Tag Archives: Love

Mirabai Starr: Silence, Stillness, Passion, and Embodiment (Episode 24)

“I’m rather obsessed with the mystics of all traditions,” enthuses Mirabai Starr, as she muses on the profound relationship between silence and stillness and passionate/ecstatic mystical love.

In a rich conversation that touches on the beauty of the high desert of the American Southwest, the earthy/embodied passion of the spirituality of wilderness, and the uniquely subversive wisdom of the feminine mystics, Mirabai deepens and expands our ongoing conversation on silence by inviting us into a place where the spirituality of stillness meets, and embraces, the erotic spirituality of ecstasy, joy, and love.

Most of the mystics, even though they’re these extravagant love poets, who are overflowing with passion, they all also are grounded in this sense of stillness. And they cultivate that stillness. — Mirabai Starr

Mirabai Starr is an author, translator, retreat leader, and leader in the contemplative interspiritual community. Born into a secular Jewish family, Mirabai describes herself as a “daughter of the counter-culture,” having spent part of her childhood at the Lama Foundation (an intentional spiritual community, famous as the home of Ram Dass). As an adult, she translated several of the Christian mystics, including John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, and Julian of Norwich, into accessible and acclaimed contemporary English.

So all the mystics of all traditions, that I know and love anyway, speak to the transformational power of not knowing. I think that’s intimately connected with silence. There’s a higher truth that is only present, it seems, when we let all of the concepts go, and allow ourselves to know nothing. It’s a vulnerable state, it’s a state of spiritual nakedness, it’s not for the faint of heart. — Mirabai Starr

More recently she has written books that celebrate her spirituality (God of Love) and that recount her own challenging and at times heartbreaking life story (Caravan of No Despair).  A popular teacher both in person and online, Mirabai’s wisdom is anchored in her own deeply embodied spirituality, drawing on the insight of all the great spiritual traditions and particular on her intuitive celebration of the Divine Feminine.

The devotional impulse leads me into the presence of the Sacred, and then I am left with this kind of hush, that I drop into, and then that feeds back in again to that devotional impulse, because following those periods of deep stillness that just wash over my soul, I have that joyous urge to praise. So it’s this ever-flowing dance between devotion and nonduality, or between celebration and stillness. — Mirabai Starr

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

How, how can we step up and offer ourselves in service, to help in some way to alleviate some suffering in this world, unless we have taken that suffering into the cells of our own bodies? I feel like that’s what the feminine path is all about. We can not separate ourselves from the pain of the world, we have to take in the brokenness and feel it in the depths of our being, and then of course we will respond with the impulse to do something about it. — Mirabai Starr

Mirabai Starr (l), with Carl and Fran McColman, at the 2016 Wild Goose Festival.

Episode 24: Silence, Stillness, Passion, and Embodiment: A Conversation with Mirabai Starr
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Mirabai Starr
Date Recorded: May 22, 2018

 

 

Valentines Day & Ash Wednesday — Silence & Paradox (Episode 10)

For this episode, we felt drawn to reflect on a couple of “liturgical paradoxes” coming up now and in April: that the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday corresponds to Valentine’s Day; and that Easter Sunday falls on All Fools’ Day, April 1.

Valentine’s Day originated as a Christian memorial (for Saint Valentine), but in its secularized form it is a day for celebrating romantic love — complete with flowers, a nice dinner out, and of course, plenty of chocolate. But this flies in the face of the meaning and observance of Ash Wednesday — as the first day of the penitential season of Lent, Ash Wednesday is a solemn occasion for reflecting on our mortality (“remember that you are dust”), our sinfulness or woundedness, and — at least in some traditions — is a day for fasting — hardly conducive to indulging in sweets!

Of course, even without the religious overlay, Valentine’s Day can be paradoxical even on its own — as a day of sorrow for those who are lonely, or bereaved, or even navigating a relationship where love is absent.

How do we hold these paradoxes together? Could silence be a key to finding a way to honor both the pleasures of love and the invitation to self-forgetfulness?

“Paradox is paradoxical only to the linear, self-conscious mind,” says Maggie Ross in her recently published book Silence: A User’s Guide, Volume Two: Application. She goes on to consider an alternative to the limitations of the linear mind, which she calls “deep mind.” “Deep mind is inclusive, what ancient writers refer to as the place of unity. Its ways of thinking are holistic, even holographic.”

“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”  — attributed to Niels Bohr

Put another way: perhaps paradox is itself a gift, a reminder that there’s more to our minds (and our capacity to know and to understand) than the limitations imposed by language and linear thought. Perhaps when we try to make sense of how to hold a paradox like Valentine’s Day falling on Ash Wednesday gently and authentically, we are invited into a place of deeper and higher knowing — and the portal to that place is not logic or language but simply silence.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Another poem we didn’t mention in the podcast, but that deserves a shout out here, is Walter Brueggemann’s “Marked by Ashes” (from his book Prayers for a Privileged People). Also check out Thomas Merton’s thoughts on paradox in The Sign of Jonas

Like the prophet Jonas, whom God ordered to go to Nineveh, I found myself with an almost uncontrollable desire to go in the opposite direction. God pointed one way and all my “ideals” pointed in the other. It was when Jonas was traveling as fast as he could away from Nineveh, toward Tharsis, that he was thrown overboard, and swallowed by a whale who took him where God wanted him to go…But I feel that my own life is especially sealed with this great sign, which baptism and monastic profession and priestly ordination have burned into the roots of my being, because like Jonas himself I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox. — Thomas Merton

Episode 10: Silence & Paradox: Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day
Hosted by:
Cassidy Hall
With:
Kevin Johnson and Carl McColman
Date Recorded:
February 9, 2018

Header Photo by Cathal Mac an Bheatha on Unsplash

Our Silence Heroes (Episode 6)

Who are your “silence heroes” — persons, living or dead, famous or obscure, who inspired or mentored or otherwise encouraged your encounter, and/or ongoing relationship, with silence? This is the question that the three co-hosts of this podcast explore in this episode. Cassidy, Carl and Kevin talk about the spiritual leaders, mystics, poets, writers, and other key figures who have helped us to “meet” silence more fully in our lives.

When you really meet silence, when you really encounter silence, it reminds you that you’re good enough, as is — whatever you’re doing, whoever you are, it reminds you that you’re good enough, because it is a place of love, it is a place of self-encounter, it is a place of the encounter of the Divine, of God. — Cassidy Hall

We talk about how our silence heroes inspire us — how they encourage us to love, to embrace nature, to write and enjoy poetry, to be sacred nonconformists, to preserve stillness,  teach us how to talk about silence (or how to be silent with silence!), give us both theoretical and practical approaches to silence — all the while using their lyrical and poetic voices to encourage us to be, likewise, the “poets of our own lives” — lives in which silence “allows our own selves to actually come forward and speak.”

We are all poets of our own lives and silence allows our own selves to actually come forward and speak. — Kevin Johnson

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

At one point Carl mentions Martin Thornton when he’s actually talking about Martin Laird, so in all fairness to his Freudian slip, here’s a book worth reading from that author:

Silence is the tomb of Christ —  a place of infinite possibility.
— A Monk of New Melleray Abbey

Kevin Johnson is a university professor, writer, speaker, and retreat leader based in Connecticut.

Cassidy Hall is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.

Carl McColman is an author, catechist, and retreat leader based in Atlanta.

For language to be sane, it needs to be suffused with silence; and for silence to be accessible, it needs to be held in language… to be a human being who wishes to enter deeply into the cave of silence, our sherpa will be language. — Carl McColman

Episode 6: Our Silence Heroes
Hosted by:
Kevin Johnson
With:
Cassidy Hall and Carl McColman
Date Recorded:
November 13, 2017