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SPIRIT MATTERS: Be still, the Holy One is at work in you

I am currently in the midst of taking an online course on Saint Teresa of Avila’s masterwork, The Interior Castle.

The class is taught by contemplative teacher and writer James Finley, who as a young man, studied under Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton. Mirabai Starr, who has translated the spiritual classic into a modern version for contemporary readers, provides some background into Teresa’s life in Spain 500 years ago.

I must say as I sit with each of the lessons, which are designed to be received through the heart, more than through the mind, I am completely blown away by the depth and richness of Teresa’s writings, as disseminated by Finley and Starr.

In fact, I’m pretty sure I might have to take the class again. And maybe a few times more after that.

Which is OK by me.

Just as a side note, Teresa of Avila’s feast day is coming up next week on Oct. 15. I know I have mentioned her in columns before, but I truly feel like our relationship, which is one of a dynamic mystic guiding her little student in the pursuit of All That Is, has continued and grown because she is always reaching out to me, in ways I am often too blind to recognize.

She is relentless.

Anyway, lest I make a fool of myself and try to insert my own commentary on a work I am only in the baby stage of learning about, I wanted to hone in on a part of the online class and how it flows.

Each week, there is a different video lesson taught by Finley, in addition to individual application questions and group discussion questions.

Before and after each lesson, participants are encouraged to engage in a period of contemplative prayer as a way to open the heart to God’s work in each individual’s soul.

It is in the videos that walk participants through contemplative prayer, that I want to focus.

At the beginning of each prayer session, Finley asks students to get seated in a comfortable, receptive position and slowly repeat the following phrases, which are directly from Psalm 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

These words are followed by the sound of a bell, which indicates the opening of the silent prayer time. The sessions are each concluded with the sound of a bell, followed by the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer, and the invocation of intercessory prayers from familiar mystic saints, such as Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Teresa of Avila; John of the Cross; Francis of Assisi; Clare of Assisi; Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen and so on.

I have found in my prayer experience, these words from the Psalms to be infinitely valuable when I am enduring difficulties.

By quieting oneself, sitting in a receptive position and slowly repeating each line as indicated above, we gradually detach from our ego, and allow the Spirit of God to go to work in our hearts, minds and souls. When we repeat these words in prayer, we affirm the infinite wisdom of the Divine and its ability to get us through any situation, as well as our own littleness.

These words from the Word of God are powerful on their own, regardless if you use them as a stepping stone into a period of silent prayer. You open yourself to healing, trust and faith in God’s ever faithful presence in your life.

But I must say, by practicing silent prayer and detaching from whatever thoughts or concerns come into your mind by repeating a sacred word or phrase and gently returning to the silence, you open yourself to a deeper and more intimate experience of the indwelling Trinity in your being, along with a deeper, more profound engagement with life.

And who wouldn’t want that?

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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