1. For readers who aren’t familiar with her, can you tell my readers a little bit about Teresa of Avila?
Teresa of Avila was a 16th century Spanish mystic and Carmelite nun, who was renowned for her astute insight into the workings of the human soul and who came into her realized self after many years of following her spiritual path. Do not be fooled by her outer nun role, she was a powerful woman who spoke her mind, and who engaged in the fullness of her passionate heart. She was guided to a vocation of reform, that is, reforming the Carmelite Order, for both women and men, returning it to the original intention of “tending to the garden of the soul.” She established seventeen new monasteries along the length and breadth of Spain, which included buying and selling real estate, fundraising to pay for the properties, and ensuring that each monastery had an income so they were self supporting. She was a dynamic powerhouse of energy and manifestation, and at the same time nurtured a deeply spiritual connection with her Inner Beloved. She says, that the only way she achieved so much was through the absolute reliance upon the divine. She is the perfect example for us today as we align ourselves with both our inner and outer world and all that needs to be tended to in order to live upon this earth in a wholesome way.
2. What made you decide to focus your research on her?
I did not decide. I think she or the Beloved did, or both. One evening being awoken from sleep, I was given a vision of Teresa’s life. I knew it was her, I knew the stones of the monastery walls I was seeing, and in the morning I knew I had to visit Avila, Spain and also to study her writings. Within six months I was in Avila, and while there I was making some notes about my experiences. It was then I realized that I would be writing a book on her. Not being a writer, this was a little perplexing, so I said if a book was to be written then the Spirit needed to write it, as I had no idea what to do. I therefore, see this book as a gift I was given and which I gift onwards and outwards to the world. It has been an extraordinary journey, for which I am very grateful.
I think I will need to extend this to two favorites:
I can find nothing to compare with the great beauty of a soul and its infinite capacity…the soul is nothing but a paradise in which the Beloved takes delight.
We have not been taught self-love in our culture, and here Teresa is pointing to an inner beauty so profound and so infinite that I think there are very few who can touch this or believe it. While meditating at her birthplace in Avila, I was given the experience of this quote, of knowing how infinitely we are loved, and that is, the whole of our being. There is no distinction between ego and the divine self, we are loved completely exactly as we are. After many years, it still touches my soul deeply when I revisit this experience, and it is something that I wish every soul on earth could know and experience.
Outside this castle neither security nor peace will be found…[the soul] should avoid going about to strange houses since its own is so filled with blessings.
Teresa described the soul as being like a luminous crystal castle, and here she reiterates the need for us all to draw deep within our own beings. It is within that we will find we have everything and more than what we need. We are so filled with blessings and yet we still seek to be blessed and loved from the outside of ourselves. It is interesting that our true source of happiness lies within and yet we prefer to experience unhappiness through a constant seeking without.
4. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
The book has been written so that it can be experienced, that is, there are quotes from Teresa’s work, then a short exposition relating her wisdom to our contemporary living, and then a meditation in order that we can experience and embody the teachings given. My hope is that the book will provide a transformational experience for the readers, that it will relate to, and open their lives to the greater reality that they are, and most of all, that they will come to know the Inner Beloved and the love of self.
5. In your book you discuss how it can be read for group study. Have you heard from readers who have done this? What were their experiences?
Yes, the response has been wonderful. Groups (and individuals) have been most grateful for the accessibility to Teresa’s teachings. Her original writings can be a little laborious at times, and they are also ensconced in 16th century terminology that is not so appealing to the modern mind. People were aware that Teresa held a key for their spiritual path but were previously unable to access her, so being able to enter her wisdom in a very practical way, relating it to their everyday living has been appreciated.
There has also been a lot of appreciation to know of Teresa’s struggles in her life, as these struggles are still ones we face today. Teresa fought her way through a quagmire of fear and self-doubt (for many years), and she struggled with belief in her self and her spiritual experiences. She had to release old friends who no longer supported her life and she had to stand up in the face of much criticism by colleagues and fellow spirit travelers. Many of us have also experienced these same challenges and to read of her story and her overcoming these things brings hope to us all. Teresa was a woman of great courage, though she is quick to say, it was the Spirit who gave her the courage. And this is what the readers have relayed, that they were given a newfound courage to step out on their pathway and to follow their inner guidance.
6. “Meditations with Teresa of Avila” is divided into seven “dwellings”. What is the significance of the “seven dwelling places”?
The seven dwellings are places in which the soul travels as it makes its journey back to the Beloved. As said above, Teresa saw the soul as a luminous crystal castle, and within this castle there are the seven dwellings and within the dwellings there are rooms upon rooms. As we enter each dwelling we come closer and closer to the Inner Beloved and the center of the soul. These dwellings are pathways or a spiritual map, if you like, taking you through different stages upon your journey. We enter the dwelling of Awakening, The Return, Self Knowledge, Interior Recollection, Surrender, Betrothal, and finally The Sacred Marriage. Though it is important to note that the journey is not linear. We enter different dwellings at different times according to the needs of our soul. For instance, the Awakening is not a one-time visit, but something that happens over and over again, and as our journey continues the experiences become more subtle and more refined. So it is more like a circular journey into the infinity of our being, a journey that never ends. As Teresa said, I think God too is on a journey.
7. On your website, www.mysticpeace.com, I see you have pilgrimages planned for Assisi, Italy in May, Ireland in June, Ireland again in July, and Avila, Spain in September! What kind of work goes into putting together all these trips?
A lot of work, and I love it. Of course, there are the very practical details to work out, such as schedules, where and when we will stay, eat, and take ferry rides and so on. Plus tending to everyone’s practical needs and questions before and during the pilgrimage. And then there is the very spiritual nature of the journey to attend to; being led to the places that are spiritually powerful and have a resonance that is alive and living; and opening to the wisdom contained therein and how it may relate to our own souls and journeys. There are also themes for every pilgrimage, for instance, the upcoming pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, is “Remembering Your Sacred Work,” and one of the pilgrimages to Ireland is “Living as an Elder,” so I also do much preparation around these themes and recommend reading prior to journeying so everyone can have a full experience. Fortunately, I have been granted the gifts of administrator and the ability to tend to details, as well as the ability to open to the mystic wisdoms.
Something so magically potent occurs when on a pilgrimage. For me, it is the body connecting with the body of the land you are walking on, praying with, and listening to. I have many people return and participate in different pilgrimages with me each year. We form an inner bond that is very sacred. These same people are also often in Spiritual Direction with me, so the experiences together are exquisitely rich. There are no words to describe the deep transformations that people experience – it is deeply humbling to be a sacred witness.
8. You have another book called “Sacred Companions, Sacred Community: Reflections with Clare of Assisi”. Who was Clare of Assisi, and what can we learn from her?
Clare of Assisi was Francis of Assisi’s spiritual companion. Perhaps the most understated enlightened woman of our Christian heritage. As Richard Rohr speaks in the foreword of my book (and I paraphrase here), it is a travesty that she has been so overshadowed by Francis and the male order of Franciscans, and he calls for a return to the feminine wisdom of Clare and her sisters as a way to bring back a fragment of sanity and calm to our world.
Clare was extremely masterful at creating community, and if she had had her way, the Franciscan community would have been one of both women and men, and not segregated. Francis unfortunately bailed on this idea, as I believe, his attraction to Clare was so great that he didn’t know what to do with all his passion and feelings, and therefore, best to separate and be safe. Clare was not at all happy about this, but Francis was a stubborn and willful man and so a different history was created.
I speak of Clare as being the first propagator of Non-Violent Communication. For her, kindness of speech was imperative in creating a harmonious community, and also compassion of the heart. Her writings give great wisdom into community harmony and living. She also writes profoundly about her mystical world and her relationship with the divine love. She writes, Place your mind before the mirror of eternity, place your soul in the brilliance of glory, place your heart in the figure of the divine substance, and through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead itself. Her own commitment to her contemplative and prayer time raised her consciousness and image into the light body of love. This divine love affair and her great love for Francis I cannot separate – they were one and the same – yet she had a pathway of needing to release attachment to Francis over and over again, even to the point of his death.
I cannot emphasize enough the quiet power of this woman. It is my joy to bring her wisdom forward and to lead people to her home in Assisi – there she is readily felt and known, as is her companion and love, Francis.
9. What’s next? Do you have any upcoming projects my readers can look forward to?
Ah yes, it is indeed a wonderful journey. I have been studying the Gnostic Gospels and other related Gnostic texts, unveiling the great wisdom of the early Christian communities, along with the mysteries of Mary Magdalene and the feminine teachings. Joining with this, my Celtic heritage has re-emerged and my childhood gifts of working with the animal and tree spirits and elemental beings. I am finding these traditions so effortlessly join together, and when we remember Mary Magdalene’s many years of teaching and living in Southern France and the great Celtic and Druid presence throughout France, it makes sense for this re-emergence and re-union if you will. So I envision another book revealing this work and my experiences, and pilgrimages to these areas also.
I also have a great interest in community, and opening the way as a house of hospitality for people to come and enter into their sacred self even more deeply, for varying lengths of time, and drawing on the work and themes as reiterated above. So readers may watch for something of this nature being created in the future.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Buffet any one question.
The first question that came to me was, “Can we create a special Magical Buffet Pilgrimage, where readers can come and journey together into these sacred wisdoms?”
Just a thought. Can you imagine the logistics of that – even first off deciding the place? Next year I head to Glastonbury in May/June and then Chartres Cathedral and Mont St. Michel in France in September. Perhaps a Magical Buffet contingent can descend and then ascend together?
By the way, love what you are doing at Magical Buffet – brava!
See, I think you give me too much credit. I see The Magical Buffet Pilgrimage going to Puerto Rico for the religious for me experience of the Taste of Rum Festival, or maybe going across town to a friend’s house for an action movie marathon. I’m not a very exciting lady!
About Megan Don:
Megan Don is the author of “Meditations with Teresa of Avila”. She is a spiritual counselor and teacher of “The Pathway of the Mystic.” She leads pilgrimages to Avila, Spain and other sacred sites in Europe. Megan devotes herself to awakening the mystic within humanity and teaches an embodied spirituality that honors all traditions. She divides her time between the United States and Europe. Visit her online at www.mysticpeace.com.
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