by Coreen St. John
I have really struggled in putting this report together mostly because I didn’t know where to start so I decided to write from a place of my heart that I identified strongly with. I know one of the postures or themes on living a contemplative life is living from the heart, so here we go.
I was awed by the book ‘Wisdom Distilled from the Daily’ by Joan Chittister. There were many, many insights from this book but two in particular stand out for me in regards to my contemplative life.
The first one was “walking though life with a barefooted soul, alert, aware, grateful and only partially home” (pg 10). I instantly attached myself to it. It described my unfolding life; past present and future. I could live my whole life from this statement. And that is the beauty I find in it; its direction and simplicity. I wish to let you in on how I have contemplated it and also how it describes the way I live contemplatively.
Walking through life a barefooted soul: I am a barefooted girl at heart, it is the naturalist in me I believe. I love to go barefoot. What does it mean to be barefooted; created, gift, open, free flowing, vulnerable, it is what it is, freedom, aware. These are the things that are also involved in living a contemplative life. Now the living them out is attaching them to my soul. The question I ask, am I living barefooted moments in my thoughts, feelings, and actions of my day? It really helps me to be aware of where I am in the present moment. It shows me the gift of the past and the promise of the future.
Walking through life alert: to my God, to my inner movements, to my surroundings, to others, what am I paying attention to? It is taking specific time out to practice attentiveness meditation.
Walking through life aware: Now that I am being alert and aware, this is what comes alive. What choices am I going to make, what choices have I made? What do I believe about this moment, from my past, about my future? And now that I am becoming aware of what is moving in me how does it affect others? Where am I in my relationship with God? Am I living from the Christ in me, my true self or from my false self? It is about practicing the Awareness Examen, a time of reflection on your day and responding to God’s presence or the lack thereof. It is a transforming way to live.
Walking through life grateful: This was such a gift bestowed upon me from a loving God. I know that I was “supposed” to be grateful but it was in the silence and the solitude of contemplative living that the gift of gratefulness became a knowing truth. There was a shift in me that I knew was beyond me. I find it hard to put in words but I know that I was given strength by it. All of a sudden I was grateful for all of my life, for my weaknesses, my anxieties, my strengths the good and the bad. I knew deep down that God was in it all, He is in it all. I guess it expanded my vision of God, of reality.
Walking through life only partially home: This statement brought such comfort to me. It has also brought a great awareness of what I am holding onto and why. To cease striving, to enjoy, relax, to hold on to things lightly, it brings a sense of freedom and a greater contentment with what is. There is a sense of real surrender because it isn’t all about down here. It is already finished down here on earth and the best is yet to come.
“Praise be to the Lord Jesus Christ who has made this all possible”
The other insight was from Joan Chittister’s words on page 6 she said “spirituality charged with living an ordinary life extraordinarily well.” Those words had been spoken to me before I had read this book and they had appealed to my heart so to hear them again was very confirming and it gave me direction. Because we still have to live in the partiality of life, it is about living it well, transforming ones life instead of transcending it. It is about the average person living beyond the superficial, to living with deep spiritual sensibilities and deep serious concerns with no intention of selling out to escape this world but infuse moral lights with the vision of the Divine. (pg 4) I loved this statement because I have always seen myself as an average person and this gives me a place to live from a vision that is not mine but God’s. Rooted in Divine love and trusting in the Divine presence, this is living contemplatively. A life transformed and made into some thing beautiful. Again it can be brought back to something as simple as taking the ordinariness of every day and turning into something extraordinary.
I end with this:
Isaiah 55: 10-13
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
11 It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
They will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”
Selah, So be it.