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How Do We Stand? Stabilitas and Fidelity, Here, Now, and Glastonbury Abbey

How do we stand in ourselves in these times? What do we draw from? What do we have to give? What is our responsibility as humans, and to what? Twenty-five gathered recently at Glastonbury Abbey, where, as Cynthia says, "in a weekend on the Benedictine virtue of stabilitas we wove together Benedict and Teilhard, considering the meaning of this ancient value in our own world plunged onto instability on all fronts." We traced the presence, and absence, of the ancient and practiced stabiltas loci (stability of place) and stabilitas cordis (stability of heart) of the Benedictine tradition through our individual lives and lived experience to our common cultural experience in these chaotic and fragmented times. Drawing connections between stabiltas and Teilhard de Chardin's fidelity––which he defines as the force within that communicates with the life that faith consecrates–– a sense of aliveness came into the room. Through this deep dive, together with Teilhard's observation of evolutionary complexification, emerging consciousness and convergence, moving towards the Omega point, I felt the growing awareness of an already embedded body of experience rising to meet my deepest questions these days. A felt sense of the potent healing and the inevitable alchemy generated through a

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The Offering of Emptiness

As members of the Wisdom community and the Glastonbury Abbey community prepare to meet with Cynthia Bourgeault for a weekend retreat entitled, "Stabilitas: That Forgotten Virtue," Marcelle Martin shares about prayer and silent retreat. Cynthia and Marcelle will join forces with Paulette Meier for a Quaker meets Wisdom retreat at Pendle Hill in 2019. Marcelle writes: Perhaps the easiest prayer is the prayer of gratitude. It is often an undercurrent of my life, rising up at moments throughout my daily activities. In the evening, when I take time to review my day, I notice that blessings come as frequently as every breath I take, and I give thanks. It is nearly as easy to pray for what I want. In childhood I began the habit of silently, inwardly, expressing my needs and desires to God, including my desire for the well-being of my family members. Later in life, as I grew in faith, I began to accompany these kinds of prayers with an acknowledgment that the divine plan is beyond my ability to completely understand and might not include the particular thing or event I desired. “If it be your will” has become an amendment to the prayer of asking. Gradually it

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Change is Afoot

Change is always happening, but sometimes its unfurling patterns become particularly noticed. That would seem to be true of this moment. There are two changes of which I am a part that I would like to share. The first change has to do with the work of the Northeast Wisdom Board of Directors. While we are not abdicating our responsibilities as a board, in response to Cynthia’s desires, we have evolved into a Wisdom Council with additional charges and callings. Here is how I expressed it to those assembled at the Ingathering in Stonington in early June: As the sponsoring organization of this mostly Annual Ingathering, we welcome you. While we’ve committed ourselves to utilizing the time to meet together as a Board, we have thoroughly enjoyed our time with and among you. Just a word of who and what we are. Along with Cynthia, we are six—Guthrie, Laura, Marcella, Mary Ellen, Matthew, and myself. Formed originally as a board of directors, we now function more as a Wisdom Council around Cynthia. The term “think tank” may not be just right, but it also may not be too far afield. Being Northeast Wisdom, we are both particular and very local.

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Whur Are We Going?

Tucked away in the charming lobster fishing town of Stonington, Maine, a group of about 100 students gathered this past week for this year’s Wisdom Ingathering, exploring together with Cynthia Gurdjieff’s five Obligolnian Strivings in the mornings, and the 8 conversation-starter points that Cynthia recently published in a blog (“Whur We Come From”) on the key components of what comprises our Wisdom “lineage” during the afternoon sessions. Sprinkled throughout our time together was the usual rhythm of teaching, conscious work, and prayer that marks all of our Wisdom work… but this particular gathering carried a unique energetic signature that felt decidedly different. As all mothers can attest to, the signs of a growth spurt are usually evident in the preceding days in an angsty, unusually sensitive child. Suddenly they’re waking up at night, tossing from the discomfort of physical change that is often achy… but lack the self-awareness to be able to name what it is that they’re sensing. I’ve been living this recently with my five-year-old son Rowan. For three nights in a row he woke up, stumbling into my room, restless and uncomfortable… half asleep and unable to communicate clearly except for a moaning jumble of half-words of

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Christophany and the Holy Trinity

An earlier version of this article first appeared at Contemplative Journal Happy Feast of the Holy Trinity, Wisdom Community! Today is the day the Christian calendar dedicates to the Dance of Life, God as Lover, Beloved, and Love Overflowing—the divine dynamism unfolding creation as the disclosure of the Heart of God. As we contemplate this mystery, I’d like to share with you some thoughts inspired by a teacher our Wisdom lineage claims: the late Raimon Panikkar, easily one of the most significant Christian thinkers of the past century. Born in 1918 to a Spanish, Roman Catholic mother and an Indian, Hindu father, interreligious dialogue was in Panikkar's DNA. In 1946 he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, and in 1954 made his way to India to explore more deeply his Hindu roots. Years later, he would joke “I left Europe as a Christian; in India, I discovered I was a Hindu; and I returned as a Buddhist—without ever having ceased to be a Christian.” That gives you a sense of his expansive spirit. Panikkar coined for us the word “christophany.” Like “theophany”—a manifestation of God (theos)—christophany literally means “a manifestation of Christ.” Panikkar uplifted christophany as an alternative to

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Come Holy Spirit! The Pentecostal Fire

Dear Wisdom Community, I was asked by our own dear Laura Ruth if I’d share my Pentecost sermon from St. Gregory’s in Woodstock with our community here. Of course! I’m copying the text below; you can also listen to an audio recording here, if you’d prefer that. And here are the Scripture readings for the day. If you’d like to explore a bit more about the roots of Pentecost in Judaism, as well as my own reflection on this particular feast day’s relationship to our contemporary interspiritual movement, check out my article Pentecostal Fire, which first appeared over at Contemplative Journal. Come Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire, Matthew I speak to you in the Name of the Holy Spirit, the holy Breath of God who breathes in all things, giving life, shaping justice, and calling us all into the fullness of love. Amen. Happy Pentecost, Church! Happy birthday, Church. Happy Feast of the Holy Spirit. Today is the day when the disciples of Jesus—that’s us—when the disciples of Jesus, scared and waiting and in prayer, keeping vigil in the Upper Room, bereaved of their Jesus, today is the day when they are charged with the Holy Spirit, set

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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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