Monk in the World Guest Post: Emily Wilmer

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Emily Wilmer’s reflection, “The Dance: Spirit, Prayer and Laughter.”

We skipped church this morning. We skipped for two reasons. It’s Trinity Sunday, and as much as I appreciate the clergy staff at our church, I couldn’t bear the thought of one more Sunday when someone tried to explain the Trinity. The other reason is that yesterday I spent 6 hours in the yard digging up a new garden area, amending the soil, planting flowers and spreading mulch. My body is tired and sore, but that good kind of sore; a grateful sore that I can still do it.

So this morning I got my slow moving body out of bed, had a slow moving breakfast with strong Welsh tea with David, and heard a few words of wisdom from the early Christian desert father, Abba Moses the Robber. We then went down to our lovely oratory for our morning contemplative prayer.

This is a space that we remodeled into a place specifically for prayer and nothing else. This little oratory is set aside only for listening for the Mystery we call God. We are surrounded by rich and colorful icons of the life of Christ and oil lamps that bring a soft glow to everything in the room; including us. It is a room of Presence and energy in which we place ourselves with the continuing desire to know Jesus, the Risen Christ. We pray that our mind, heart and bones are soaked with the renewing light and love of the Christ.

So this morning we each took our turn at the threshold, bowing in reverence before stepping across to take our place. We each sat down, took up our shawl or prayer beads and prepared for the sound of the meditation bell and the opening chant to follow. David struck the wooden bell to call us to attention. He then struck the large bronze meditation bell to signal our entry into silence. He’s had a cold for three days now and finds it hard to chant because of the congestion in nose and throat but thought he would try again this morning. He began the opening chant . . . but stopped after the first three words.

“You’ll have to do the chant. I can’t chant and breathe at the same time – even for God”

He chuckled but I laughed out loud . . . and I continued laughing. He caught my laughter and it grew and grew until the room was saturated with laughter. We couldn’t stop; it kept growing no matter how we tried to stifle it or mute it or stop it. The laughter just kept growing until I finally took a deep breath and said, “Okay, okay, I’m stopping now” . . . and then started laughing again. I was laughing so hard I was crying and my stomach muscles were beginning to hurt. It was WONDERFUL!

As G. K. Chesterton said: “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.”

We did finally settle down and enter into the silence but silence enriched with our laughter. Half way through our sitting time, my eyes fell on the Rubelev icon of the Trinity – the three persons sitting at table. Perichoresis is a word often used to describe the energetic dynamic of the Trinity. It is from two Greek words, peri meaning ‘around’ and choresis meaning ‘dance’ or dancing’. When you put them together you have ‘dancing in relation to another’. I love that: a dance of the energies of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As our time of meditation and prayer was coming to a close; a thought swept into my mind:

If anyone wants to know what the dance of the Trinity sounds like, all they need do is experience prayerful laughter! Spirit, prayer and laughter all dancing around together right here in our little oratory in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I wonder:
When have you been surprised by the convergence of laughter and prayer?
When have you experienced the Spirit running wild in unexpected places?
Might the Holy One be delighted when our laughter breaks into our intense focus and reflection . . . and gives not only us, but God, a brief moment of pure merriment?


Emily Wilmer is a spiritual director, retreat leader, poet and co-director of Oasis of Wisdom: Institute for Contemplative Study, Practice and Living in Asheville, NC. At this time in her life spiritual direction happens in meaningful conversations over tea and a scone; poetry has become her prayer . . . and vice versa.

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