Stonington 2017 Part II: Celebrating Rhythm and Community
In Mornings with Teilhard, the first collection of reflections from the June 2017 Wisdom Ingathering in Stonington, a number of people shared their experiences of Cynthia’s morning teachings. Ultimately these teachings expressed how the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin calls for a devotion to the task of developing human consciousness, in both the deeply personal and specific work of individuals and in the sense of participating as a part of the whole in an evolutionary and spiritual process almost unimaginable in scope.
Constructal consciousness. Cynthia directly addressed the growing malaise of our times, and named that many of us are feeling increasingly frantic and fractured. And she offered peace and blessing through an awareness and appreciation of scale. Our cosmic unity is not dependent on homogeny; our belonging is not dependent on acceptance; our peace is not dependent on survival. The flow must fracture in order to maximize its reach, but it is still flow, still connected, still divine. The trickle at the end of the smallest stream is the water at the depth of the ocean is the airborne particles that form on our windshield. Our consciousness does not expand because the external world meets our expectations! The current condition of the world is an insistent invitation to remember who we are and who we are not. (Karla O)
“The flow must fracture.. but it is still flow, still connected, still divine.” Qualities of the evolutionary process were explored, first in the intellectual center, and then in the moving center, which could be seen as a basis for the forming of a “new body” for arising consciousness. The structure of the Ingathering itself reflected these themes, offering a ready opportunity for spiritual inquiry in the moment. The practical work task, reflected upon in Part I, encouraged the awareness of our own physical rhythms in time and space within the “circles within circles of God’s work” in creation. One of those widening circles, starkly evident in Stonington, was the environment itself.
For me it was personally the opportunity to soak in the power of that land, this time it came in through my feet and my heart, rather than just my eyes. Wanting to be back there to be present to the energy that is there, with like-minded folks. It has a hold on me, not an addictive quality of something I can’t let go of, but a holding. (Rebecca P)
This year, an unusually wet and cool spring was giving way to the warmth and shimmer of summer as the week progressed. As a circle in itself, the Ingathering that convened for eight brief days immediately began to take shape as an organism in its own right. Its particular nature began to reveal itself.
The group was smaller than last year, by and large “newer” in their Wisdom experience, and much more interior than last year. Whereas last year, the attraction of lobster rolls, 44 North Coffee, kayaking, exploring, and dining out seemed to catch the major group attention, this year people preferred to work together to create beautiful meals and beautiful community in their own rental housing communities. It was lovely to watch. We also saw many folks stepping up to the plate to offer profound, humble work to keep the community going on core jobs that needed doing. My deepest gratitude in particular to Nick and Molly Weiland, who simply “stood to their feet” and helped wherever help was needed. A true Wisdom initiation!” (Cynthia B)
The themes that were to weave through the week were introduced at the first evening meeting, where a notable resurrection was taking place. What was established in the Town Hall at last year’s Ingathering was being picked up and woven loosely into a fresh creation involving new faces and new works. In one of the closing thoughts of the week, shared by Teilhard, Gurdjieff, and Cynthia’s beloved Rafe, the truth was articulated that nothing is lost in the work of revealing and growing consciousness and capacity. This reality was palpable; already the experience of the previous year had seeded the preparations and taken root, jumpstarting the mechanics of the gathering and augmenting community spirit.
I found this experience richer than the last…feeling a bit lower key…more relaxed and spacious. And I was at least somewhat familiar with more of the folks as many had been there last year. And, for whatever reason, it felt a little less intense and more accessible. (Barbara R)
Immediately the welcome was felt. Wendy Johnson steered the hospitality crew into action, and Robbin’s recording equipment was poised and ready. As head chef and musical maestro Darlene Franz had begun the broth preparations for the meal the following day and her harmonium was in place for evening chant and prayer. The musicians were settling in, Cynthia had directed the building of St Brendan’s ship on the stage with a handful of volunteers, and a neighbor had provided gorgeous bouquets of purple lupines and white bleeding hearts. Numerous friends, old and new, had popped in to lend a hand after settling in to their temporary dwellings. With a little loving direction, the community was self-organizing.
Stonington this year was different in some ways and yet familiar. That said, I particularly appreciated the smaller size of the group. It seemed to allow for more intimate connections. (Leslie S)
With the rising sun the week began in earnest with chant and silent prayer. Throughout the day a stream of people flowed in and out of the Town Hall on foot, morning to night. The return for morning teaching was followed by the flow branching out for practical work. The baking crew walked down to the northeast end of the harbor, the Taize singers and players up the hill to Saint Mary Star of the Sea Church, the gardeners to the Opera House, Cynthia’s or Wendy’s, and the midday meal makers, movers and shakers across to Odd Fellow’s Hall. Each crew finding a harmonious rhythm together in their workspace, and with the tools at hand embarking upon their respective creations.
Transitions were remarkably smooth as the work crews dove into gardening, baking, preparing music and the midday meal; particularly so considering that the majority of participants on many crews were newcomers to the Ingathering and the Wisdom tradition of practical work. The beehive hum of work groups finding their rhythm was rising throughout Stonington.
I didn’t see people resisting, rather there was a kind of joy. One morning I passed the gardeners working at the Opera House and the energy emitting from the hillside brought me to tears. (Rebecca P)
The rhythm of the day supported the integration of the teaching which supported the heart in the stuff of daily life. Expansion and contraction, bringing the inner life and outer life into a relationship of reciprocal nourishment and exchange is part of the beauty of Wisdom Schools. The hum continued into the midday meal where the head chef of the day led the blessing and hot bowls of soup and bread took the chill off early in the week. A larger number of people served up together this year, contributing to the sense of community.
The family ingathering. How welcoming the community and how it held integrity, fiber and fabric that expanded and included people whether they had been there before or not. I stayed curious. Meal times became an opportunity to learn more about people. People felt they were at home; delighted and grateful, and in tears by the time they left. (Rebecca P)
Unscheduled time followed the midday meal, the invitation being to use whatever means suitable to ground and restore in the work of the day. Explorations of the island took place, as well as walks, rests, visits and browsing. Centering Prayer was offered each day at 2:00; Wendy Johnson opening the first session with her gentle nature and years of experience, teaching newcomers and welcoming questions before the sit. Afternoon prayer practice continued as an option through the week with Steven Bonsey holding the post.
My overall experience of the week was a combination of playful exploration holding serious intent about developing in Spirit; and of organic community development. (Allen B)
Allen Bourque brought the spirit of discovery into the body each afternoon for those who wanted to be in community in contemplative movement. His sessions drew from the morning presentations, making connections and offering the opportunity to embody what Teilhard saw as essential qualities of consciousness: interiority, freedom and spontaneity.
Allen led a daily T’ai Chi session in which he trained us to ground ourselves in hips over ankles, knees bent. This position is actually a stronger position than locked knees – it allows for the space between the bones to be active, versus easily compressed when we rely only on the bones. It is foreign, this posture, but most definitely awake. I find myself bending my knees and sitting back into my body throughout the day now, awakening those tiny spaces that hold me together. (Karla O)
Late afternoons drew the whole gathering together in the Town Hall once again. Monday’s afternoon session was a preview of the work to come in Cynthia’s talk entitled St Brendan the Navigator: Introducing our Local Celtic Hero. The stage was set for the journey theme, a primary thread running through the Ingathering. This talk served as a community offering to the public at large. Here was another lovely aspect of the flexibility of the organism of the group; expanding at times to include locals and visitors, returning to a core community, concentrating further into more specialized teams, breathing as a cell membrane or archetypal creative process. Always welcoming.
Tuesday afternoon Geoffrey Warner presented “Healthy Ergonomics for Daily Living”. As the Owl Furniture creator, Geoff opened his studio to whoever wanted to build their own owl stool on Wednesday’s excursion day. The midweek day of outings Wednesday was another exercise in self-organizing. David Greenwald led a contemplative walk in nature session while others took off further into the landscape to explore Acadia National Park and a variety of local nature trails. Another stream of folks went out to sea with ferry rides and the annual excursion to Eagle Island. The arts are flourishing on the Island, as nature and lobstering are. Some chose to stay close to home, enjoy the silence and simply allow the activities of the week thus far to be at play with unbound time doing nothing in particular. Many caught up with old friends or initiated new relationships. This day marked a turn in the week, potential for unexpected grace.
…riding our bicycles on Mount Desert Wednesday… Peter’s sculpture’s on Deer Isle and visiting a place where these young people are running a hostel- all part of a transformative willingness to put yourself out there all around us – yes – with a kind of effortlessness that was going on through the week. Part of my brain: focus, on what are we learning, yet this was welcoming, gracious and soft. (Rebecca P)
People filtered back into town sharing pieces of the day: a great conversation around the table on Eagle Island, a spontaneous meeting on a walk leading to a shared meal, a cherished nap, a sit on the massive creature-like rocks at sunset on Sand Beach. The evening ended with a music house party a short distance from town.
People came who didn’t know one another, and the core group in the house were people who loved to do hospitality. A number of musicians played very organically, never heavy handed, maybe 15 people coming in and out. Very hospitable and lovely. (Rebecca P)
This day of refreshment followed upon the heels of celebration. The first half of the week’s work reached a crescendo in the Taize Jam. The little church up on the hill, Saint Mary Star of the Sea, is a short walk from the Town Hall, where musicians and singers had been preparing for this evening with rigorous devotion. A moving evening, beyond words for some, bringing others to tears, this music fed the soul, as did the story of gentle Brother Roger and his ultimate love in the midst of pain and violence. Guitars, piano, oboe, recorder, all manner of instruments, and heartfelt voices rose from every corner of the church, infusing the silence that deepened as the sound of each chant subsided.
I LOVED the Taize music and participating in the Taize Choir, and loved that we dove into this at the beginning of the week. These chants…oh my…they were what my body/soul/spirit needed. All that vibration, the words, the melodies, the incredible beauty and spirit within, the communal nature of it. This, I found, helped build community in lovely ways. There was great delight and palpable love as Cynthia taught us more about Brother Roger and the Taize community and chants. All of it cracked something within that has continued to open in deeply healing ways. (Barbara R)
The 2017 Wisdom Ingathering had set its roots, broken ground and was unfurling fresh new leaves. A creation in process, the contribution of each and every person present was vital to the unfolding taking place. The group crossed the midpoint and reconvened Thursday morning, refreshed and ready for the Voyage of St Brendan. A newcomer to Stonington, Heather Vesey put it beautifully when she said:
The emphasis on conscious work, and community pulling-together, living with a bunch of new friends, shared meals, the wonderful, fun, creative kids…the sense of community and common purpose. The “Taize jam”, and the evening of chanting…having the opportunity to express my soul through my recorder-playing was such a gift to me. And a wonderful sense of: “Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s.” (Heather V)
“Whether I live or die, I am the Lord’s” was referenced in the teaching to the final days of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and that spirit was echoed in the images arising out of the story of St. Brendan the Navigator. In the introduction to her play, Cynthia says, “The Land Promised to the Saints is not merely a geographical place but an allegory for spiritual transformation, and the Navigatio is at heart an exploration not just of lands and places, but of the attempt to live, move, and respond to the world out of a transfigured center.” In a sense, the Ingathering itself was a microcosm of this attempt of the Navigatio. Now on the cusp of the midpoint, the opportunity to dive in and set sail with Saint Brendan would begin in earnest.
Part III of Stonington 2017 will explore the second half of the week with its focus on St Brendan, the Conscious Circle of Humanity, a Kirtan evening of chant and dance and the closing meal and Eucharist. Soon to come on Breaking Ground!