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Seven Pillars Year-End Review 2011

All along the primary question we’ve been asked is “What are the seven pillars?” During the spring of 2010, with this question vivid in our consciousness, the seven pillars revealed themselves in a dream and a new vision for Seven Pillars was born.

Since then we have been doing the work of unfolding the seven pillars. Together with our Guiding Voices, we are in the process of deeply exploring each one, learning its meaning and looking for creative ways to share them with you, and an ever-growing, increasingly public community of friends.

Beginning in 2012 we will unveil the pillars, one by one, taking us all through their alchemical progression over the course of the year and into 2013. As a preview, the preliminary names for the pillars are: The Journey of Life, The Universe Story, Cloud of Witnesses, Unity of Being, The Cry, What May Be, and The Pledge. There is much more to come.

Throughout we have been testing the seven pillars with small and large
groups. This past August we hosted a Young Professionals Salon in New York City on The Journey of Life. Over 20 people attended, representing the local Yoga, Sufi, Gnostic, Buddhist, Jewish and other spiritual communities. In a special room at a chic Turkish restaurant in Tribeca, Pir Zia shared his thoughts and then posed a question to the participants, sparking a lively conversation. All enjoyed a beautiful, rich evening.

In October, Pir Zia took the next step and shared the full vision for the seven pillars during a Friday evening program in Madison, Wisconsin. A month later he joined Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, anthropologist Leslie Conton, and native storyteller Roger Fernandes in Seattle, Washington for an exploration of the topic The Journey of Life: Living with Meaning in the Face of Global Crisis. Close to 300 people participated in the conversation.

Also this fall, we hosted a small exploratory group, including Lee Irwin, Rabia Povich, Rev. Carol Parrish and Maggid Yitzhak Buxbaum, for a weekend at the Abode delving into the Cloud of Witnesses. Saturday evening was dedicated to a larger focus group on the theme where those present shared stories of masters, saints and prophets who have impacted their lives. Another very special gathering.

Through these events we have come closer to understanding how to focus conversations around each of the seven pillars, what works with audiences of various sizes, and how to handle details of timing, location, atmosphere, promotion and partnership. It’s been a year of incredibly helpful and informative learning.

But the pillars have not been our only focus. In addition, we have spent a significant portion of 2011 indentifying and
developing three primary tools we feel are vital to a house of wisdom today: Heartful Conversation, Art and the Imaginal Realm, and A Sense of Place.

At a ranch outside Austin, Texas over Easter weekend, we gathered a group of 23 close collaborators representing varied demographics and perspectives. Together we practiced presence and heart-centered conversation and now our facilitators Gayan Macher and Deepa Patel are creating the materials and processes necessary for interweaving Heartful Conversation into all Seven Pillars gatherings.

This past August, we hosted our largest event of the year, Vanishing Art: An Intimate
Festival of What May Be, our first foray into the art world. Over 80 people came to take part in an exploration of art’s relationship with wisdom. We grew in resilience and practiced grace under pressure as each day brought changes in the program due to Hurricane Irene’s imminent arrival and a rush of other unforeseeable circumstances. Throughout it all, meaningful insights emerged, and we made great connections with new friends and collaborators.

Now we are turning to the third tool, A Sense of Place. We believe that how we
relate to our location in the world is of vital importance to wisdom’s emergence, and have learned to be mindful of the geography, geology, ecology, history, and people of the places where we gather.

On the practical, day-to-day side of things, a year ago September we hired Corin Girard to work part-time with us. Corin has a background in promotion and event organization, and is full of
beauty and wisdom herself. We’ve also been working out of a new, lovely, professional office space, which is part of the transformation of the Abode barn. Next time you are in the area, please come visit us!

Select Highlights for 2012

  • March: Gather Guiding Voices and other key stakeholders for a retreat on the seven pillars and how to unfold them in the world.
  • July:  For the second year in a row, host the annual Lindisfarne Fellows Gathering at the Abode of the Message in New Lebanon, New York.
  • October:  Launch new interactive features on related to the seven pillars, beginning with The Journey of Life.
  • November: Launch a series of young adult salons in New York City.
  • December: Offer an evening on Spiritual Chivalry, together with the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values,at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As part of our 2011 Annual Donor Appeal, Seven Pillars is offering the free gift of a recent talk by Seven Pillars’ founder, Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, on “Agency and Beauty” from this summer’s Vanishing Art Festival. To learn more, or to support the work of Seven Pillars in 2012, please click here.

1 December 2011

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