Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
What makes us come alive in times such as this, as we participate in the world as it is? Or, as Cynthia asks us in her foundational book, The Wisdom Jesus, “Could our own lives become such a perfect fusion of infinite love and finite form that light would pour from our being as an actual physical radiance?” (102). What does this radiance of being look like and feel like? How do we walk the Jesus path from the inside?
These are just some of the questions we will engage together as over 90 people from around the world gather this week in small groups under the spiritual care of eight seasoned Wisdom leaders. All the book circles will meet together on the same Tuesday of each month, across different time zones, countries, and continents, all engaging in synch together. This is our third in a series of foundational Wisdom book circles, building on a framework that is envisioned as a two-year, four-book cycle, using Cynthia’s core Wisdom books to guide us.
Last January 2020, just before the pandemic upended so many things, we began our first six-month book series with The Wisdom Way of Knowing, already utilizing Zoom to include a global community. Each time we gathered, seasoned facilitators prepared ourselves and our groups to receive Wisdom, yearning to know with more of ourselves available and attuned, engaging Wisdom practices anchored in three centers of knowing, through chant, body prayer, and group Lectio Divina. We continued in the fall of 2020 with a three-month cycle leaning into the book Mystical Hope. Over 125 people gathered across 5 groups, basking in the warmth and resonance of the field of Mercy, divine love itself, as we labored in challenging times.
As we now continue in Epiphany, the veil still thin, and move toward Lent and Easter, the teachings and mysteries of Jesus will be our guide. What is being birthed as new life within us, both as individuals and as community? As Cynthia highlights in The Wisdom Jesus, who or what in us recognizes Jesus, not as an idea we believe in, but as a quickening in our heart, a knowing that magnetizes and draws us deeper?
Jesus beckons us to “come and see” (John 1:39) and Cynthia adds: “As we actually taste the flavor of what [Jesus] is teaching, we begin to see that it’s not proverbs for daily living or ways of being virtuous. He’s proposing a total meltdown and recasting of human consciousness, bursting through the tiny acorn-selfhood that we arrived on the planet with into the oak tree of our fully realized personhood.” (27) This is a profound invitation that is best grappled with in community.
So, for those of you joining us for the first time in these Wisdom book circles, be at ease. You are right where you need to be and no one is ‘ahead’ of you. For those returning, remember how far afield we can all get with ideas and beliefs, and be reminded that the basics are fresh each time we return. They are our portal in, where we recognize Jesus through our own heart connection. We are all invited to come with beginner’s mind, an open heart and a settled body. If you are not joining a group, but would like to read along with us, know that we can all meet in the imaginal realm, with all our yearnings held in the infinite love of God.
In preparation for this deep dive together, I invite us all into a slow reading of The Wisdom Jesus, Lectio Divina style. Allow yourself to take your time, be impacted, savor, notice what surprises you, what sparks your curiosity, and what makes you uncomfortable. Continue in daily Centering Prayer or another meditation practice you are drawn to. If music or chanting emerges, carry those words and vibrations in your heart throughout the day. And care for your body. Allow for rest and relaxation. You may have a yoga practice or breath practice. You may be practicing with sensation and attention through some of the Azize exercises from the Gurdjieff lineage. If you are inclined, I offer this body prayer (below) as one you can incorporate into your day. In these ways, we are attuning to all three centers of knowing. On a daily basis, we are interrupting our automatic and mechanical ways of doing and we are nourishing our centers in ways that create space to “know with more of ourselves” available. We participate in the slow work of God, becoming acquainted with our inner knowing. We come alive, we love.
“Here I am, as I am”
(Lightly stamp right foot while doing gesture of putting down a staff/walking stick in the right hand and say first phrase above. Repeat movement with left foot/hand saying second phrase)
Feel your presence on the ground in the moment with each movement and the words.
“In the world, as it is”
(With your right arm, make a horizontal circle in front of you, palms open, saying the first phrase, repeat with the left hand saying the second phrase)
See/feel/hear the world around you.
“Supported by the earth”
(Hands together in prayer like position in front of your heart)
Sense the same pressure between your hands as you do the pressure between you and the earth under your feet.
“Floating in the cosmos”
(Prayer hands move up over your head)
See yourself from the perspective of the moon, standing on the earth, under the earth.
(Prayer hands to level of forehead)
Sense an alert glow between your eyes.
“To my state of Being”
(Prayer hands to heart level)
Feel your current state of being, sensations of your being.
(Let it all go with a whoosh and bow of release)
~Wholeness in Motion, a body prayer from Babette Lightner shared by Lisa Persons and Heather Ruce~
Welcome to a monthly series of posts from the leaders of the Northeast Wisdom/ Wisdom Waypoints Book Study Group. On January 26th the class will begin The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—A New Perspective on Christ and His message by Cynthia Bourgeault. Stay tuned for the next post in the Wisdom Waypoints Wisdom Jesus Book Circle series!
Won’t you join us? Please note that the Book Circle is now full. We encourage individuals and groups of all kinds to take up this study, and follow along with these monthly postings through June 2021, and would love to hear your reflections about this post and the book in the comments below. Thank you!
Images from the top: Living Desert Sculpture, Broken Hill, Australia, courtesy of author Trevor McKinnon, Unsplash, cropped; Healing Journey by Havi Mandell, courtesy of the artist. You may visit her at her website at Havi Mandell, Visionary Artist, Creativity Shaman; Falling, courtesy of author Ian Dooley, Unsplash, cropped.
Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward
to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love.
‘Stop hesitating!’ This has been my inner mantra throughout 2020. I have been saying yes to invitations to step up and lean in, even when I ‘don’t feel prepared enough’. That was true also when agreeing to write this blog for the Northeast Wisdom/ Wisdom Waypoints Book Study Group on chapters 2 and 3 of Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God, by Cynthia Bourgeault. The yes path. And, as I have attempted, multiple times to begin to write, my heart has felt full with the spiritual energy in this little book and the gratitude for its companioning in my own life through the years. Please read this as a heart offering for today. The richness and depth of this powerhouse book is to be savored and re-read and applied, for the rest of our lives.
As our Northeast Wisdom Council experienced the impact of the Wisdom Way of Knowing book circles in the spring of 2020 and considered what book to gather around in the fall, I felt a clear call for Mystical Hope. The conditions of COVID, racial reckoning and the election all pointed toward a deep need to gather around the wellspring of hope and mercy. At the time, Bill Redfield said, “be ready for a big response.” Well, Bill, you nailed it! We have had over 140 seekers asking to join and it has been quite an administrative love offering from Marcella Kraybill-Greggo, helping everyone find their way to a group. It seems many of us are deeply drawn and are feeling a resonate need for this Mystical Hope guidance and remembering.
So, like I have done before…in November of 2016 after Donald Trump was elected…in June of 2017 after my brother tragically died…and now again this fall, I have picked up this book and read back through, Lectio Divina style, allowing myself to be drawn in and find my bearings again as part of this larger gravitational field of love.
I collect myself and remember that I am not responsible for particular hopeful outcomes. I find daily practices that awaken me to the “luminous web” (Barbara Brown Taylor) seeking to dwell within hope, ready to receive the assistance that is leaning toward me, and act accordingly. I aim to remember the world of Mercy, and “wake up inside a warm-hearted and purposive intelligence, a coherence of which you yourself are part of the expression” (pg. 31).
Ever since early January I have turned intentionally toward a twice daily meditation practice. While I have practiced Centering Prayer in the morning for years, something in me ‘clicked’ and I stepped up the daily pace. A snapshot experience from a recent weekend zoom meditation retreat that my husband and I participated in remains with me. We woke to some kind of problem with our water heater and we were expecting a call and a visit from the plumber. Just before lunch, when our teacher was leading us in a heart centering meditation, and after a morning of longer silent meditation, the phone rang—the plumber was leaving a message. I was in an expansive place and briefly debated whether to let it go to voicemail. Instead, I felt drawn to move to the phone and bring along my expanded awareness and connection with my heart. As we spoke briefly about the problem and his arrival, I found myself feeling love for this stranger. I felt kindness and gratitude pouring out through me. My heart was warm and open toward him and the situation. It was a lovely extension of the meditation, not an interruption, but an exchange. The plumber was there during our lunch break, he was able to fix our water heater. All was folded into the retreat day, in a seamless way.
Mystical hope would simply be what happens when we touch (our) innermost ground and it floods forth into our being as strength and joy. Hope would be the Mercy—divine love itself—coursing through our being like lightning finding a clear path to the ground. (pg. 34)
If meditation is our core practice for turning off or down the domination of our egoic operating system so that our larger heart/mind can be experienced, then it does seem to slowly build the capacity to interact in the world from a place of wholeness, inclusion and expanded attention. We are “nurturing the capacity to perceive and respond to divine hope” (pg. 43). As Cynthia says, we are to “maintain a space of deep inner availability to God—deeper than thoughts, deeper than emotions” (pg. 54). When we practice this core gesture of surrender a “distinct warm heartedness” emerges (pg. 56).
What inside me can embody hope right now, can wake up in the “body of hope”? I place my hand on my heart and feel my heartbeat. I breathe there for a moment. I sink down, below my physical heart and my emotions, my thoughts, and all the outer conditions. I sense into, press into, the Heart of God. It is spacious there, it is kind and compassionate there. All is cared for there. “All the knot ends of reality come together in a huge tapestry of divine love” (pg 32).
I felt moved to spend last Tuesday, the evening of the first presidential debate, in meditation. I invited a few from the meditation retreat to join me. I felt the call to practice hope, to swim in mercy, to swim upstream toward the headwaters of love that might be able to hold all the suffering of this world in tenderness. My heart knew the way to go and I released it all, again, into divine love itself.
That is why I need this book right now. I need these words, this energy, our community of connected hearts all uniting in hope and trusting in the mercy, a divine exchange, as close as our heartbeat and breath. We swim in mercy as in an endless sea (Psalm 103).
…and you will know, in a way you cannot presently know, your absolute belonging and place in the heart of God, and that you are a part of this heart forever and cannot possibly fall out of it, no matter what may happen. (pg 52)
A Note from Northeast Wisdom:
Soon to be Wisdom Waypoints, Northeast Wisdom is offering Tuesday book study groups this fall which are now full. We encourage Wisdom Practice Circles to join us by revisiting Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God by Cynthia Bourgeault in your own Wisdom communities this fall. Whether in small, conscious and respectful groups on the ground, or online, as Marcella says, “May we all glean the next layer accessible for each of us as we engage more deeply,” and may Mystical Hope offer new inspiration in these challenging times. To find out how to get the book, and view other recommended books, please visit our Resources page.
Images are all from Paula Arai’s book Painting Enlightenment, Healing Visions of the Heart Sutra: The Buddhist Art of Iwasaki Tsuneo and shared courtesy of Laura Ruth who took photos directly from the book. All paintings are by Iwasaki Tsuneo; their titles from the top: Grain of Rice; Ringing Bell and Pilgrim on Earth. The photo above of the book cover of Mystical Hope was also taken by Laura Ruth.
Jeanine Siler Jones LCSW, is a practicing therapist who has been an Enneagram teacher for over 15 years and member of the Northeast Wisdom, soon to be Wisdom Waypoints Council. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she has been engaged with Wisdom work since 2009 and has been one of the primary igniters of Wisdom School Southeast. Since her deep dive into Wisdom work with Cynthia Bourgeault she has been playing with the Wisdom roots Gurdjieff brought to the west. Jeanine provided the initiatory series: Intro to the Inner Task: Eight Exercises in Sensation, Part I & II for the new Inner Practice page of Resources. She has contributed to a number of posts to the Northeast Wisdom/Wisdom Waypoints Home Page and Breaking Ground blogs, including Beyond the Basics, Our Hearts In Advent: A Southeast Arising Wisdom School.
Jeanine works with people interested in spiritually integrated therapy, is trained as a Wisdom infused Spiritual Director from Moravian Theological Seminary, and leads contemplative retreats and groups on her own as well as collaboratively, including Deepening in the Practices of Wisdom groups and Wisdom Schools in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault. Jeanine and her husband, Russell form Siler Jones Counseling. You may read more about her in Seedlings.
Mystical Hope Chapter 1
Mystical Hope Chapter 2
Mystical Hope Chapter 3
Mystical Hope Chapter 4
Mystical Hope Chapter 5