FAQs About the Rock Point Intentional Community and Various Parts of the Wisdom Network
By the Rev. Jackie Arbuckle
We have been asked many times to describe The Rock Point Intentional Community (RPIC), Wisdom, a Wisdom School, and Wisdom Practice Circles. We offer these brief explanations to those of you who may be wondering. Hopefully, they will provide you with some answers and lead you to question further.
Last year a small group of RPIC members started to look at the question of how we might use Rock Point as a home base for retreats that would help people deepen their spiritual practices. In the process, we discovered that the Northeast Wisdom Network (https://northeastwisdom.org/), founded by Cynthia Bourgeault, and their approach and teachings resonated with us. In a brief – very brief – start, let us try to respond to the most frequent questions that have come our way:
- What is the Rock Point Intentional Community?
- What, exactly, is Wisdom?
- What is a Wisdom School? Circle?
What is the Rock Point Intentional Community?
RPIC is a three-year-old part of Rock Point that was formed to help the Rock Point Board realize its vision: “To be a welcoming sanctuary of spirituality, creativity, community, education, training, and environmental stewardship.” RPIC serves to funnel interests and ideas for Rock Point into useful expression. As ideas develop, the phrases, “let’s try,” and “for now,” are often used. It is a dispersed community, based at Rock Point but not living there; open to all; following a simple rule to pray daily for Rock Point, its vision, and RPIC. It has membership categories, but not levels or requirements. Our models (loosely) have been the Northumbria (https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/) and Iona (https://iona.org.uk/). Communities, both in the UK. Within the next two months the Rock Point website (http://rockpointvt.org), will have more information about RPIC.
Rock Point Intentional Community is a three-year-old part of Rock Point that was formed to help the Board realize its vision.
What Is Wisdom?
(Notice that we didn’t include the word “exactly” from the original question.) As stated by Cynthia Bourgeault, “First, let’s talk about what Wisdom is not. It is not a curriculum, a philosophy, a metaphysical system, or a set of esoteric ideas. An underground stream running through all the great spiritual traditions, it is not exclusively identified with any of them, and it can wear the garb of all of them. Wisdom fundamentally describes a higher level of human consciousness characterized by a supple and alert awareness, compassionate intelligence, substantial reduction in the internal dialog, and the capacity to engage reality directly, without the superimposition of mental constructs and categories. It is the original Integral Knowing. Wisdom is not about knowing more, but about knowing deeper, with more of you participating. It is fundamentally accessed through spiritual practice.”
Wisdom is an approach to life, a way of looking at the world.
From the Rock Point Wisdom Steering Team, Wisdom, as we use it, is an approach to life, a way of looking at the world. In all religious or spiritual traditions, it is the mystic inner core (without the trappings associated with institutionalized religion). Wisdom traditions have something to say about four important matters:
- The nature of ultimate reality
- The possibilities of human knowing of this ultimate reality
- The nature of personhood
- The goal of human existence
The Wisdom Tradition provides a conceptual framework for the development of the inner self, living a spiritual life, and the realization of enlightenment or of union with God.
What Is a Wisdom School? And Why?
Wisdom schools introduce us to a shared body of practices and inspired teachings Tapping into both ancient and emerging knowledge, Wisdom Schools teach contemplative prayer, chant, conscious work, lectio divina (sacred reading) and embodied prayer and provide a community of practice to support the spiritual growth of participants.
Wisdom Schools are intended to support an expanded level of consciousness and being, characterized by both presence and compassion. The Wisdom School experience speaks to our yearning for ways to access that deeper source of knowing.
The Rock Point Wisdom School (RPWS) exists to foster a transformation of consciousness and of society by supporting those involved in this critical, fundamental undertaking. We seek to create a network for all who wish to be more deliberative about their own spiritual transformation and we seek to be a resource to them as they engage others in this work.
We draw on the two great spiritual traditions which have fed Rock Point from its beginning. We look to the Benedictine spiritual tradition, which centers us in a rhythm of work and prayer and a spirit of hospitality to all. We look to Celtic spiritual tradition for inspiration to reintegrate the realms of spirit and creation within our unique and collective souls.
Cynthia Bourgeault says, “Wisdom Schools are a format for integral learning that’s based in some of the deepest roots for transformation and change in the Christian tradition. Wisdom schools are about awakening the yearning for a different kind of presence in the world and then developing the skills and the knowledge base to apply that, to transform your own life and the life of people around you.”
Why? The outer news these days is overwhelming and the pace of our culture so frenetic that it is difficult to remain present to our spiritual hearts and create in ourselves a container for Wisdom. Wisdom Schools provide ways to cultivate a deeper connection to the Holy and a community of support and encouragement as we do so. Wisdom schools have existed for many thousands of years but historically have grown in times of large social transitions such as one we are presently experiencing, seeking the one thing
necessary: to be rooted in love in the midst of great anxiety and fear.
What Is a Wisdom Circle?
OK, we were getting confused ourselves – and so we have come up with this explanation that we are “trying on for now…” We have Wisdom Groups, and Wisdom Circles, and Wisdom Schools.
Beyond individual practice, Wisdom Groups are small numbers of individuals who are regularly meeting for Wisdom practices (maybe contemplative prayer or meditation, chanting, lectio divina, or all of these plus some others). They might meet weekly at someone’s home, or some other local spot, or more/less often, and might have anywhere from two to six or so participants. We are just beginning to hear of some of these and would welcome knowing about others and whether new people can join them.
Wisdom Circles are perhaps a dozen to thirty people who are meeting monthly at Rock Point.
Wisdom Circles are slightly larger groups (perhaps a dozen to thirty people) who are meeting monthly at Rock Point. Besides being practice groups themselves they can also serve as a resource or “check-in” for the smaller groups and/or individuals who want to occasionally or regularly join them.
Individual practice, groups, circles, etc., grow out of and lead to The Wisdom Schools. These are the retreats at Rock Point (like the one being offered in March 2018)!