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Center for Action and Contemplation

Functions vs. Identities

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Law of Three in Action

Functions vs. Identities
Monday, March 20, 2017

Guest writer and CAC teacher Cynthia Bourgeault continues exploring the Law of Three in action.

Understanding the three energies present in the Law of Three (affirming, denying, reconciling) as functions rather than identities takes some growing into. We are so culturally conditioned to equating words like active, affirming, passive, denying with fixed principles, usually gender related (that is, male = active, female = passive), that it requires real mental effort to override these preconditioned patterns. A good part of the initial learning curve with the Law of Three is around developing a capacity to look directly at a situation and assign the forces according to the role they are actually playing, not according to pre-formed judgments or expectations.

One woman I worked with found herself immersed in exactly this learning when she took as her area of research her ongoing struggle with dieting, particularly her attraction to a certain “rich, fatty food” that had so far bested all of her efforts to resist it.

“When I first set this up as a Law of Three triad,” she reported, “I naturally chose as ‘affirming force’ my desire for sensible eating habits and as ‘denying’ the bad, fatty food. So, of course, third force was my willpower.”

But, of course, willpower was not really third force at all but merely the servant of her desire for a better body image. Her conflicting desires—for the satisfaction to be had from that “rich, fatty food” and at the same time a good body image—were simply self-canceling, which is why her ongoing efforts at dieting all wound up in frustration.

Then she hit upon her brainstorm. What if she reversed first and second forces? Saw “affirming” as her body’s authentic desire for a savory treat and “denying” as her personality’s concern about self-image? Suddenly the whole picture shifted, and she could instantly spot what true third force might be: “I decided to enter into a conscious relationship with that rich, fatty food: not to treat it as the enemy but to honor my body’s desire for it and to satisfy it—but consciously.”

This shift in perspective initiated a domino chain of results as she saw her relationship shifting not only with this one particular food but with all food and with eating itself. In this more conscious relationship with her embodiment, she has so far managed to keep the weight off.

Gateway to Silence:
No resistance, no new arising!

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2013), 40-41.

Image credit: Praying Woman (fresco detail), Catacomb of Callixtus, Rome, early 4th century.
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