…To be “a bit braver in the next hour…”
At the Claymont Society for Continuous Education, in Charles Town W Va, October 28 through November 3, 2019, an extraordinary dialogue between two giants of vision and exquisite sight–G.I. Gurdjieff and Teilhard de Chardin–was facilitated by Cynthia Bourgeault. Through lived experience Cynthia invited these two colossal thinkers into direct conversation, two illuminated “men of the 20th century, who offer timely transformational maps ‘on behalf of our world.’”
There was an ‘energy’ to this Wisdom School that was distinct–expectant, a bit ‘wild and unruly’–true to character for Gurdjieff of whom Cynthia remarked–‘‘he related to people in unpredictable ways, with an edge; a hand grenade by temperament.”
As Tuesday October 29 was the 70th Anniversary of Gurdjieff’s death, known in the Sufi tradition as Gurdjieff’s ‘Birth Day’, Cynthia harnessed this “available unpredictable energy” and invited our Wisdom community into a Gurdjieff meets Teilhard celebration of the Eucharist literally on the movements floor. Cynthia led a reflection on the Eucharist by Ouspensky, with a picture of Gurdjieff flickering in the candlelight as bread and wine were shared in Wisdom School style. A profound and liminal night, with some accessing deep healing energy, some having visions of Gurdjieff fluttering in our midst, and some catching a ‘tear in the eye’ of Gurdjieff as we broke bread together.
Engaging this Wisdom School during the thin time of the Fall Triduum encompassing Halloween (10/31), All Saints Day (11/1), and All Souls Day (11/2) evoked subtle energy that flowed in deep and spontaneous waves. Halloween evening prompted a spontaneous showing of the movie Meetings with Remarkable Men based on Gurdjieff’s book of the same title–while eating popcorn and drinking red wine!
A wrenching, heart opening moment of the week was when Cynthia named Teilhard’s deep heartfelt longing, “Is there no one else who sees what I see?” Only to now discover that these 2 men were born within 15 to 20 years of each other…lived at times within 50 miles of each other…and died within 6 years of each other. Both men, highly influenced by and sensitized through the dynamism of their times late in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, were visionary outliers. Neither man was truly integrated into academia as both were radical box breakers and both were deeply incarnational. A sense of this Wisdom School offering a cosmic ‘reconciling force’ was profound and leavening. Courage was a new arising …to be “a bit braver in the next hour” as Gurdjieff invited us through one of our Meditations.
~ Marcella Kraybill-Greggo
Yeshua says…I disclose my mysteries to those ready for mystery
~ Gospel of Thomas Logion 62
I traveled to Claymont on a beautiful fall day to spend the week with 74 participants to hear Cynthia unpack the similarities (and differences) of two dissimilar modern mystical giants, Teilhard de Chardin and G.I. Gurdjieff. I first learned of these two men in 2017 through the teachings of Cynthia. What I experienced was a week of intense doubting (resisting) and delicious affirming. At times I found myself perplexed at my continued naivety of the necessary struggles and the enduring commitment and faith required in this Wisdom journey.
I began the week upon my arrival with the affirming and warm welcoming smiles and support from Marcella Kraybill-Greggo and Jeanine Siler-Jones. In the morning and afternoon sessions with Cynthia, she was her usual brilliant self, masterfully weaving together a reconciling synthesis of the Law of Three as taught by Gurdjieff and drawn from the teaching of Teilhard, though not specifically named. Between the equally brilliant questions and comments by participants and the incomprehensible and incompetent attempts at Gurdjieff dance movements by this participant, I found myself trapped in my egoic mind (resisting). I was at times doubting my own efforts and time spent on this Wisdom journey.
At the end of the day however it was Endel, a fellow participant, who informed me that it was about reciprocal feeding i.e. the reciprocal nourishing of all three centers, the intellect, emotions and body (affirming). As I have had time now to absorb this experience, I understand a little more clearly that the seeds planted and nourished by this and other feedings will be reconciled by my patience and surrender, bearing fruit, and thus leading to the increase of my being and receptivity of the mystery to be disclosed by Yeshua. Pax,
~ Charlie Straus
…To bear ‘our part’ of the whole…
There are so many aspects of this Wisdom School that moved me, opened my heart and deepened my understanding. The few things I share here were all made possible by the power of the group and the clear intention of those gathered to be truly present and be brave in engaging the experience as a collective body.
I found myself drawn in again by the profound teachings embedded in the Enneagram symbol and the interplay of the Law of Three and Seven. We were reminded that growth and change always include disequilibrium and holy chaos. When we can hold our inner composure, sense the tension of the opposites and can be present with our attention, a quality of aliveness comes forth that allows Love to manifest through us. We take in impressions of finer energies that we were not resonating with just a moment before. I felt that multiple times on the movements floor when I would lose my way, find my way and lose my way again. I felt most open when we would pause at the end of our efforts and sense into our bodies, receiving these finer energies. The taste of that remains with me when I sense into the experience now.
In the sacred container we co-created at Claymont we were able to sense a stabilizing at another level, an exchange that happens when we participate with presence, voluntarily surrender and are open to bear ‘our part’ of the whole. We ended our Wisdom School on the movements floor with Movement #39, focusing on our three centers and being present with each one. As we ended, I found myself walking directly to my car, savoring the silence and the finer energies from that movement and from our week together. I received deeply. My prayer is to allow it all to flow again through me as I participate in this beautiful dance of becoming with all of you and with God.
~ Jeanine Siler Jones
There is good wisdom in a proper proportion of silence and speaking
One of the small pleasures of the Wisdom School was not having to talk during breakfast. One of the things I love about silent retreats is the opportunity to be with others without speaking. I find it freeing and relaxing. It is possible to feel the presence of community without words. The Wisdom Schools incorporate a good blend of silence and speaking. I appreciate a spacious start to the day before entering into conversation.
We began each day with centering prayer or a Gurdjieffian spiritual exercise, which led directly to a silent breakfast. It was a time to be together, to linger with the energy and effects of the prayer and to slowly enjoy the food. The next part of the day was listening to the teaching. Then, after that, it was time to ease into conversation and interaction. There is good wisdom in a proper proportion of silence and speaking. I’m paying more attention now to seeking that proportion in my daily routines.
~ Scott Brubaker-Zehr
I am changed: Reflections on the Movements floor
At Claymont I was opened to sacred movements. I have a technical vocation and welcome ideas on how to get out of my head and live in three-centered awareness. I am still very affected by my experience.
I learned to let go of my inner critic, my attachment to “getting it,” and I found myself silently offering love to those who were criticizing themselves. When I made a mistake I learned to begin again, to not physically react very strongly. Deborah told us finer energies are available even when we’ve made mistakes. As we practiced my body started to remember the movements instead of only my mind.
I became dependent on (clinging to!) my neighbors for guidance and assurance, and my peripheral vision guided me to align with them. My neighbor smiled at me each time I turned to face him during the dance as he reminded me to lighten up. As we moved together throughout the hour I could feel a collective surrender. The pulse and flow of the group were opening to Something or Someone.
As we rested with Mel’s music, I was moved to tears. My body and spirit became aware of the finer energies available to all of us.
I had never experienced this sort of phenomenon before.
Our final evening with seventy people on the movement floor was particularly profound for me. As people offered their inner critics over and over onto the floor, I felt a Power among us evolving as we moved. As we rested at the end with Mel’s music, lying down with eyes closed, I felt completely open. My tears were pure. I did not hold back. I suddenly felt the heart of the world opening to us, to all of human suffering.
I am changed. I am connected to all who were there. In my daily life I find myself connected in some new way to all I encounter. I now have fresh perceptions of sacred movement, attention, finer energies, forgiveness and love. I find my inner critic being offered over and over to the collective heart of the heart of the world. I am able to experience Love like never before.
~ Jeannine Crumley
In January of this year, twenty-two of us gathered in Bethlehem PA, for a Law of Three as Spiritual Practice Wisdom School. We came together from Colorado, Indiana, Florida, Toronto, Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Held in a rhythm of a traditional Wisdom school, this Wisdom School offered a very ‘practical teaching’ of the Law of Three with daily break out times for small groups to explore how to apply the Law of Three within our own lives. Working with an experienced ‘anchoring facilitator’, each group of three or four people engaged current life happenings, working together with the map of the Law of Three as the lens.
In 2013 Cynthia Bourgeault published The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity. The following year Marcella Kraybill- Greggo attended a Wisdom School where Cynthia unpacked her book, highlighting key teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. The “Law of Three” refers to an assertion that every phenomenon is a new arising that comes into being through three distinct lines of action. The first force is holy affirming, the second force holy denying, and third force holy reconciling. This teaching posits that the Law of Three is more ‘midwifed/mediated than taught’. Marcella came home from that Wisdom school wanting to experiment in a small group setting. As this teaching highlights:
We are often ‘third force blind’ in our own lives and need others to help midwife what is truly wanting to be born.
So, how do we learn what it means to help midwife this process in another…to aid in their ‘arising’…and how might others help in midwifing what is happening within our own lives? With those curiosities and a desire to listen deeply, Law of Three midwife groups were created.
Key Law of Three teachings anchor these midwife groups:
“Just as it takes three independent strands of hair to make a braid, so it takes three individual lines of force to make a new arising. Until this third force enters, the other two forces remain at impasse. These three lines of action are free of moral judgment and they are neither “good” or “bad” (Bourgeault, 2013, p. 26).
Cynthia also says:
“Denying (second force) is never an obstacle to be overcome but always a legitimate and essential component of the new manifestation… The “enemy” is never the enemy but a necessary part of the “givens” in any situation, and solutions will never work that have as their goal the elimination of second force” (p. 29).
Over the course of this three-day Wisdom school, we explored each line of action through multiple mediums: the ‘felt sensation’ of each force in the body and how each line (aka holy denying, holy affirming, holy reconciling) manifests in gesture; through the medium of music/songs that capture each line of action. Cynthia has said that the Law of Three can perhaps best be learned through music–aka Taize Veni Sancte Spiritus, or Paulette Meyer’s “Art thou in the Darkness” chant. In my four-year work with Law of Three midwife groups I have found that the best way to learn the Law of Three is to learn it in ‘sensation’…to tune into the sensation that happens in the body with each line of action, to learn to ‘recognize it’ in the body as it happens.
Over time the invitation is to begin to ‘make space for third force’ in sensation, in our body. Literally, when there is a holy-the-denying bodily sensation–that noticeable clench, or that bracing, or that felt sense of ‘push back’–in any part of the day or in any part of a conversation, to allow that felt sense of seeming constriction to ‘wake me up’ and alert me to the possibility of the Law of Three at work. To invite me to pause and get curious, to not resist, but to literally begin to trust, to welcome it and to literally relax into it knowing that this too, this seeming push back, is a necessary part of the equation of transformation. “No denying force, no growth”. In fact, Maurice Nicoll aptly says:
“If you want something, you have to calculate on the existence of 2nd force, or passive force, which is the force of resistance to what you perhaps quite simply and innocently want and expect to be given. This 2nd force meets everything that you want at every turn, at every point. So the Work teaches that if you want something—if you make an aim, say—you must calculate this 2nd force which will at once oppose what you want, what you aim at. … Now in reality, if you want something, you will inevitably have to meet the opposing force to what you want—that is, 2nd force or force of resistance to what you want—and contend with it”. (Nicoll, p. 1016, vol 3).
Our mornings together in the Law of Three Wisdom School engaged teachings about these embodied Law of Three ‘energies;’ our afternoons engaged these ‘lines of action’ in our bodies through the body wisdom forms of InterPlay, engaging in play and noticing, honoring and exploring the sensations of each line of action. Following this embodiment we broke into our daily two hour Law of Three midwife small groups. Each small group member engaged a personal scenario, with group members attending to the dynamic particulars through the lens of the Law of Three.
A member of one of Marcella’s original Law of Three groups notes,
“Seems to me that our third force group IS an organization at a higher level, that has the power to manifest what none of us could do individually, as Teilhard envisioned.”
Two participants of this January 2019 Wisdom School shared the following about their experience:
Waltzing the Law of Three
When I got back from a three-day Wisdom School on the Law of Three in January of this year and I was seeing triangles everywhere.
Law of Three, in the Wisdom tradition of Christianity, is the theory that the most basic, most pervasive dynamic of life is a triangular dance among three kinds of forces: First Force–affirming (active, forward moving); Second Force—denying (passive, push back); and Third Force—reconciling (neutralizing, transforming, catalyzing … etc.). The first two forces may end up in opposition but Third Force is present (though hidden) in the stalemate, and when it comes into play, change happens. Something new arises. Still, all three forces are necessary for that to happen.
This waltz is how things evolve on every level, from the subatomic to the universal. It is in the very nature of God (think Trinity as process more than persons). It operates at the level of the individual human psyche and in our interactions with each other.
“Law of Three” has been, for me, the most difficult-to-grasp concept in the Wisdom tradition. Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, is a tougher read than most of her other writing. But it is smooth sailing (to use a Law of Three metaphor) compared to the Gurdjieff-ian, Needleman-ish Boehme-ic expositions of this concept, which seem to invite the most abstract, exotic, intellectually elevated sort of thinking, while also claiming justifiable resonance in the ways of the heart and the workings of the body. And so the terminology can be awkward and the concept itself tends to slip—or dance—out of your grasp, just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on it.
But it seems to offer so much—not only a grand Theory of Everything but also a powerful self-help, group-help tool. After all, if you can just discern that Third Force present in any personal or social logjam you can potentially ride it down the flowing River of Life until you hit the next evolutionary snag. And then do it again. And again and again and again.
So I was looking forward to Marcella Kraybill-Greggo’s first-ever Wisdom School on the Law of Three, which, she promised, would be an embodied experience of the Law of Three. How about that? Forget theory, pretty much, and dance it out. What a concept!
It took some getting used to. At the beginning, my head wanted more theory, clearly explained. But something happened during the first Interplay session, a “Wisdom of the Body” Movement process (see interplay.org), when we left words behind altogether. I noticed that many of my movements embodied Second Force—“Holy the Denying,” as Marcella would say. I’d been having some agitated thoughts throughout the morning and, sure enough, in the afternoon play I was moving in the opposite direction from everybody else, cutting in front of people, playfully bumping against them. It cleared my head and opened my heart!
The small group session that followed demonstrated the power of this kind of pattern recognition in solving problems and finding personal life paths. The aha moments, when the one presenting a personal dilemma got a whiff of Third Force, provoked tears and laughter in equal measure. That night in my wakey-wakey hours:
I started seeing triangles everywhere. I thought back on my recent experiences with women in Congo developing, together, a program to turn out a new cadre of adult literacy teachers. We have watched the project ignite tremendous energy in its participants—leaders, new teachers, and new learners. I have experienced the thrill of allying with what I now recognize as Third Force. We have seen how Second Force obstacles were necessary, how new realities have arisen, and new First Force passions are pushing in new directions.
My co-leaders and I have told that story as the work of the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the night I wondered if the Holy Spirit is Third Force? Could it be that this little Wisdom School on the Law of Three was really a workshop on the methods of the Holy Spirit?
In the light of day that idea seemed both presumptuous and too limited. (Holy Spirit? God? is in all three forces, surely.) For a moment I thought I saw in the Congo story an elegant progression as the three forces and the new arisings shifted to different places on the triangle. I remembered reading something about that in Cynthia’s book. But when I checked the relevant passage I couldn’t quite fit my experience into the theory, which is still dancing just beyond my grasp. This first Law of Three school left me wanting to know more about how it all works beyond the very personal level.
Still, Law of Three is probably better learned by practice than theory. It has become a new spiritual practice for me, which I will follow both on my own and in concert—dance—with others.
The candle, tissues, and chocolate are pretty obvious but how did our small Midwife group’s altar end up including a lamp, a shell, and a bar of soap? Wouldn’t you like to know!
~ By Nancy Myers of Indiana
Nancy has continued meeting with her Mennonite women Law of Three
midwife group once a month via zoom, since the Law of Three Wisdom
School. See Nancy’s blog “Traychon” in The Practical Mystic, applying
the Law of Three to ‘race relations’ in her back yard.
Dancing with Law of Three
In late January of this year, I was privileged to attend the Law of Three as Spiritual Practice Wisdom School retreat in Bethlehem, PA, led by Marcella Kraybill-Greggo. A sense of community was there from the start, though I was unsure where I fit. During the first chant, I realized I did not need to define my place. The beauty of the singing made me feel part of something bigger. Those around me naturally added their musical interpretation and the depth of the harmonies beckoned me. I felt included, despite my lack of range and inability to improvise. As I sang, I dropped deeper into the vibrations and the poetry of the words. I was comfortable in the stillness and alignment of my body, a characteristic shared with my main practice of Centering Prayer.
I felt safe in this space, which allowed me to participate in practices that made me uncomfortable at first. We spent time in movement, exploring how certain words felt in our bodies. We interacted with each other nonverbally, then strengthened our understanding of the experience through verbal sharing. I sensed that we had barely scratched the surface, but the body wisdom we discovered bore incredible fruit later in the day.
During our small group midwife sessions, we got curious about how the Law of Three showed up in our lives. Each person brought a real-life scenario to apply. We engaged dynamically, listening equally to mindful curiosity, body response, and heartfelt support. For my situation, I found myself speaking about what had been weighing heavily on my heart for months. My group helped me to see that I was imposing conditions that didn’t need to be there. My either/or approach shifted to both/and.
I view the role of tension differently now, working to appreciate and welcome it as an essential ingredient for transformation. And I am internalizing the importance of showing up with my whole self, in active participation.
I am grateful to our leader, Marcella Kraybill-Greggo, and the rest of the team. “This work is not for the faint of heart.” That must be even more true with respect to leading it. The words I’ve written are not adequate and represent only a snippet of my experience. I participated in something both eternal and finite. I felt the presence of the many teachers whose foundational work has led to this process. I witnessed evolving leadership in Marcella’s guidance and energy. I caught a glimpse of the potential this process holds.
I will no longer limit my definition of prayer. Dancing with the Law of Three gives me more tools.
I will continue to develop within the safe space of my midwife group and take what I learn into the world. By using both/and–silence and sound; stillness and movement; solitude and relationship–I do my part in becoming receptive to Divine Ambush. I hope it makes my life a living, dancing prayer.
~ By Lisa Beyers from Colorado
Lisa has continued meeting with her four-person Law of Three small
group once a month via zoom, since the Law of Three Wisdom School.
During the final morning of our Wisdom School Mary Ellen Jernigan, treasurer of the Northeast Wisdom board who participated in this Wisdom school, offered these words:
“I am struck by the Spiritual maturity of this community; there is an Incarnated spirituality here which seems to come as part of the fruit of Law of Three as a Spiritual Practice. Having experienced this Wisdom School, I have now seen the fruit of Northeast Wisdom. We’ve been loosely holding and gathering the incarnation of Wisdom that Cynthia began. Bethlehem community is a center of exploding Wisdom, incarnated in the world.”
Marcella in the middle with 4 of the Law of Three small group facilitators–Maggie Wellert, Rita Purcell, Pat Herbst, Lisa Bryan…and not pictured Linda Klopp.
If interested in learning more about Law of Three midwife groups, Marcella can be reached at email@example.com.
Marcella Kraybill-Greggo: A teacher, spiritual director, and participant in the Wisdom School community, Marcella lives in Bethlehem, PA with her family, having spent her early years in Tanzania, Africa as a child of medical missionaries. Marcella is Co-director of the Spiritual Direction Graduate Certificate Program at Moravian Theological Seminary as well as the Clinical Director for Moravian’s MA in Clinical Counseling. Marcella holds a Master’s in Social Work along with a certificate in Spiritual Direction. Marcella has led multiple Wisdom Schools and offers an annual 8 month Training in the Practices of Wisdom program.
For additional background and reading about Marcella’s work with the Law of Three, check out: northeastwisdom.org/breaking-ground/to-midwife-third-force-creating-law-of-three-midwife-groups
“I would like to attend your Spiritual Direction Training program, Marcella, but your program is located in Bethlehem, PA and I live in Georgia. I urge you to kindly consider creating a distance option for your program, that would allow others like myself who want a spiritual direction training program that incorporates the teachings and practices of a Wisdom Way of Knowing, to attend your program.”
This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting as I finished up my last days of the Claymont Movement Wisdom School in March of 2016. This request came from one of my Wisdom colleagues who had been on the Movements floor with me all week and had overheard me talking about incorporating some Wisdom practices into the Moravian Theological Seminary Spiritual Direction program that I co-direct with my colleague Barb Martell. The request landed deep and wide within; a call bell of stillness and alertness ensued. I was intrigued. I responded to her request “Wow, I have not thought of creating a Wisdom infused distance option for our Spiritual Direction training program. Let me take this into my prayer, discuss it with my co director and the seminary, and get back to you!”
This ‘out of the blue request’ landed in my prayer with great energy. I shared it with my co-director, who responded with openness and steadied co-listening. I put feelers out within the Wisdom network to see if others had interest in a Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program. Within two months three additional people responded with a strong YES! Building on our existing Spiritual Direction program, already vetted and approved, we proposed adding a distance component in line with our seminary’s strategic goals, with a Wisdom school rhythm retreat each semester. A step of faith the whole way, doors kept opening. Timing for the Seminary appeared right as the school was currently increasing distance learning technologies, so were well equipped with electronic platforms, large screens and classroom cameras. Faculty approval of this one-year distance Wisdom infused Intensive Spiritual Direction offering was unanimous. This program, designed for those already trained in companioning others (counselors, those contemplatively trained, etc), includes 10 graduate credits in courses such as the Art & Practice of Spiritual Direction, Discernment, and Group Spiritual Direction, each semester offering one weekly distance class and one class anchored in an ‘in person’ Wisdom school retreat in Bethlehem, PA. Our first cohort of distance Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction training at Moravian was offered in 2017-2018.
The following three reflections are shared by members of the Wisdom community who participated in Moravian’s first distance Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program.
Heather Ruce: I was at the Claymont Movement Wisdom School when Marcella was asked to consider beginning the one-year intensive program that would incorporate teachings from the Wisdom tradition. I had been a spiritual director for several years and had the desire to pursue a program but had not found one that resonated with what I was looking for. Because of my background in the Wisdom work with Cynthia since 2012, as well as training as a therapist and in a body-based mindfulness approach to trauma, I wanted a program that was holistic and would be based on three-centered knowing. When Marcella told me about the idea of the one- year intensive that would have a focus in Wisdom, I wondered if this may be the program and the time to pursue it.
As I listened from within, I decided to say yes and take this next step to further confirm my vocational call as a spiritual companion and to continue the integration of Wisdom as the basis of this call. Our first day of class began with a pause of silence, Logion 2 from the Gospel of Thomas, and a body prayer. I immediately felt at home. We gathered over Zoom, joining one another from England, Canada, and various time zones in the US. With Teilhard’s notion of the ‘noosphere’ in mind, our distance cohort opened ourselves to the opportunity to learn how to lean into our connection that exists beyond physical space and time. It was an adjustment at first, but we settled in quickly and in an unexpected way. Gathering together from our own homes brought with it a special sense of intimacy and safety.
A three-centered thread ran through the whole program including our two ‘intensive’ retreats which followed the Wisdom School rhythm. It was encouraging to see and experience the Benedictine rhythm applied in another context. This form provided a depth of connection to the tradition and practice of spiritual direction. It also allowed for our cohort to connect to one another with more of Ourselves.
Jeanine Siler Jones: For years I have considered further training in Spiritual Direction. I have a full-time therapy practice in Asheville, NC and have integrated my 9 years of Wisdom work with Cynthia into my professional life on my own. I was drawn to this program at Moravian Seminary because it would be a community where I could give attention to the ‘braiding’ of my call as a Therapist, a Wisdom seeker and a Spiritual Director. My “yes” felt strong and clear from the beginning.
Completely unknown to me at the time of this clear yes was the deep and personal need I would bring to this Spiritual Direction learning community. Just one week into our first summer course, in early June of 2017, my brother died suddenly. My heart was broken open. With this cohort, I received profound care which became integral to my spiritual direction learning. The fact that this was a distance learning cohort was surprisingly no deterrent to our attentive and caring presence with one another as a learning community.
When we gathered in person for our two on site retreats, the Wisdom School container was familiar and grounding. My body knew the way. The rhythm of prayer and work with two contemplative sits each day, chanting, movement and embracing the Great Silence at the end of the day all combined to hold and deepen the learning for me. Whatever we were learning with our minds, we practiced and experienced with our bodies and hearts. So, the Centering Prayer informed the silence we practiced in both individual and group spiritual direction. The chanting opened channels of vibration and connection with God and one another and cultivated deep listening. The body prayers, ‘finding our feet’ and noticing gesture allowed the knowing to amplify, move and ground.
This wisdom infused Spiritual Direction program gave me a body of material, seasoned teachers and supervisors, and a wholehearted cohort to mentor me into a profound year of integration.
Lisa Persons: After practicing as a spiritual director for several years and using Wisdom work in an intuitive way, I was seeking the right certificate program to deepen and broaden my knowledge and practice base. Moravian Seminary’s program offered a wonderful way to integrate the golden thread of Wisdom I had been following since 1999 when I attended a Singing the Psalms Benedictine Wisdom School with Cynthia Bourgeault.
Moravian Seminary’s program helped me more deeply weave the Wisdom thread into my work with individuals and groups. Throughout the coursework and practicum we were invited to integrate the wisdom of the body and to listen to how what we read and heard “landed in our bodies”. This was so helpful in deepening my awareness of the moving center of knowing. Practicing in community truly helped me listen with “more of me”, deeply grounding the practice of spiritual direction and life in the body.
Another wisdom dimension that was developed in this program was the way in which Group Spiritual Direction is a container for “midwifing” Third Force. As we practiced speaking, listening with all three centers of knowing and reflecting back to one another threads and images that we noticed, we were all developing an “alert flexible presence that can hold the tension of opposites.” Law of Three images emerged organically in my Group Spiritual Direction group without me every teaching about the Law of Three. For example, in one session as we reflected on the effort and friction that go into discernment and navigation of relationships, the image of the friction of churning milk yielding sweet butter bubbled up. Later I reflected on this image as a Law of Three dynamic: milk, human energy, a churn; butter was the sweet new arising.
This program offered a group process of sharing and listening that was a dance, a divine exchange, an embodied practice of trust in the slow work of God, Who can and will use all on behalf of wisdom in beautiful and unexpected ways.
The next Intensive Spiritual Direction Training begins June 2019. If you are interested in learning more about this Wisdom infused Spiritual Direction Training Program please contact Marcella at Kraybill-Greggom@moravian.edu and see the following link: https://www.moravianseminary.edu/academics/certificate/spiritual-direction-intensive
Yesterday morning a desire ‘arose’ from among our Wisdom community to have a ‘communal time of prayer’ on behalf of our world. Our local (Bethlehem) Wisdom member said: “I was drawn back to the powerful experience many of us had when you, Marcella, were up in Maine (in Feb) and we all ‘sat together’; different places but at the same time. Would it be possible for as many of the wisdom community as possible to pick a day and time to have a giant sit weekly? I feel that the light that would generate could only help”.
This resonated deeply within me, as what catapulted through me over the weekend was “FOR THIS…we were asked to go to Stonington for that prayer weekend in February” (see “Conscious Circle” Ingathering). THIS WAS WHAT WE WERE PRAYING ‘on behalf of’, what we were preparing for. The ‘sensation’ of this recognition was so strong Sunday night, it literally felt like I was being pulled out of bed, onto my knees on behalf of our world.
Then yesterday afternoon I met with one of my Law of Three midwife groups (see “To Midwife Third Force”: Creating Law of Three Midwife Groups) to be reminded that Charlottesville is the HOME TOWN of one of our group members, a UCC Clergy woman, who has been a chaplain at a Quaker school there for years. She aches for her community and is filled with grief, anger… and gratitude for all those working so hard to transform hate and show love. She shared, “It is like watching my family in crisis on TV”.
Truly the situation in Charlottesville is both devastating and ‘quieting’…
In RESPONSE, the suggestion is being raised for a ‘VIRTUAL’ sit on behalf of our world…on Tuesday mornings. A sit that we all do in our homes …”collectively”. I personally can commit to 9:00- 9:30 EST (6am PST)…others may need a bit earlier or a bit later. No worries…it is ‘all one prayer’. We will gather like this on Tuesdays until it no longer feels ‘needed’ in the same way.
Our work ‘in the realms’ is needed. OUR time is at hand…the ‘work of Wisdom’ is desperately needed…as ‘denying forces’ occur, Wisdom is at the ready…3rd force is needed… we have been prepared.
Helpful links from Marcella
Transforming the Heart of Suffering, an article on Tonglen, a form of prayer for times like these.
Become a Whole World, Darlene Franz’s Wisdom Chant that has been singing in me all week.
Please join us today…and on future Tuesdays. AND let us know if you are ‘in’!
Marcella Kraybill-Greggo attended her first full Wisdom School in the fall of 2014 at the Claymont Society in West Virginia. Cynthia Bourgeault offered a week long retreat, “Gurdjieff for Christian Contemplatives: An Intensive Exploration of the Holy Trinity and the Law of Three“. As the date approached, Marcella was receiving guidance in her dreams to become more grounded physically. At Claymont, with its emphasis on the Gurdjieff movements, study would include daily experience in the moving center, as well as in the feeling and intellectual centers.
Cynthia says that an essential fruit of contemplative practice is the ever widening capacity to midwife third force. Speaking to the potential of conscious attention, she repeated a concept during the retreat which intrigued Marcella; that third force is more midwifed than taught.
The archetype of ‘midwifing’ (as being with, to bring into being or bring to birth) is central to the spiritual direction Marcella both teaches and practices. In her field, ‘midwifing’ refers to a way to both witness and stay the course while a person does their work, offering markers, reminding people of what they already know, while holding an awareness of how Spirit can work.
This meeting of spiritual direction and the Wisdom work within Marcella was deepened through Cynthia’s teaching and the Gurdjieff movements led by Deborah Rose Longo. “Midwifing third force” resonated as an invitation to explore, a call to action. “Midwifing is the sea I’ve been swimming in,” according to Marcella. For over a decade, she has been teaching Group Spiritual Direction and Counseling Group Theory and Dynamics. This call fell on prepared and fertile soil. The template of a Law of Three Midwife Group took shape, a place to begin. Congruent with the triune, three people would provide the dynamism necessary for each group.
“The Law of Three”, coined by Gurdjieff, is also known as “the Law of World Creation”. It refers to his assertion that every phenomena, each “new arising”, comes into being through the interaction of three distinct lines of action. The first is affirming or active force; the second denying or passive force; and third force is reconciling or neutralizing. How do we bring our conscious attention to these forces at work in life? How do we listen to each line of action and play with these energetic forces? How do we recognize new arisings?
Cynthia says, “Just as it takes three strands of hair to make a braid, it takes three individual lines of action to make a new arising. Until this third term enters, the two forces remain at impasse.” These three lines of action are free of moral judgment, they are each neither “good” or “bad”. She continues, “third force, or ‘reconciling’, is not a synonym for ‘grace’…it can show up as a trickster as often as it shows up as a healer. It’s simply whatever breaks up the logjam and gets things moving again.” What helps us set aside our preferences, our attachments to outcome, our judgments? Allow for the movement beyond impasse? For potent, unexpected new arising?
There is surprise and challenge inherent in working with the Law of Three in both the inner life and the outer world. Cynthia emphasizes, “in the Law of Three and the Law of Seven, the eye of the needle is the same: conscious attention. If we’re stuck in duality, negativity, urgency, identification, or self-importance, we miss the window of opportunity for third force…”
Once home from the 2014 Wisdom School, Marcella turned to two retreatants, and to two spiritual directors, with the same invitation. “I’m not sure what we will be doing, but Cynthia says the Law of Three is more ‘midwifed than taught’ and that we are often ‘third force blind’ in our own lives. She says we need others to help midwife what is truly wanting to be born. I want to learn what it means to help midwife this process in another…to aid in their ‘arising’…and, I need help in midwifing what is happening within my own life, and what is occurring within me!”
The two groups committed to work for six months and then assess. Each met once a month for two hours. This form has worked for two and a half years, and is available to all who are interested. The simple guidelines for each session include a ten-minute informal check-in followed by each person speaking for ten- fifteen minutes about something occurring in their lives. This may be a decision being discerned, an encounter of significance (positive or negative), a dream, a work scenario. Anything is ‘grist for the Law of Three mill’. Each person’s sharing is followed by a ten – fifteen period of group interaction, consisting of questions, wonderings, curiosities about what might be denying, affirming, and reconciling in the scenario shared. Always there’s a deep listening for ‘what might want to be birthed here’; how might the ‘necessary tension’ of the denying and affirming forces be brought into relationship in a ‘whole new playing field’. Each person has a turn for sharing and exploration.
One Law of Three group worked online over ooVoo (similar to skype), inquiring into how the Law of Three was manifesting in their individual lives, noticing affirming and denying at work, experimenting with how they could be reversed, curious rather than rigid. Taking up the notion ‘third force blind’, they opened to one another.
“We shared our lives and invited our Wisdom friends to listen through the lens of the Law of Three. We were able to offer each other new ideas and perspectives, evoking a seeing of potential third force that we had not been able to see reflecting individually on our own lives.” They witnessed how third force is indeed a ‘line of action’ and reconciling force is indeed midwifed. Playing with series of triads was “gorgeously helpful;” watching new arisings become part of the next evolutions. Inevitably, “each member began noticing clarity and ease, depth and inner stability, and freedom to stay present in the midst of discomfort. Held in a ‘Law of Three community’, each member gained strength, inner fortitude. A deep collective gratitude arose. While being ‘midwifed’, the ability to notice and ‘midwife third force’ in our own life also grew. Things happened quickly; clarity became more predictably accessible.”
In the other Law of Three group, Marcella and two other spiritual directors (one 79, another 81) met in person. These two women, steeped in Wisdom study and practice, Marcella came to consider her ‘Wisdom Ammas’. “We met month after month, discussing our lives in the light of the Law of Three. With the Holy Trinity book in one hand and a pad and paper to draw triangles in the other, we eventually felt drawn to review our entire life story through that dynamism.”
Working reflectively, they began meeting weekly to chart significant events over a lifetime in relationship, inner work, health and jobs. “Looking at life over time, we noted how in each of our lives, the dynamism of one triad inevitably birthed the next triad. How constriction in our lives, denying force, played along with our heart’s desire, the forward movement of affirming force. We became conscious of what eventually clarified and came into being to ‘reconcile’ the tensions.” They noticed that the interplay of the three lines of action “catapulted us into new ways of being in the world, new spiritual clarities, new jobs, and new relationships.”
“These ‘new arisings’ were stunning in their beauty, but only as seen in the rear view mirror. It was a truly remarkable undertaking. To literally sit on the floor at the feet of these two deeply spiritual women, mapping out on big poster paper the triads of their lives, noticing the dynamism that unfolded over their seventy-plus years. It was miraculous and incredibly enlightening.”
“They became my teachers, the embodiment of the Law of Three. As they shared their ‘unfolding journeys into God’, they reflected on how they had to come to repeated points of surrender time after time in their lives, in order to be launched into ‘a new arising’…which was plain as day in hindsight!”
Marcella has begun a number of other groups, each finding its own dynamism. For example, Law of Three Midwife Groups became an integral part of the Wisdom Practices Circle at Moravian Seminary last year. In addition to their monthly day-long Wisdom gathering, students meet monthly in triads for two hours, with Marcella as facilitator and scribe, charting out the Law of Three triangles as the groups share.
Through this undertaking “our class is becoming adept at envisioning our lives through the lens of the Law of Three, noting how affirming and denying forces exist, beginning to track the workings of third force and, notably, beginning to recognize the ‘sensation’ of third force as it happens. The key to learning this, and what I offer my students, is how to ‘listen’ for the dynamism of the Law of Three ‘in sensation.’ Each force – denying, affirming, reconciling, and each new arising – has a distinct embodied ‘sensation’. As we get to know these lines of action ‘in sensation’, we can recognize them anywhere and with greater ease. The heft of this embodiment is created as the dynamism of the three lines of action is revealed; tuning into the physical sensation of each line of action, opens new perceptive capacities in our body, in the moving center. Students are experiencing ‘what it’s like to midwife third force’ both in our small groups as we share particulars of our lives, and in each of their own individual life spaces and relationships.”
The miracle for Marcella is, “you can’t make this stuff up.” A key she has witnessed in this group work is how, “as Maurice Nicoll teaches, life unfolds and circumstances provide exactly what we need for our next arising.” She has discovered that working with the Law of Three cultivates increased availability for readiness. To work with, rather than against, what is happening in our lives. To give footing and grounding to manifest what is waiting to be born, to have greater clarity with greater ease.
The possibilities for this work are manifold, and Marcella is willing to help groups get started, acting as a consult or reference point, joining a group of three to facilitate for a session or two if desired. Awestruck by the amount of movement happening, she recognizes that something is crystalizing differently as a result. As a member of one of Marcella’s Law of Three groups notes, “Seems to me that our third force group IS an organization at a higher level, that has the power to manifest what none of us could do individually, as Teilhard envisioned.” To become more conscious and learn to wield third force truly is an exercise that builds trust in the wisdom that nothing is ever lost.
If you are interested in creating a Law of Three Midwife Group with Marcella’s help, you may contact her through “Leave a Comment” below. More can be found about Marcella on the Seedlings page, where you may read about her Wisdom post-holding at Moravian Theological Seminary.
Marcella is leading a five day Wisdom Way of Knowing Wisdom School July 23 – 28, 2017 where she welcomes seekers into the expansive teachings from The Wisdom Way of Knowing by Cynthia Bourgeault. The retreat will include select videos of Cynthia, filmed at an Introductory Wisdom School. Through the power of technology, participants will receive Cynthia’s teaching and transmission. For more information, see the Events page.
The Cynthia Bourgeault quotes above are from her 2017 Lenten Spirituality & Practice course: Becoming Truly Human: Gurdjieff’s Obligonian Strivings with Cynthia Bourgeault.
An invitation to join in spirit together on January 20, 2017.
You are invited to participate as friends of Wisdom gather for a moment of silence at noon on January 20 as Donald J. Trump is sworn into office as President of the United States.
This practice has been envisioned as “a pause to create a ‘dwelling place for Wisdom’ on behalf of our nation, and a prayer from our hearts for our world.”
“As we learn to open ourselves deeply to this mysterious Source, help will always come, for the Source ‘leans and harkens towards us’ with a tenderness of love that is both the medium and the message.”
~ Cynthia Bourgeault
In addition to this moment of silence, and in response to Cynthia’s timely call for the “deep practice” of “collecting our hearts so as to be more directly and acutely in alignment” with Wisdom, Marcella Kraybill-Greggo has created a template for a two to two and a half hour Community Gathering on January 20, 2017. You are invited to work with this outline (printed below with links to resources) individually and collectively in gatherings on Inauguration Day.
Cynthia’s impulse with this call was to follow Wisdom’s way and “to put the heart out there and see how it seeds itself.” This program was born through the creative weaving of Wisdom. As Marcella contemplated her sense of what was being called for, what came to her was a deep recognition of the criticalness ‘of such a time as this’ for us as contemplatives to ‘prepare our nervous systems’, to hunker down into spiritual practices deeper than ever before. The call was to stabilize, to more fully ingrain the practice of kenosis, and to ‘make more space for Wisdom’ to make her dwelling within and among us.
Also unfolding in Marcella’s spirit was the invitation to find ways to dedicate these times, and the energy of constriction, diminishment and suffering, to a cause and ‘a higher order’. And, to do this as a means of serving Wisdom’s evolutionary consciousness that is breaking open in our world, leading us (in Cynthia’s words) toward a single mystical body encompassing All, to Unity.
Marcella brought this understanding to her work with students, into her Law of Three groups, and continued to pray and listen, to wait, to dig down under, both in the horizontal and in the vertical.
Marcella’s inner work, the call of the times, and the group work with her students collectively midwifed the below template. In a teaching about ‘holding the post’, Cynthia spoke of the humbling journey as a wisdom leader, knowing that what happens is dependent on what the group brings, as well as what the leader brings. That ‘alert, supple and humble’ postholding makes space for the electricity and the ‘graced movement’ that can come when the conditions are right. These words, key to Marcella’s Wisdom work, are embedded in the process that gave birth to this program.
Marcella invites us to find what may be calling to each of us, what we want to dedicate our practice to in these immediate times. To take Wisdom practice into our day, attend to the life of sensation in the body, and consciously name what we dedicate the vitality of those arising sensations to; for her, right now, it is to Wisdom’s unfolding.
Marcella’s offering is to take this outline into our own heart’s process and let it evolve and connect. Join us, as many friends of Wisdom convene in the silence at noon EST, and gather in groups, and individually, with shared intent on Friday, January 20th.
Wisdom Way of Knowing Community Gathering Program for Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017
3:00 – 3:30 Welcome and Centering
Gospel of Thomas Reading: Logion 33
Chant “Love Says…”
20 min Centering Prayer
3:30 – 3:50 Cynthia Teaching & Debrief (10 min teaching)
3:50 – 4:45 Stations of Wisdom – Explanation and Experience
Labyrinth (walking or finger labyrinth)
Anointing for the Journey (Mary Magdalene)
WISDOM POST station (placing your symbolic wisdom post in sand – a tall candle or stick)
Wisdom Stations for Contemplation and Prayer
(with wisdom quotes and contemplative questions for pondering…at each of these 4 stations)
for Solidarity /Community
4:45 – 5:00 Elm Dance
5:00- 5:10 Prayer of St Frances (small group body prayer)
5:15 – 5:25 Mass on the World
5:25 – 5:30 Benediction
As we learn to open ourselves deeply to this mysterious Source, help will always come, for the Source “leans and harkens towards us” with a tenderness of love that is both the medium and the message. – CB
Cynthia says: And so, Contemplatives, “Allons! ” Let us go forward. There is work to be done; prayer, joy, courage, and strength are deeply needed. And we do know the way there. This is Wisdom’s hour.
Marcella is Co-director of the Spiritual Direction Graduate Certificate Program at Moravian Theological Seminary as well as the Clinical Director for Moravian’s MA in Clinical Counseling. Marcella holds a Masters in Social Work along with a certificate in Spiritual Direction.
She is featured on the Seedlings page as an emerging Wisdom teacher and postholder, where you may go to read more of her story.
These links below offer visual and written thoughts to work with for the Prayer of Gesture and Movement developed by Deborah Welsh, in partnership with Bill Redfield and Lois Barton. The links are provided by WisdomWayofKnowing.org.
Link to audio visual of Body Prayer
Link to explanation of the Body Prayer
The chant “Love Says”, created by Kristy Christian Petrow, a wisdom student in Marcella’s class at Moravian Seminary.
Link to suggested Cynthia teaching, great teaching, not great video quality
This is an example of a handout “A Pause for ..Courage..” created for the Courage Station of Wisdom by students in Marcella’s Wisdom group at Moravian Seminary, Kim Denyes and Janet Bickford. Please feel free to create your own of the other Stations of Wisdom if desired, or contact Marcella for more information.
These links are from Joanna Macy’s website, who worked extensively with the Elm Dance. Resources include instruction, music, translation and much more.
Link to Elm Dance music
Link to instructions for Elm Dance
Words and movements (video) for the Saint Francis Prayer as used with movements found in the visual, created by Kathryn Sparks, and danced by Sarah Carlson, dance instructor and sacred movement instructor for Marcella’s Wisdom Schools at Moravian Seminary.
Mass on the World Reading, A Liturgical Version by Cynthia Bourgeault. Adapted from the Offertory of Teilhard’s “Mass on the World” (The Heart of Matter, 119-121) as excerpted by Ursula King (in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Selected Readings, 80-81)
Link to Mass on the World music, Peter Kater’s “Essence”, suggested by Cynthia as an excellent companion to the reading.