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Center for Action and Contemplation

A New Way of Seeing

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Law of Three in Action

A New Way of Seeing
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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

As we saw last week, human beings tend to be third-force blind. Our ordinary minds are hardwired to perception by differentiation. “Either/or” thinking is the most obvious manifestation of this, but even when we are trying to hold a “both/and” perspective, the mind will still automatically configure the field into a duality of subject and object! It’s just that now I (subject) am holding both Option A and Option B (objects) rather than pitting them against each other. Detection of third force requires a much more subtly developed sense of both/and: not at the level of attitude, but at the level of perception.

My students and I have wondered together about what qualities are most conducive to the emergence of third force. Virtually everyone is in agreement about what does not work: judgment and attachment to a desired outcome. But from there opinions divide: is third force discovered in a situation or is it created? Is the missing piece already right there under everyone’s nose, or is it catalyzed by the infusion of a particular kind of conscious energy?

As the old Sufi maxim goes, “You can’t catch the wild horse by running, but nobody who is not running will catch the wild horse.” Perhaps the most accurate way to describe the delicate dance would be to say that third force is midwifed by our conscious attention.

A remarkable example of this third force midwifing comes from a member of our Canadian Wisdom circle. As the director of a small government-subsidized service agency, she had to appear before a provincial board each spring to orally defend her budget and make her request for the next year’s funds.

As she waited her turn in a seemingly endless litany of petitions from the heads of other agencies, she pictured the situation according to the Law of Three. First force was clearly held by the presenters, with their legitimate need and desperation for funding. Holy denying was quite literally held by the board, which seemed of a mind to throw out a certain number of requests altogether and substantially trim back the rest. She realized that in this configuration the two opposing forces were colliding on an energetic ground of scarcity—the assumption that there was not enough to go around. There was no third force. Could she do anything to create it?

Suddenly an inspiration arrived. She threw away her prepared speech, smiled warmly, and began, “I want to thank you all for the generous funding we received from you last year. Here’s how we spent it.” She then went on to detail all the good work they had managed to accomplish on what was actually a very small subsidy. As she spoke, she could sense the board members visibly relaxing and her colleagues staring in amazement. She concluded, “We are not asking you for a single additional penny this year, and if we need to cut back, this is the strategy we’ve put in place to do so with minimal impact on our service.”

It almost goes without saying that she received the full amount requested. By introducing gratitude as the missing third force, she managed to shift the energetic field from a sense of scarcity to a sense of abundance. And from that field of abundance she did indeed receive her daily bread.

Gateway to Silence:
No resistance, no new arising!

Adapted from Cynthia Bourgeault, The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three (Shambhala Publications, Inc.: 2013), 44-46.

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