Preparing for the extraordinary is one of the [...] essential practices of collective wisdom. It requires clear intention and mindful preparation for achieving a greater felt sense of connection with others and spiritual forces.
Illustrating this idea with a story may be useful. The great sage, Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi, told me once of an experience he had with his friend and colleague, Howard Thurman [...] a distinguished African American philosopher, theologian and mentor to Martin Luther King.
On this occasion, Reb Zalman had invited Thurman to Manitoba, Canada where Reb Zalman was living. Together, they went to the local Christian abbey where Thurman met with the novice master. Thurman asked him to tell him the most common complaint he heard from his students. The novice master said it was that they had to awaken for 3 a.m. prayers, requiring them to get out of bed and enter the cold chapel. “Why do this,” they said when they already experienced great satisfaction with the 9 a.m. service?
In response, the novice master forbade them from coming to the 3 a.m. services. Two weeks later, they complained that they no longer felt the joy and sense of mystery that they had felt previously during the 9 a.m. gathering. The students were invited back to the 3 a.m. services with a new respect for how the preparation that occurs in the pre-dawn of attentiveness can influence what happens during the light of day. Thurman, Reb Zalman recalled with a laugh, was delighted with this tale.
Preparing for the extraordinary is that effort we make, the rituals we create, the inner psychological work we do, that sharpens our intention and paves the way for something wonderful to happen. Sometimes it is in rigorous conceptual preparation, other times in silent prayer. Sometimes it is in learning to tolerate discomfort, other times in preparing oneself for bold action.
However it is accomplished, it is rarely due to an individual alone, but to a larger social field in which individuals collaborate together, perform their role, contribute their unique talents, and feel seen and heard by others. A central principle of collective wisdom is that we each participate in creating the experience of the group and that the group has distinctive qualities that impact the individual. We are co-creators of the group experience, composers of the group field and part of the composition.
by Alan Briskin, co-author The Power of Collective Wisdom.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion of needing preparation for the extraordinary to be received in our life? Can you share a personal story of a time when you realized how you were co-creating the group experience while also being impacted by it? What helps you remain aware that you are both a composer of the group field and part of the composition?
OH How I love this share: the idea of early morning pre-dawn preparedness to enter into the deeply sacred and spiritual. Yes! It reminds me of the need to slow down into the ebb so we can appreciate more fully the flow. I relate so much to this after having moved through a very busy year and now finally having some time to deeply reflect especially on a healing retreat I attended for female survivors of childhood sexual trauma. What was most extraordinary was the ordinary in so much of the information shared: simple meditation, breathing yoga, as well as information on how trauma affects our brain thought process and then our actions/reactions, and yet the impact was incredibly healing. I think because of that preparedness for receiving. I arrived 2 days prior to the retreat so I could steady myself to be ready to receive the learning, healing and wisdom. I also gifted myself with a full day of rest and reflection before I flew back to the intensity of Washington DC. Allowing that time before and after as well as taking a few short naps made all the difference in how my body, mind, heart and spirit absorbed all the healing shared. Even though the pace of the healing retreat was rather full and brisk the time before and after deepened the impact. The group experience was also impacted: to be the example of resting, doing self-care, being gentle with self, allowing the time to absorb impacted the other women present too. And I was even more loving and compassionate because of my own preparation. <3 I am aware how fortunate I am that I could take that extra time. This month of November was one of pulling inward and allowing more time to process. It has made all the difference. And it impacted how I relate and interact with others: I am more conscious than ever of slowing it all down: of taking more time to be fully present so we can create time. Thank you for the perfect post Thanksgiving Share! <3 HUG[Hide Full Comment]
I've also had the experience of getting up very early to meditate with a group for short periods of time (weeks). At some level, on any given day, "I" doesn't want to do this, and it's this setting aside of "I" that seems to prepare the field for the extraordinary to happen.
As for needing preparation, you never know. It may help and it may not. The challenge is knowing what is the preparation for the extraordinary to be received. I have found that the main preparation is the doing. I recall being in a group experience in which I was very involved and I was cocreating the experience while simultaneously being impacted by it. My realizing this was minimal as it was happening and became clear afterwards. What helps me remain aware that I am both a composer of the group field and part of the composition is knowing that all that is is inseparably interconnected and correlated. How could being both composer and part of the composition be otherwise?
As I was growing up, my father taught me three inter -connected steps for learning something deeper and extraordinary. They are shravana, manana and nidhityasana. These are Sanskrit words meaning midful attentive listening with open mind and open heart, asking questions, inquring about what we learn from listening, and reflecting deeply with a meditative quiet and clear mind and practicing what we learn.. This three- steps- process is like making preparation for the extraordinary to be received in life. There are times when I follow these three steps alone and there are times when I practice these three steps in a group. I feel different energy when I follow these three steps in a group. In Sanskrit we use the word satsanga meaning being in the company of the Reality- the Truth with genuine seekers.
For several years we have been having satsanga meetings. In these meetings we follow the three -steps process and share our personal experience with others in the group. Each of us has a positive impact on others in the group and the attentive and compassionate presence of the members of the group has a benevolent impact on the individuals in the group. Our experience makes us relaize how we are both a composer of the group field and part of the composition.
I have been seeing three generations growing with different rhythms of life. The sad part of the fast moving third generation is lack of good quality time for oneself and for others, more and more disconnect and lack of time to be quiet and to have satsaga meetings. A long time ago Buddha taught us to remain awake, know the path and be in the company of the walkers on the path . We need to listen to such enlightened masters and learn to walk on the right path.
May we remain awke to live a serving and fulfilling life!
Jagdish P Dave