A Samhain gift from Sophia. Here, the pentagram image stands for a cycle of meditations, a pathway to wisdom. We move from peace (bottom left, the earth position) to joy (right hand, the water position) to love (left hand, the air position) to healing (bottom right, the fire position) to wisdom (top, the spirit position) and back to peace again.
It seems that for me inner peace, as well as being a condition of any real peace, is also the beginning of wisdom. Inner peace is a blessing and it is also a skill. We can learn how to access and develop it, though for many of us it doesn’t come easy.
The learning and practice are likely to involve encounters with distraction, agitation and turmoil. I find that there are two ways of addressing this – one is to have ways of diminishing and dispersing them; the other is to find a still point of peace within the distraction, agitation and turmoil themselves. Peace has its place within aroused states as well as calm ones. Essentially, I experience peace as a fundamental at-homeness, an affirmative being and belonging in the world.
Peace is the bedrock. But it isn’t everything. Rather, it opens possibilities. The first is joy, a kind of joy that comes from within peace. This joy may be still. It may be flowing. It may be calm. It may also be ecstatic. Peace and joy together create a very powerful internal state and in my view form the basis for the outward turn to love and aware engagement. This in turn enables the energy of healing – in relation to self, other and world.
The step to wisdom is next, though it assumes a parallel work of knowledge-building and understanding outside the meditative setting. Wisdom depends on these, yet is qualitatively different. In my experience it’s the qualities nurtured by intentional contemplative practice that make the difference.
In this view I acknowledge the influence of the Mahayana Buddhist idea of prajna, where wisdom is a union of spiritual knowledge (jnana) and compassion. The core text of Mahayana Buddhism is the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra (1), with prajnaparamita represented as a deep meditative state and also personified as Prajnaparamita mother of the Buddhas, just as further to the west Sophia has been represented as the mother of angels. In the text of the Heart Sutra the Buddha Gautama Siddhartha provides instruction to his disciple Avolokitesvara, who went on to develop a powerful female alter ego as the great Chinese bodhisattva Guan Yin – another Sophian figure.
The Sophian pentagram first came to me as a compelling image; then as a sequence of words. From there I quickly identified specific practices (already individually familiar) to work with the named qualities and states. It feels as if I’ve been given a direction for the next phase of my personal inquiry and practice, and it’s good to have that direction as a Samhain gift from Sophia.
- The Heart Sutra: the Womb of the Buddhas Translation and Commentary by Red Pine. Berkeley, CA, USA: Counterpoint, 2004