Field Notes Part II: Cynthia’s First-Ever Online Wisdom School

Between August and November 2019, The Center for Action and Contemplation sponsored an online Introductory Wisdom School course based on Cynthia Bourgeault’s Intro Wisdom School at Kanuga, originally filmed by Robbin Brent. The CAC created a 14 week Wisdom eCourse out of the 5 day Wisdom School, using additional video of Cynthia and the CAC's own Phil Rogaki. A number of Teaching Assistants (TAs) served as small group postholders, who are all senior students of Cynthia’s. The course engaged hundreds of participants from 29 countries. Together, from their lives at home and at work in the world, they entered deeply into the culture of Wisdom School, and broke into new territory through the interactive online medium.

In Part I of Field Notes, TA Susan Cooper offers a series of six monographs of the eCourse through the eye of her heart. Part II is the second and last post in Field Notes, and includes contributions from both eCourse TAs and participants.


The TAs: Grace and Growth, Honored and Humbled

 

From TA Marcella Kraybill-Greggo:
CACAs one of the Teaching Assistants (TAs) who accompanied those on this Introductory eWisdom School journey, to meet with our group members was a deep honor. A new DO seemed to be struck as we began this virtual Wisdom journey, a DO that built on the genius of Robbin Brent who had the visionary foresight to video the Kanuga Introductory Wisdom School in 2014, and then with Phil Rogacki who, as part of his role at CAC, was asked to shepherd the course into an electronic Wisdom School format.

Weaving Thoughts
Weaving Thoughts, Weaving Thoughts, courtesy of artist Suruchi Jamkar

A deep grace came through our TA zoom meetings, touching base, gleaning learnings from this particular Wisdom School format, supporting each other, and listening for best ways to offer virtual support. TA’s also joined in supporting the formation of the course by contributing inner tasks and discussion questions. Finding new ways to hold our Wisdom post, our TA crew stretched and grew, as we listened and leaned into the Imaginal realm and Teilhard’s noosphere with our virtual Wisdom classmates and colleagues.

Below are some excerpts from my TA email exchanges:

I think I’m finally landing into a rhythm around this eCourse… it’s taken a bit… to feel into how the CAC eWisdom School works in its expanded version. This week we are entering the Day 2 teaching on the Benedictine Tradition… ora et labora. Four weeks into this Wisdom eCourse and we’re only now in Day 2 of the Wisdom School content! So fascinating to have this extended time with each section of a Wisdom School!!!

Transformation
Transformation at the River Cardoner by artist Dora Nikolova Bitteau, for the Chapel of St Ignatius, Seattle U

I’ve begun conceptualizing this as the Ignatian Exercises in daily life. While training as an Ignatian Exercise Director, I learned that there is a 30 day Ignatian Retreat that many go on; but for those who cannot do that type of intensive there is a 9 month ‘Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life,’ where participant and Ignatian director meet once a week for most of a year. This 14 week eCourse is starting to feel similar to a retreat in daily life. It has a different sensibility to it. A rhythm ‘in the midst of life’. It is sooo sooo rich in it’s own unique ways. It deepens differently, as we apply the next step right into our daily life, that very week.

So many attendees have shared about serious health concerns that they are navigating at the moment—and how three centered knowing and embodiment are helping them tremendously both prepare for their physical challenges and navigate them—by addressing each dimension of knowing (head, heart and movement) in their preparations. Wow! Some are having surgery, some are in the midst of chemotherapy, and some are being impacted by a death in their community… all of which they named as being deeply aided by three brained awareness/embodiment. So grateful!

I am so in awe and so humbled by this forum of a 14 week Wisdom School… allowing for journeying over time… with folks! Life happens… and it’s happening in the midst of this Wisdom school. Just so powerful and gratifying.

To be a part of this new rendition of Wisdom teaching and midwifing has been incredibly profound and humbling. As Wisdom finds its way in the world… we are all being invited to step up to the plate in new and exciting ways. Grateful… Grateful… Grateful!

                                                                       

Like Butterflies: Transition and Migration

butterfly
photo courtesy of Laura Copeland

 

From TA Susan Jean Latimer:
What a joy to witness and hold the post of TA as students connected with me and each other through this Wisdom teaching. It was an honor to receive the heartfelt offerings and watch the Wisdom arising out of a deep engagement with the material. So many found it a lifeline at a critical time of transition.

I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to be a part of this midwifery of a new generation of Wisdom students!

Nancee, a student in Susan’s group, shares this poem:

Migration

Past: Morro Bay Campground, 1974
At first glance, the eucalyptus grove
appears to be on fire,
we don’t know what we are seeing.
It is a fragile migration
a thousand and a thousand monarchs,
storm-wet, grounded,
completely covering the branches,
the bushes, the grassy clearing,
delicate wings orange and black
stained-glass design, drying
in the early morning sun.

Present: Wisdom School, 2019
Horizontal on a prayer rug,
face down, arms extended, palms open,
a full prostration—like the ancient desert saints,
like the Tibetan monks.
We are encouraged to do this,
to pay attention to our bodies,
to pay attention to self-emptying.
My breasts are crushed into the ground,
i feel my connection to Earth as mother.
i feel my face scrunched into the ground.
i am un-faced really,
without a face, i have no separate identity.

Then, in surrender,
i remember the butterflies,
and i am one of them,
fragile, grounded, surrendered,
waiting.

Future:
And the wisdom school participants
—thousands and thousands over time—
waiting like me, to take off
to return in mass,
lighter, wiser,
to where we began

 

Into Life

 

From TA Alan Krema:
My experience of being a teaching assistant for the Introductory Wisdom School eCourse was a sensation of depth and connection with others. The course provided an opportunity to engage in conversation with others about the Wisdom Work. We were engaged with how the practices introduced reveal more of our Self in daily living and relationships. How I work, play, pray, and love is all deepened by the practices of conscious work, three centered knowing, meditation, and scripture. For so many, the practices were new and fresh, providing a new path to explore.  

Here are some comments generously shared by students:

Susan L.:
It has been a rich and wonderful few months, and I am so grateful for this offering. I’m having a hard time putting into words how much this has meant to me. I have watched or listened to all the videos at least twice, and taken copious notes. I found that after the first time I listened, it was not uncommon for me to be confused, or even fearful that I wouldn’t be able to figure this out or take it in or live it. The second time, I would listen slowly, take notes, and pause frequently. Usually by the end, I would feel assurance, as something in each video broke open for me. I’ve been more consistent in my centering prayer practice through this course, and I think that practice will continue and grow for me

Susan J.:
WisdomAll gave me so much to pray with and about. I will keep asking “where are my feet?” I am grateful for each week and for each part of each week. Thank you all!

During one of the lessons, I wrote down that the Way of the Heart is a path that begins and wends back to the heart of Christ and in between is all of humanity! That speaks to me of sharing Christ’s love and living with compassion.

The opportunity to participate in the eWisdom School came just at the right time for me and I have found the experience affirming, challenging and transformational.

Louise DW:
I originally took the Living School course as a way to feel more grounded and as a source of spiritual nourishment. I found both. This course plumbed far greater depths than I ever anticipated and challenged me in ways unexpected. The Gospel of Thomas was a revelation. I don’t know that I would have discovered the gospel on my own, nor would I be equipped to read the gospel from the deeper place where Cynthia led us.

The huge takeaway for me was the discussion of the 3 Human Centers. I know that, for most of my life, I‘ve relied, almost exclusively, on my Intellectual center but, what a world of insight and experience I’ve been missing! I feel like I’ve been given a gift—the opportunity to grow into my new life in a more balanced way and to be awakened to new possibilities.

As for the Mass on the World, I think this is the answer to all the issues I’ve had in my own church where Communion is exclusionary, reserved for those who are “in right relationship with the Church.” To pair the bread and wine with labor and suffering is to invite all living things to claim their place at the table, no exceptions, no exclusions. Reading about the Mass in the linked article was a revelation. Witnessing the Mass was infinitely precious.

 

“Alluring Depths”

 

From TA Nan Delach:
My words are going to echo everyone else’s who had the privilege to work with the cohort of the Introductory Wisdom School on the CAC platform. I didn’t know what to expect, I simply knew with all of my being it was terribly important that those that came be met. Fourteen weeks of profoundly companioning each other as we worked our way through Cynthia’s beautiful teachings in our very real lives—is an experience of such deep richness that I have no words—only gratitude.

I give you a small piece of the joyfulness I was allowed to participate in: Patricia H.‘s poem in response to Gospel of Thomas, Logion 2 and her comment that:

“This course is rocking my world. Amazing. Here is my initial response to everything so far and particularly the opening logia of Thomas.”


Thomas Logion 2

Alluring depths
mysterious
billowing darkness,
unseen forms
and formless
deep to deep
sinking.

Seeking to find
keep seeking,
fear notwithstanding
keep sinking,
warm love beckoning
uncovering
troubling.

Where the end
the limitation
the boundary?
delineation of self
and other,
the mark of I
and thou?

The waters surround
unending
upending logic,
keep seeking
keep sinking
there is no end,
astonishing.

 

Beautiful expressions of gratitude for their experience came from many, sharing about being moved to tears during the videos, and beginning to know what it is to “see with the heart.”

Te Po
Te Po (Long or Eternal Night), artist Paul Gauguin

There were also the expressions of the depths to be plumbed; how challenging the spiritual journey can be to our sense of stability, to what we have been taught and what we have believed. Learning to stay the course on a path of the heart, to experience the wonder when we say yes to uncertainty, to glean through the practices how we belong—these were some of the freshly honed capacities or newly discovered skills members of the cohort shared. Presence, kenosis, meditation and a nondual heart were often expressed as fruits of the experience.

 

Emergent properties

 

From TA Heather Ruce:

Gaudreau
Virgin of the Sign, courtesy of artist Sr Rachel Gaudreau

This eCourse is an important iteration of the Wisdom School transmission. Teilhard de Chardin must have been proud as we gathered across the globe to make our lives the structure of this Wisdom School. We took the very regular elements of our every day and offered them as fodder for our transformation. Many who have never had a chance to participate in a week long in person Wisdom School and many who have, were beholden for the occasion to immediately amalgamate the teachings into our lives. There was relief and excitement, fear and resistance, particularity and emergent properties. I was changed, we were changed, as a result. The coalescing of the many revealed a beautiful whole whose vibrant quality is still diffusing into our cosmos.


Thanks to TAs Marcella Kraybill-Geggo; Susan Jean Latimer; Alan Krema; Nan Delach; Heather Ruce; and a special thanks to the participants from their small groups who generously agreed to share their writing.

Registration is open for the second Introductory Wisdom School ~ eCourse coming this spring! You may use this link to learn more about the March 4 ~ June 9, 2020 ONLINE Introductory Wisdom School through the Center for Action and Contemplation.

For more about this eWisdom School click here for Field Notes Part I by Susan Cooper posted in Breaking Ground on January 12. Curious about Marcella Kraybill-Greggo and the TAs who wrote this post? Check out their Seedlings on here on Northeast Wisdom ~ Marcella, Alan Krema, Heather Ruce and Susan Cooper. More Seedlings to come!

These Wisdom postholders who served as TAs in the eCourse have also contributed to other posts on the Northeast Wisdom Home Page and Breaking Ground, for instance, for creative contributions from Susan Latimer, Heather Ruce, Nan DeLach and Phil Rogaki see the Home Page post A Benedictine Wisdom Lived, here. Heather also most recently contributed to, on the Home Page Blog, With the Desert Mothers and Fathers: A Wisdom School Sung in Three Voices , and Gathering the Graces: Concurrent Wisdom Circles, in Breaking Ground. Marcella is a frequent voice on the website, and serves on the Northeast Wisdom Council. Her most recent posts also include Gathering the Graces (above) and An Inner and Outer Reunion on the Soil of Africa in Breaking Ground and An Extraordinary Dialogue: Mr. Gurdjieff Meet Mr. Teilhard! Claymont Wisdom School and Law of Three as Spiritual Practice on the Home Page Blog.

We encourage you to look for more of their posts on the Home Page Blog (see Blog Archives), and on the Breaking Ground page of Growing! here at the Northeast Wisdom! Look for upcoming Seedlings from Susan Jean Latimer and Nan Delach as well.

Comments (2)

  1. I have deeply immersed my life into the spiritual realm of the mystic and everyday I am reading, lest I g and writing. The material in the online wisdom school was dense, but life changing. I would however really appreciate an opportunity to be able to go through the videos again. Can you tell me if these are available anywhere?

  2. I am registered for the upcoming online wisdom school into. Reading the posts and impressions of the teaching assistants has inspired and enlightened me and I am excited about starting the course in March.

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