September 2021: Insights from the Garrison Institute Fellowship

Wisdom is a product of contemplation, of time spent in deep reflection, and of the expanded perspective that arises from true compassion. Since the Garrison Institute’s founding in 2003, we have created opportunities to receive and share wisdom amongst diverse networks of scholars, contemplative teachers, indigenous leaders, artists, healthcare professionals, humanitarian aid workers, business leaders, activists, and practitioners through innovative signature initiatives and contemplative retreats. 

Launched in 2020, the Garrison Institute Fellowship represents the next horizon of this work. Through the Fellowship, we are investing in the emergent generation of contemplative leadership, whose wisdom and creativity will shape our responses to the complex challenges we face as a global community.

Our Fellows deliver innovative public programs to the Garrison Institute community, and we invite you to keep an eye on our calendar for more information on upcoming events. Each month, we will share insights from the Garrison Institute Fellowship on our blog, and if you are interested in learning more about our work, we hope you will reach out.

What Will Be the Next Mindfulness?

Barnaby Willett, Garrison Institute Fellow

What will be the emergent contemplative practices of the 21st century? What will be the next mindfulness?

For many people, mindfulness starts as a set of skills and leads to a way of being. With deepening practice, many of us are drawn to nondual mystical teachings. To knowing ourselves as awareness—and love.

One candidate for the next mindfulness is founded in two major themes that are developing in the mindfulness field—compassion and relationality.

This practice is called ally work. While the practice draws inspiration from many contemplative and Indigenous traditions, it is also a practice that has been developed to meet the needs of our time.

How is a human being to find the sanctuaries of love, belonging, and meaning in a chaotic world?

Like nondual teachings, the practice of ally work orients to knowing ourselves as love and awareness. However, it adds the dimension of relational engagement, drawing on the innate capacities of our human and mammalian wiring for finding meaning and love through relationship.

And with whom are we to be in relationship? The ally. Ultimately a mystery, the ally can be viewed from a multiplicity of perspectives.

In my studies of ally work, I see it in the Hermetic traditions of ancient Egypt, the daemon of Socrates, the triumvirate of Islamic mystical heroes—Avicenna, Suhrawardi, and Ibn ‘Arabi, the tselem of Jewish mysticism, the ori in Yoruba spirituality, the divine double in Christianity, and Sophia, the divine feminine herself.

Ally work is meeting, knowing, and building relationship with a deep dimension of who we are. A guide, a protector, a lover, one always with us.

At this critical juncture in human history, where we stand at the crossroads of catastrophe and awakening, could the ally—all our allies—support us in creating the cultures of awakening that allow us to emerge from caterpillar to butterfly?

My Garrison Fellowship is focused on sharing and developing the practice of ally work. You can follow my explorations at You can watch my video blogs on decentralized spirituality at Youtube. Want to explore practice? I am piloting consultations at no cost.

With deep thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Raff, author of “The Practice of Ally Work”, for introducing me to my ally. And special gratitude to Human X, my mentor and companion in ally work, whose modesty and integrity are unimpeachable.

Barnaby Willett is a contemplative teacher and social innovator. His mission is to increase access to transformative practices for personal growth and systems change. He helped grow the nonprofit Peace in Schools to be a national leader in mindfulness education. He is currently developing the contemplative practice of ally work as a Fellow with The Garrison Institute.

Turning to the Pulse of Love

Jennifer Bloom, Advisor to the Garrison Institute Fellowship

In meditation and writing, sometimes I become aware of words that seem like they are coming from a sort of voiceless voice, something beyond my human self. Sometimes I just listen and other times I write the words down on paper or computer. In that form, they may become an offering that looks like a poem, a prayer, or a practice. Whatever you might call the form, I share these words as a gift as that’s how they felt to me when I received them.

Tuning to the Pulse of Love

There is no greater doing than trusting 

in the universal flow of life

and your connection to it.

Trust your connection.

Trust your intuition.

Trust your embodied sense of timing.

If doubt should ever enter your heart and mind,

close your eyes and take three breaths.

With the first breath,

drop your awareness

into your heart space

and feel the pulse of love

inside your own being.

With the second breath,

expand your awareness

to every cell of your body,

attuning each cell

to the heart’s pulse of love.

With the third breath,

expand awareness

in a 360-degree sphere

out to heart of the cosmos,

feeling the alignment

of the cosmic pulse

with your own.

Listen to a reading of the poem here. 

Download an image of the poem here

Jennifer Bloom is a mother, poet, singer, scholar, and an advisor to the Garrison Institute Fellowship. She is a co-founder of Emerging Perspectives, a people-centered planning and evaluation group that helps clients create an environment of collaboration and curiosity to explore emerging possibilities so they can achieve greater impact. Explore poetry, music, and musings on her website, where you can also sign up for her (almost) weekly Sunday poetry timeout email.  

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