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Community Lectio Divina: Wisdom from St. Brigid

button-lectioWith February comes a new invitation for contemplation. This month I invite you into a lectio divina practice with words attributed to St. Brigid on the wisdom of having a soul friend. We just passed the Celtic feast of Imbolc and the feast day of St. Brigid on February 1st.

How Community Lectio Divina works:

Each month there will be a passage selected from scripture, poetry, or other sacred texts (and occasionally visio and audio divina as well with art and music).

For the year I am choosing an overarching theme of discernment. I feel like the Abbey is in the midst of some wonderful transition, movement, and expansion.

How amazing it would be to discern together the movements of the Spirit at work in the hearts of monks around the world.

I invite you to set aside some time this week to pray with the text below. Here is a handout with a brief overview (feel free to reproduce this handout and share with others as long as you leave in the attribution at the bottom – thank you!)

Lean into silence, pray the text, listen to what shimmers, allow the images and memories to unfold, tend to the invitation, and then sit in stillness.

Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul-friend, for anyone without a soul-friend is like a body without a head; is like the water of a polluted lake, neither good for drinking nor for washing. That is the person without a soul-friend.

—words attributed to Brigid of Kildare

After you have prayed with the text (and feel free to pray with it more than once – St. Ignatius wrote about the deep value of repetition in prayer, especially when something feels particularly rich) spend some time journaling what insights arise for you.

How is this text calling to your dancing monk heart in this moment of your life?

What does this text have to offer to your discernment journey of listening moment by moment to the invitation from the Holy?

What wisdom emerged that may be just for you, but may also be for the wider community?

Sharing Your Responses

Please share the fruits of your lectio divina practice in the comments below (at the bottom of the page) or at our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group which you can join here. There are over 1200 members and it is a wonderful place to find connection and community with others on this path.

You might share the word or phrase that shimmered, the invitation that arose from your prayer, or artwork you created in response. There is something powerful about naming your experience in community and then seeing what threads are woven between all of our responses.

You can see the full winter/spring 2014 calendar of invitations here>>

Join the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group here>>

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15 Responses

  1. I do not have a soul friend; not that I do not want one. I just have not found someone who is “a loving witness, a presence, who asks holy questions, creating space for discernment.”

    However, over the years I have gained much insight through traditional spiritual readings and meditation. Also, many different authors have provided me with spiritual and ancient wisdom, psychological understandings, and scientific understanding. Reading with a sense of personal discernment and understanding is important to me whether trying to understand the unified nature of creation or how my body offers somatic knowledge, a direct experience of self discovery.

    I am reading Reginald Ray’s book, Touching Enlightenment. He makes the point that our body is our teacher, our guide, our soul-mate. Being intensely aware of our feelings, emotions, and thoughts directly; that is non conceptually and non judgmentally, leads to self-discovery and transformation. The body speaks in shadows as sensations, feelings, images, and somatic memories. Listening as a silent witness is key.

    As an example, know the feeling of jealousy and anger directly as the feeling that emerges as your significant other speaks to a stranger about a personal issue he has not discussed with you.

    Subconscious issues from the past will emerges bodily into the present. There is subjective component of perception stored in the body and can arises out of the blue and make itself felt as a suffering. For example, It might even be a feeling of anger triggered by a kind word from someone. It is not important to understand why this is happening but to stay with the pain of it and not resist it.

    Such are the teachings the body as guide offers. We cleanse our perceptions as we become more aware of our bodily responses to life. This is touching enlightenment, finding realization in the body. This is finding peace, knowing love and compassion. It is ongoing, a process, moment to moment enlightenment.

    It would be a powerful experience for me to find a companion on the journey, a soul mate. However, until that happens, I continue to explore.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I am pondering for a while now how our body “remembers” the stories of our past and even the stories of our ancestors. Maybe the book you mentioned will give me more food not only for thought but heart felt knowledge.

  2. I have been praying with this piece all week. I don’t have a soul friend nor do I have a spiritual director. I read the thread in Facebook and I note that others have had difficulty with the piece. I looked for the meaning behind the quote rather than just the words used, hoping that that would bring clarity, and that did not enlighten me. I don’t have a spiritual director. To me a soul friend is based on friendship rather than providing a service which I presume a spiritual director does.

    I will ‘go forth’ on my journey and be more open now to the possibility of finding a soul friend.

  3. My soul friends have passed on into the next life (my former Vicar and my mom, respectively.) I’ve felt adrift for the past couple of years. Much of my life has been topsy-turvy since my husband’s ruptured aneurysm in the right side of his brain. Lots of things happened concurrently so much so that I thought I wouldn’t survive intact. Slowly, like a germinating seed, I’m learning to discern the Soul Friends in several places. One of which is this community. I also picked up a 100th anniversary copy of Ranier Maria Rilke’s poetry (in both German and English) at a retreat. His words are a rich source of the spiritual nutrition that a soul friend gives.

  4. Seems to most of us who have posted thus far, the opening words: “Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul-friend” have been like a beacon reaching out to us. I’m an “easy sell,” especially about things that could deepen my spirituality. But why is that? Because I “want” to be the best, do my best, learn all I can …not to impress anyone; but simply because it brings me joy to think I am pleasing to God. BUT.. therein lies the risk!! Here’s where the “ego” can turn on a dime and throw everything out of kilter! Reminds me of the old saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I need a co-pilot ..someone to hold the map for me ..with me. This is precisely why I’m so incredibly thankful for the Anam Caras in my life. I’m very blessed to have them, and pray I can remain the same in return, telling the truth and accepting the truth with an open heart.

  5. To me, a soul friend is someone firmly anchored in the experience of the Absolute, the unchanging ground of being which is the eternal essence of EACH soul. To not eat until I find such a being is to acknowledge that we are all imperfect mirrors for each other at best when our egoic personality and way of being obscures the true reflection of the other’s perfection as an infinite expression of light and Love. Until we have met this ‘soul friend’ who reveals in the mirror of his/her being what it truly means to be awake, we are eating the junk food of others’ misperceptions, biases, judgments and unresolved issues and it will not nourish our souls with the wisdom of true understanding.

  6. “Go forth and eat nothing until you get a soul friend.” Of course if a person was really not eating, that would turn spiritual hunger into physical hunger, impossible to ignore — whereas we often ignore spiritual hunger. And then I’m struck by the verb “get.” Not find, but “get.” Perhaps waking up to our hunger, making it visible to ourselves, makes us act on it — makes us open to see any person as a soul-friend. Makes us reach out and befriend that person. Friendship, connection, that is what satisfies spiritual hunger. And makes real food taste better too.

  7. I was drawn to he words: for anyone without a soul-friend is like a body without a head. I have been feeling like a body without a head for most of the new year. Body sleeping, body eating, body loafing, body hurting, body uncomfortable, body lonely, body useless, body heavy, body bored, cold, hot, sweating, craving, aging, dehydrated, bloating, starving, stuffed, sick.

    A few nights ago, I opened myself up to my soul friend, Hafiz. I use the book “The Gift” by Daniel Ladinsky as an oracle, and I’d been disregarding The Gift for a number of weeks. With my intention for guidance from a soul friend, I opened to a poem in the book that suggested I see my head as my soul friend, my mind, my inherent wisdom.

    Reading Christine’s email was wise. Choosing to read the quote was good thinking, also. I am grateful for this turn of events.

    1. Elizabeth, this concept of seeing my head, or inner wisdom, as my soul friend, delights me.
      I have been feeling deeply the loss of a soul friend in my life….no one at this time, or more accurately, in this place, fits that description. I have felt that loss so deeply its been almost unbearable…for to have a soul friend and then lose one is a deep grief to the heart, no matter how spiritual one is. I keep thinking of Rumi…and resonating. I have been calling in my spirit, “Anam Cara, where are you?” and have the sense of presence, but no more. To be my own anam cara…how wonderful!

  8. Years ago I wrote this poem about my soul friend.


    Image of fire and light; man of mystery,
    Austere, soft spoken, with eyes that smile rather than lips,
    You are desert father, become all flame,
    Your word is light drawing into melodious waters,
    You are the strength of surrounding oaks and redwoods,
    You are the depth and infinity of ocean and star-studded skies,
    You are the intellectual horizons and poetic vision
    of many hued sunrises and sunsets.
    You are the rock like faith hewn from mountains
    yielding polished gems emblazoned with gold crosses
    Your life is a sonata of Bach,
    Your spark inflames all entrusted to your care,
    With gratitude I walk this mystic journey with you.

  9. After 18 years in monthly Spiritual Direction, our closing session will take place this month as my “soul-friend” is retiring this phase of her profound work. The closing brings with it feelings of loss and celebration. As I initially read St. Brigid’s words, the feeling of loss deepened; in the re-reading, the Word spoke:

    “Your own soul will now become your Soul-Friend.”

  10. The words “[g]o forth” ring out to me. I love that the search for a soul friend is an active one, one that requires going forth, which also requires leaving something behind. I have a couple of deep soul friends, yet I still feel that the going forth is necessary. Treasure what you have and where you are, they whisper to me, but continue to go forth, continue to search. Perhaps the going forth is even necessary in seeking the internal soul friend?