I long for you so much I have even begun to travel Where I have never been before. ~ Hafiz. The Subject Tonight Is Love
At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What give would enable me to do it? ~ John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us
Now it is time to sit quiet alone with You and to Sing a re-dedication of my life in this Silent and overflowing joy. ~ Rabindranath Tagore, “A Moment of Indulgence”
These three quotes come from Christine Valters Paintner’s latest book, The Soul of a Pilgrim. You will find many more fantastic quotes there.
This book came at the right time in my life. I had finally accepted the need to leave a place very dear to me. As John Valters Paintner explains in Chapter One, “The Practice of Hearing the Call and Responding”:
“Pilgrimage … can mean the life journeys we take in response to unwelcomed circumstances… Any time life ousts us from our places of security, we are called upon to bring ourselves fully present to our experience. We honor that even unbidden journeys can take us to places where we encounter God more closely.” (21)
As some of you know, I have gone on pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela. I have spent days walking, sixty-eight days the first time, then thirty days, then fewer and fewer. I also made a pilgrimage once to Dharamsala to listen to the Dalai Lama. A seeker by nature, I have gone on inner pilgrimages most of my life. Also, next year, we will be taking our children and grandchildren on a short pilgrimage to Santiago to celebrate my 70th birthday. This book came as a preparation for it.
The Soul of a Pilgrim is meaningful on several levels, levels which are presented by Christine and her husband John. Those levels are identified as practices: hearing the call and responding; packing lightly; crossing the threshold; making the way by walking; being uncomfortable; beginning again; embracing the unknown; and coming home.
It has been a while since I have held in my hands a book that I found so seminal, so inspiring, so moving. Every page makes me want to write. It opens doors in my heart which I did not even know were there. It gives me courage…
“What if when life started falling apart, we opened our hearts to welcome in the grief and fear that arrived? What if we considered them as holy guides and windows into the immensity of God? What if all the painful feelings of loss and disorientation were invited in for tea? What if everything that turned our preconceived ideas inside out was precisely where we found God?”, writes Christine Valters Paintner (111).
This book is a result of two e-courses that Christine gave through the Abbey of the Arts . I have been privileged to take several others in the past, as I have been fortunate to read several of her books. They have enriched my life more than I can say.
In her latest work, I found familiar themes that I was glad to visit again, such as Lectio Divina, Midrash, Visio Divina, Creative Exploration through Photography, and a Closing Blessing. I also particularly enjoyed the many questions she asks throughout the book; I know I will return to them, again and again. The novelty here for me was the inclusion of Christine’s husband, John, who writes the eight reflections of biblical passages. He adds another voice, also filled with wisdom and kindness, bringing new angles to old stories.
This is a book I would love to discuss in a study group, to “walk” with some like-minded friends and explore our thirst to encounter our God within. It is a book I will offer, a book I will keep by my side, a book which is such an incredible gift in itself.
I will close this by sharing here the seven-word prayer which came to me at the beginning of the book. I started reading The Soul of a Pilgrim in Puerto Rico and finished it on the plane to France. The seven words which came to me were: Love Calls Me To Open To Life. This prayer, more a mantra maybe, has already operated magic in my life.
May this book bring joy and wonder in your life as well.