Rebecca Parker has an intensity that is reflected through the lens of love in everything that she does. After attending her first Wisdom School, as she relates in this episode of Seedlings, she felt as if she had "touched a life-giving chord in Christianity that allowed my intellect and my longing to occupy the same space." Her fiery devotion in community and in her teaching is an expression of her discovery that Wisdom "is a love affair and the work is to clear my heart enough to hear the Beloved calling and to live from this experience in the world." What follows are her own words about her journey on the path of Wisdom.
In the fall of 2003 I attended an academic gathering with thousands of people in attendance, and many more thousands of books. As I was browsing through the books a copy of The Wisdom Way of Knowing leapt off the table, into my hands, and demanded my attention. I knew when I picked it up it was a game changer. Everything in me vibrated. I read it, and did not understand it; but I knew it was critical and I had a long journey ahead of me.
I heard Cynthia speak for the first time in 2011. A group of spiritual foundation organizations in my hometown of Atlanta invited her to speak at a Magdalene Day celebration. By this time, I was so committed to the work that I had read and been teaching both The Wisdom Way of Knowing and The Wisdom Jesus, knowing that I did not know enough to be teaching. Hearing Cynthia talk and experiencing the energy of Wisdom struck my heart. I knew that my next step was attending a Wisdom School.
It took eighteen months to get into a Wisdom School; and in 2012 I was on my way to Valle Crucis in the mountains of North Carolina. What drew me to this work? A deep knowing that I had stumbled upon a “plumb line,” a guide for integrity and way of discerning how to be a responsible human in the world. Something in me felt like I had touched a life-giving chord in Christianity that would allow my intellect and my longing to occupy the same space.
Currently I am the director of Mary & Martha’s Place, a non-profit teaching and resource center. In the summer of 2014 I offered a Wisdom 101 course and the group has continued to grow and deepen. The teaching format that has evolved uses Cynthia’s teachings via CDs, poetry and articles to teach the core Wisdom principles that Cynthia articulates.
A second group has formed whose focus is contemplative spirituality through the Wisdom lens, with a looser format and room for contrarians! I work to convey the core building blocks, in the context of our everyday lives, using readings, poetry and practices.
The newest group is women in their late twenties who are intellectually astute, well-read spiritual seekers–so what is the delivery mode for them? Short pieces they can listen to on their phone while on the way to a meeting is what they ask for! I absorb a great deal from them and am learning to travel much lighter while not throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
What I am wrestling with is the delivery system for Wisdom work. I find that people are dissatisfied with their spiritual options and are looking for something to sink into that will address their deep longing. I find that different generations have different pre-conditions for the journey. It feels like Goldilocks and the Three Bears–not too New Age-y, not too Christian, but just enough substance to satisfy. And that recipe changes with the age group. Cooking up just the right porridge for a retiring sixty-something just turned grandmother, and a late twenty-something with openness to everything, and a late seventy-something who reads whatever you tell them to read is a challenge. They have different motivations, prejudices, curiosities and learning styles.
I am beginning to feel as if there is no one thing that “works” as there are so many variables. Each group is different because of who comes. I look to the core concepts, such as attention, kenosis and centering prayer. I have to work on myself mostly–my capacity for transparency and vulnerability–as I share my journey while holding the post of leader and guide. When I can do this, the group trusts the process more and they give of themselves. It seems this is the ground where the transformation of consciousness begins to happen–where they come to understand themselves as incarnate Love.
My understanding of the Wisdom way is shifting–I didn’t realize it, but I had thought of this work as “progress” and as moving up through levels of consciousness. It is dawning on me that it is a love affair and the work is to clear my heart enough to hear the Beloved calling and to live from this experience in the world. As Cynthia says, “…not a transformation that occurs on the cognitive line, but in the cave of the heart, intuitively grasped as a whole new system of perceptivity.” So, readings, practices, and experiences that deepen this relationship are what I am seeking.
In my life there is a shimmering, like a pool of light that touches me at my center, causes me to smile and glow/vibrate from within. It feels like Jesus appearing in the midst of the disciples in the resurrection appearances. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus says. Somehow that is a touchstone and a resonance for me.
To lean into the truth and goodness that we are embodied Love, and that the sufferings of this dense plane have the potential for a quickening and an aliveness, gives me a sense of purpose and ground.
Simply slowing down to let the intelligence of the created order teach and soothe me is a practice I can embrace and access at any time. I seem to want to make things more complex than they are, so whatever helps me smile, laugh at myself and drop my shoulders seems like a good resource!
More About Rebecca Parker
Rebecca Parker (Atlanta) is the Executive Director of Mary & Martha’s Place in Atlanta, GA, a center for women’s spiritual formation and transformation. Rebecca first read Cynthia Bourgeault in 2003 and has studied with her since 2011. She helps facilitate Wisdom Schools in the southeast, and leads two Wisdom Way groups in Atlanta. She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Her husband Buddy can be sighted at Cynthia’s Wisdom Schools and the Maine Ingathering.
In Advent 2018, Rebecca collaborated with Jeanine Siler-Jones and Laura Copeland to create Beyond the Basics, Our Hearts in Advent: A Southeast Arising Wisdom School, in Sewanee Tennessee. You may read about the retreat and their creative process together in Breaking Ground by clicking on the link above.