As we start learning our Christian Mystical tradition, it can feel very fragmented. Timelines and figures jumble together and it can be tough to pull the threads apart and get a sense of the whole.
In contemplative circles, we often talk about cultivating ongoing practices. Given what the term “contemplation” means for so many with no training or familiarity with the tradition, this seems antithetical.
“Wait, doesn’t contemplation mean sitting and thinking about something for a very long time?” It’s inactivity par excellence. If you fool yourself long enough into thinking that kind of inactivity matters in the world, well, you turn it into a lifestyle and call yourself a contemplative.
There is a concept in Heidegger’s writing called Sein zum Tode, roughly translated as being unto death; it’s more an orientation than a concept. It’s a persistent awareness.
From that philosophical vantage point, life is given sweetness and poignancy, given meaning in ever-present awareness of its transience.
Since relocating to the West Coast of Ireland from the U.S., abbess, author, and poet Christine Valters Paintner has been immersed in Celtic spirituality, and her new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones, is an opportunity to follow her into that space as a kind of guide, but with the sensibility of a mystic.
Scrolling through my social media feed this tragic, though all too familiar, day with its news of mass slaughter and terrorism by a white supremacist in New Zealand, I came across this thought-provoking post:
Quick thought exercise. Who is it you think of in your own life that you associate with the word wisdom? Someone who doesn’t get caught up in games of status and recognition. Someone who is able to skillfully navigate emotionally charged interactions. Someone at once grounded, aware, insightful, honest, and humble, possessed of a quiet inner strength with no need to call undue attention to itself.