contemplating with Saint Teresa of Avila

Covid-19 has challenged me to think creatively about how I care for my emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.  I have been intentionally trying to create small centering moments for grounding, contemplation and reflection that I can weave into my daily routine. I’ve discovered that I am most centered when I am creating from within my artistic energies as opposed to creating out of the drive to meet performance metrics, production goals, social approval or unhealthy competition.

Drawing on my creative, artistic energies, the works that I am committed to steward become sacred works much like an artist creating a masterpiece.  Thus, now more than ever, I am seeing creativity as a spiritual resource that I have access to in every sphere of my life, providing life-giving buoyancy even when my bones are weary. With this in mind, blogging has become another practice in my spiritual resilience toolbox. The wrestlings that I work out on the pages of my journal becomes a creative outlet that draw me closer to God, myself and others as I contemplate and write my next blog post.

This latest blog entry is an extension of this birthing process from the pages of my journal to the entries on my blog….

One day this week, my grounding practice was an evening walk with my dog.  While walking I heard a small whisper, “be still, beautiful butterfly”.  The experience did not make much sense to me until the next morning. In a hurry to get through my morning spiritual practice, because I woke up late and needed to jump on a conference call in 40 minutes, I opened what has become a devotional book “Saint Teresa of Avila: Passionate Mystic”, and whatever page I landed on would be my morning reading. To my surprise, contemplating with Teresa ignited an aha moment. While reading the below passage, Teresa’s words recalled the small whisper. In that moment, she invited me to consider what meaning their might be for me in the words of the small whisper, “be still, beautiful butterfly”….

You must have heard about the incredible way that silk comes into being. What a marvelous example of his [Creator God’s] wonders in creation? Only God could have invented something like this.

It all begins with the little grains, something like peppercorns…As the weather gets warmer and the mulberry tree starts to leaf out, the seeds are quickened with new life. It had seemed that these nuggets were dead, but now they stir and begin to nourish themselves on the sustenance of the mulberry leaves.

Soon they grow to full size. That’s when they settle down onto some twigs and begin to spin silk with their tiny mouths. They weave these little silken cocoons and trap themselves inside them. After a while, the plump and homely worm emerges as a graceful white butterfly…

The silkworm is like the soul. She comes alive with the heat of the Holy Spirit and begins to accept the help God is offering. She starts to make use of the remedies available in spiritual community, things like ritual, sacred literature, inspiring talks…

And so when the silkworm is fully developed, it begins to build the house in which it will die [and become a butterfly]…So let’s get on with it, my friends! Let’s do the work quickly and spin the silken cocoon, relinquishing our self-centeredness and personal willfulness and giving up our attachment to worldly things.

We have learned what to do. Let’s do it. Let it die. Let the silkworm die. This is the natural outcome once it has done what it was created to do. Then we will see God, and see ourselves nestled inside his greatness like the silkworm in her cocoon.

— Teras of Avila, excerpt from the “Interior Castle” in “Saint Teresa of Avila: The Passionate Mystic”, translated by Mirabai Starr

Teresa was a sage in her own right. Her wisdom still speaks, 500 years after her death. Mirabai Starr acknowledges that the patterns of St. Teresa’s life provide, for us today, an archetype that “models the living balance between action and contemplation, serving others and developing an interior life, engaging in passionate human relationships and surrendering to the divine mystery.”

St. Teresa is one the many mystics with whom I have found a deep sense of solidarity, understanding and hope during my darkest hours. When I was not able to make meaning of the wondrous mysteries of God’s works in my life, it was the voices of the mystics that God sent to lead me through the murky wilderness journey of my inner being. Their voices have been a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Ps. 119:105)

May St. Teresa’s wisdom be a lamp for your feet, a light on your path, leading you a little closer to what is that you seek.

cheering you on…

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