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Soul of a Pilgrim Video Prayer Cycle Day 7 ~ A Love Note from Your Online Abbess

Dearest monks and artists,

Today we release the final day of the Soul of a Pilgrim video podcasts on the theme of Coming Home. We hope you enjoy these resources which we offer as a free gift to this wondrous community. If you are able to offer financial support so we can continue creating these resources, please click here. We are enormously grateful for all of your support in so many ways. 

I am pondering this pilgrimage theme of coming home in light of our featured book for the Lift Every Voice book club this month, Hurting Yet Whole: Reconciling Body and Spirit in Chronic Pain and Illness by Liuan Huska. 

It is this journey toward remembering our wholeness her book title references which is the pilgrimage we each make in life, whether we deal with chronic pain and illness, or emotional wounding, or other kinds of suffering and loss, or all of the above. 

Liuan writes: “We must learn to be fully human, not superhuman, by living within our embodied limits, not transcending them. We must make peace with our tenuous existence, susceptible at any moment to devastating illnesses and even death. We must realize that our vulnerability is what opens us to rely on others, and, through these relationships becoming whole.” 

I’ve had an autoimmune illness, chronic pain, and fatigue for over 30 years of my life. Learning to live within the limits of my body’s often changing capacity is an act of profound love for myself and this vessel I have been gifted with. Learning to be deeply vulnerable is an act of love for others, to invite in a circle of nurturance and support, to bear witness to not having to hold everything together myself. 

I know that it is the necessity of my limitations which has been the catalyst for Abbey of the Arts to become such a vibrant collective of wondrous wise souls. I can’t do this work alone, and it is infinitely richer, more satisfying, and more joyful to collaborate. To know each of our gifts are intensified when brought into partnership with kindred spirits. 

The journey to healing is to not reject the very real vulnerabilities of our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits, but to welcome them in as part of our humanity and to stay with them as they reveal themselves. The less we try to run from the realities of aging and illness, the more we open the door to cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. 

Liuan writes: “Jesus identifies himself completely with our vulnerability, taking it into his own nature. He lets himself be utterly destroyed by the consequences. Where our impulse is to escape, to self-protect, to rise above, Jesus chooses to surrender, to give himself up, to descend.”

It is in the aches of our joints, in the fatigue, in the moments of uncertainty, in the fear of loss that we meet the Holy One. God does not cause illness to bestow insight or “lessons,” but the divine presence abides with us, endures with us, steadies us, grieves with us, and in that companionship, we encounter Love’s empowering grace. 

Toward the end of her book, Liuan says: “I ask a lot of whys in my pain, but in the end, the more helpful questions start with how and who. How will I live now? Who is God for me now? Who am I becoming?”

These are questions which begin to point the way home to ourselves. How will I live within my reality and its limits? How do I open myself to the sacred presence in the most ordinary of moments? Am I aligned with my heart’s deep truths? These can all be embraced no matter what our circumstances are. 

Throughout my own life pilgrimage, even in the midst of the strangeness and unknowing, I do have many moments of homecoming, to see this place as holy. Moments of joy and a sense of rightness that I have said a wholehearted “yes” to the invitation to not take my life for granted and to not let opportunities for exploration and adventure pass me by. This is what the pilgrim must learn, not through books or words, but through a radical encounter with the home that dwells within. 

If entered into mindfully and with a whole heart, each encounter on the road has the potential to transform. The pilgrim returns home not with all the answers, but with better questions: questions that bring the pilgrimage experience into daily life and reveal depth in all they see around them.

We always return bearing gifts for the community.  We are always called back to share what we have been given with others.  This will look different for each of us.  

Can you allow yourself to hold both soul-peace and unrest, family and strangers, true home and world-home?  What does each of these invitations mean for you in this season of your life right now?  What are the paradoxes of the spiritual life you are being called to hold in your being?

We celebrate being on the pilgrimage with you. Please enjoy the new Soul of a Pilgrim video podcasts and support this work if you can.

Our summer self-study sale is also going on now. Please use code SUMMER20 for 20% off any of our programs where you can journey at your own pace. We will be taking our usual sabbatical during July, so these are a wonderful way to deepen your practice over the summer and beyond (you have lifetime access to all programs). 

With great and growing love,

Christine

Christine Valters Paintner, OblSB, PhD, REACE

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