be reprinted here. And, Cynthia stresses, for more of his extensive research, and best use of her commentaries collected in the new Mystical Courage—his book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises is a considerable aid.
Cynthia adds that, in the spirit of guidance toward the exercise that is yours right now to practice, allow “yourself to be drawn to the exercise(s) that most deeply speak to you” (pg. xiii). Through conversation with a number of practitioners who took part in the “pandemic homework,” and from my own work with these exercises, it is clear that many folks found a way into these in our own time and through each our own particular route, trusting that which is speaking in our hearts about the course and timing of our own practice—in yet another exercise of inner listening to what truly works in each of our spiritual lives in practice right now.
Your own sense of what works for you will be the starting point with these exercises, and if you choose to dive into them for the first time, or continue your work with them, you will be contributing to the matrix or web of our collective practice. As we grow together in these practices something is given for the whole. Beautifully summarized on the back cover of Mystical Courage:
Cynthia invited members of her Wisdom School Community to join her in a rigorous practice with six of these exercises. What emerged…was a remarkable series of revelations and reflections encompassing not only the Gurdjieff tradition but her own deep insights into the Christian mystical and Wisdom traditions, together with sagacious tips on practice and a prophetic vision of a post-pandemic future.
The fruit of that alchemy—presented here—is a profoundly renewed vision of Mystical Courage, a hope and strength emerging from beyond our own making that is available right now to guide our way.
To order the book, please follow this link to Amazon.
Images from the top: Mystical Courage book cover, design by Wisdom friend and Wisdom Waypoints logo creator Andrew Breitenberg; dew on Spider Web in Selective Focus, public domain courtesy of Snappy Goat and Pixabay.