I came across St. Teresa of Avila through her book “The Interior Castle“, and it revolutionised the way I thought.
“The soul’s beauty and capabilities are so immeasurably great” she writes. For me, that said that I mattered, that what was inside was precious and valuable, that God cared.
“The soul is like a castle“, she writes. In a short blog post I can’t do justice to how she elaborates on this image but I find such illumination in the way she writes about inner conflict, distractions and temptations in prayer (in the outer rooms, where the “lizards” enter and cause problems…!).
I find it so uplifting how she writes about the “inner rooms” of the castle, where the soul is sometimes caught up in prayer and adoration, in unity with God.
I have gone on to read part of her own autobiography, a modern biography of her life and some of her other writings. But for me, “The Interior Castle” still provides a profound and spiritually inspiring read whenever I return to it. She is remembered throughout the world on 15th October.
I have called this sequence of seven poems, inspired by her writing, “The Castle of St. Teresa”…
I wrote those lines inspired by Francis of Assisi.
Openness is enough: openness to life in all its richness, openness to others, openness to God.
The practice of mindfulness is a good way to develop openness to life. Many people in the west today live life so quickly that they forget to actually experience the here and now. It is possible to live in future, and also to live in the past; but to live in the present takes a special form of attention, mindful of detail, of both pleasure and pain, of both self and others, of both inner and outer worlds.
Listening is a way to be open to others. Many of us talk so much that we forget to listen. We are full of our stress, our worries, our feelings. But if you round and round inside a bubble you just end up…trapped in a bubble! Better to burst the bubble, step out, and listen to those around you. Openness is a discipline, a way of loving others, a grace.
Prayeris a way of being open to God. When we pray we put ourselves into perspective. God is bigger than our momentary concerns. We make space in the silence to listen and to think. We acknowledge our finitude, our limitedness, our need of grace.
We can all be “chosen” in the way that Francis of Assisi, and others who have followed the spiritual way, felt chosen by God. It was part of Francis’ humility that he often described himself as “foolish” and “poor”. It means we feel a sense of belovedness, a personal sense of meaning, of being loved by God.
Openness, then, can develop your sense of self-worth, that you are loved just for being a being created by God, living in an amazing universe.
I love the way this poem begins with the way every day of our life begins: with the opening of our eyes…
I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.
This poem, by George Herbert, one of my many “inspirers”, then moves deeper, and explores the human heart:
My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or star, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?
My God, what is a heart,
That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,
Pouring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?
The poem is called “Matins” (an old word meaning morning prayer). Each morning brings the day, each day brings the sun, and this has got to be the greatest line in the poem… “By a sunbeam I will climb to thee.”