When I was younger, I had several teachers who served as mentors for me – perhaps you did too. They were the ones who led by example, inviting me to understand more about myself, the world around me, and how to use my voice in it. And as an educator for the past seven years, I’ve seen from the other side the impact a good teacher can make in a person’s life.
In the spiritual world, this is just as true.
Unfortunately, when I moved into adulthood, I learned something terrifying: adults aren’t generally given a list of teachers to guide us year-to-year! There’s no longer a class schedule filled with people dedicated to our growth.
We have to find them ourselves. (Or be found by them.)
To that end, I’ve come up with a list of wisdom teachers who have helped to shape my spirituality, my worldview, and my sense of identity. Some are mystics and saints, others are poets and prophets. All are Elders, guiding us into the depths of ourselves and into contact with the Divine/God/What Is (use whatever language works for you).
On April 14th, you are invited to join me for an evening of guided journaling and body practices around the teachings of one such Elder, Teresa of Ávila.
About Teresa of Ávila
I’ve written a three-part series on her teachings before, but here is a quick introduction for those of you who don’t know much about Teresa’s journey.
Teresa lived in 16th century Spain at a time of great political and religious upheaval. Columbus had launched the European colonization effort of the “New World” just twenty years before her birth and right as she began to crawl, Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation. She lived in a time of great unknowing, witnessing boundaries of human understanding being pushed past and political (which, at this time were also religious) norms being demolished seemingly every day.
Joining the Carmelite Order at age 20, following a beautifully rebellious youth and despite strong opposition from her father, she would dedicate her life to an engaged spirituality as she lived amongst her sisters.
Throughout Teresa’s life, she would find herself in positions of teaching and companionship, naturally becoming a leader within the Order. Younger nuns would look to her for advice and spiritual insight, even as her body went through what modern experts assume was some form of epilepsy. Teresa would experience bouts of extreme bodily sickness that would leave her in bed for days, often accompanied by detailed and imaginative visions.
One of these visions was of the interior castle she would later write about. In the vision, she experienced her own soul as a castle with many rooms, with God at the center, beckoning her inward. It was this traversing of the inward and interior journey that would come to best exemplify Teresa’s spiritual life; she sought inwardly for the Divine, who sat at the very core of her being.
She writes that once we have entered through the doorway, we spend our entire lives exploring, venturing in and out of rooms, constantly retracing our steps. Our inward journey and the unfolding understanding of the Divinity within us might seem as if it is three steps forward and two steps back. But without this exploration of our interior castle, she says, we remain but “broken souls,” in need of a miracle.
In today’s language, I think of it in these words: unless we go inward and find our Inner Guide, we remain adrift in the waves of the exterior world.
You Are Invited
Every few months, I host an evening of guided journaling and body practices around the teachings of one of my spiritual teachers. In January, a group of twenty of us sat with Howard Thurman’s teaching on the “sound of the genuine.”
On April 14th, I’ll be hosting such an evening around teachings from Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle. (This is a free offering, from me to you!)
All you’ll need during our time together is:
- a quiet place in your home,
- a candle,
- a cup of tea or water,
- comfy clothes,
- and a journal or something to write/doodle on.
If this feels like something that will feed your soul, your spirit, and help you connect deeper with your True Self, I invite you to learn more and sign up on my website!
When: April 14th, 7-8 PM (Pacific Time)
Where: The comfort of your favorite chair or pillows! The Zoom link will be provided after you RSVP.
What: We’ll be introduced, or re-introduced, to Teresa’s guide to the inner journey. Using questions, guided journaling, and body practices, we’ll explore our own inner life through her framework.
From Mirabai Starr, who has researched Teresa’s life and translated many of her works:
“What can Teresa of Ávila offer us five hundred years after her death? Teresa models the living balance between action and contemplation, serving others and developing an interior life, engaging in passionate human relationships and surrendering to the divine mystery. She was an ecstatic mystic and a skillful administrator, a fool of God and an insightful psychotherapist, a penitent when she needed to be and an epicurean when she could be…Teresa of Ávila was fully, deeply, unapologetically herself.”