What is the wisdom tradition?

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Each year, CANA holds a Wisdom Retreat by the coast in Dorset, called “Silence by the Sea – Exploring the Wisdom Tradition.” (Click here for details.) Janet Lake, one of the retreat leaders, gives her understanding of the Wisdom Tradition:

I am often asked “what is the wisdom tradition?” and I will try and explain as someone who aims to follow its leading.

“The wisdom way of knowing is not about knowing more with our minds but about knowing with more of ourselves” (Bourgeault), embracing the whole of us, body, emotions, mind and spirit. And this is to increase our capacity for spiritual perception from the mind of the awakened heart. (i)

It is not about acquiring anything ‘out there’ but removing the obstacles that block our access to what Martin Laird calls “that spaciousness of spirit” (ii) which is within us all. Jesus calls it “the kingdom of God within”, the Sufi, Kabir Helminski, “the great electro-magnetic field of love” (iii).

It is about having access to an inner knowing, a spiritual awareness which takes us beyond the limited domain of our ego with all its concerns, fears and needs, to a much wider and deeper level of consciousness.

If you are a Christian, it is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” Jesus was modelling for us all. (iv). It is inclusive and finds unity in diversity, indeed rejoices in it. It is living the paradox of being ‘one with all’ whilst simultaneously being uniquely the person we are, the universal and the particular brought together. ‘I’m a unique drop in the ocean and the ocean is within the drop.’

‘Something’ in each of us is able to recognise wisdom when we meet it, it is like a deep resonance within.

There is One Life that breathes life into all.

There is a Path to Life. It is the Path of Wisdom.

It has existed since the beginnings.

It is about awakening and transformation.

The wisdom tradition is concerned about the transformation of the individual and of humanity as a whole, and is embraced at the heart of all true faith paths and all true seekers. It follows a disciplined spiritual practice to foster inner silence that helps empty ourselves of the clamour of our ego and increases our receptivity to that spiritual wisdom and inner knowing.

No matter what spiritual path we pursue, the nuts and bolts of transformation are much the same: surrender, detachment, compassion and forgiveness. To open ourselves to such spiritual wisdom is to become more compassionate, peaceful and patient; it is to discover an aliveness by fully occupying the present moment in which we find ourselves.

We urgently need such a wisdom tradition to be revitalised in our times. For as the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said:

“The outer work can never be small if the inner work is great. And the outer work can never be great if the inner work is small”

This is why Cana holds its annual 4 day retreat every September/October “Silence by the Sea: Exploring the Wisdom Tradition” (Click here for details)


i “The Wisdom Way of Knowing” Cynthia Bourgeault

ii “Into the Silent Land” Martin Laird

iii “Prayer of the Heart in Christian & Sufi Mysticism” Llewellyn Vaughen-Lee

iv “The Wisdom Jesus” Cynthia Bourgeault

v CAC Daily Meditations Richard Rohr Meditations@cac.org

Janet Lake


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