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Primordial Breathing – Stonington Wisdom School

Dear Wisdom Seekers,

I’m just back from a week away in Stonington, Maine with friends and teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, diving directly into the insides of what mystical courage might look like when we actively choose to keep within in order to rise.

Holding a contemplative heart in the bareness of your hands isn’t easy. Thinking it might be easy would be like holding the tip of a lit match between your fingers: the burning bush ablaze but not consumed. Germination, after all, is hot precisely due to its proximity to origin. Or as Fr. Bruno Barnhart got at it, “the sabbath […] is both time and place and at the same time time beyond time and place.” Somehow we transcend ourselves while holding ourselves together. The sheer amount of hugs I gave and received last week, as the pandemic lifts, is a welcomed testament to this objective reality that we are made for the flow of love to pass through us. And I was reminded of this reality with the sound – a clear impression – of a fog horn in the distant sea keeping the week’s rhythmic, enstatic heartbeat of life together. We expanded our attention on this, what Cynthia called “primordial breathing,” all week as we sought to be conscious transformers of retained and crystallized presence asking ourselves what might happen if we practiced the raw currency of time as the way the very ocean around us experienced waves. In other words, the spiritual life happens to you, as Fr. Thomas Keating intimated.  “What is this awesome mystery that is taking place within me?” I found myself repeatedly asking this 10th century question from Symeon the New Theologian. And how, in the “paradoxical algorithm of manifestation,” (to quote Jean Gebser’s tome The Ever-Present Origin around which this Wisdom School holographically swirled); how is it that the more complex the relationship is the greater and more powerful the flow of consciousness becomes? “Consciousness summons forth an increasing materialization,”Gebser writes, which basically means that in the tenderness of things that are strong and rigorous – we matter even more. 

Holding this line of dynamism is difficult because time jumps in its mutations as it moves from the linear metered fog horn I heard to the pulse and vibration that’s accessible and entered into at any moment. And this vibrational field of relationality is only realized in the moments when we are awake. In the moments of non-mechanicality when we intuitively know in the core of our being that the only guarantee in life is the present moment because it happens over and over again.

Can we be awake to the intensification of presence; to originary source; to singularity; to the pearl of great price; to origin? Can we bear the beams of love diaphanously? What if in the soil of human experience there’s only one yearning? What if time’s arrow is only oriented to the moments we are awake; to our capacity for raw sensation; to the unfolding integral nature of reality?

As always, Rumi hits it head-on with the following poem: 

Birdwings

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see. 

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open, 
you would be paralyzed. 

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings. 

We move like birds move because we’re made for equanimity and feeling the wind in our faces. 

Comments (5)

  1. Beautiful, Benjamin. I’m using the open/closing hand as an inner task this week, in conscious presence, contracting/expanding. Aware.
    Grateful for your sharing.

  2. Thank, Ben/Benjamin, for some very interesting and unique phrases that gives me a flavor at a distance of this very special time in Stonington recently.

  3. Gebser’s statement that “Consciousness summons forth an increasing materialization” also triggered thoughts in me. One thought is that consciousness summons forth an increasing materialization in the sense that consciousness becomes matter which is consciousness in form. Another thought is that consciousness summons forth an increasing awareness of nonmaterialization, that is, increasing awareness that matter is not matter but spirit even though our perception is of matter.

  4. Thank you, Ben! You captured both the intent and the ‘intent-sity’ brilliantly. Primordial breathing indeed. Honored to be participating in this work with all of you.

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