Day 30 of the Feast
Dear One,

My husband is reading Teresa of Avila's book aloud to me. The version he's reading is called The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, a beautiful translation of her autobiography. I'm amazed at this woman's fortitude and dedication to her spirituality, and even when she felt unworthy of being on the path to know God, she kept at it.

I believe some of us have this same struggle. I do. I ask myself, Am I worthy of being on this path? Who do I think I am? Shouldn't I just get on with more worldly concerns? For anyone who thinks that they don't have what it takes to meditate because of negative self-talk, self-loathing, and the inability to quiet the mind, her life and commitment is a great inspiration to keep going. It illustrates how, if you move your attention, little by little to the Divine, the Divine will move toward you. That's what happened with Teresa, by sticking with her practice, she overcame the strongest self-hatred, and was led to a path of ecstatic union with the Divine.

Teresa of Ávila was a 16th Century Spanish mystic, who as a young girl, had a deeply religious nature; often retreating into silence for prayer and helping the poor. As a teen, her mother died, and she went a little wild. She was charming with a big circle of friends, and was concerned, as she said, with her "vanities." Her father insisted she live at a girls' school run by nuns where she spent over a year. During this time, though she initially had no inclination to be a nun herself, she started to feel the call.

She joined a Carmelite nunnery. Once there, Teresa was extremely hard on herself, often condemning herself for sinning. Her underlying tendencies of desire for worldly pleasures often took hold. She came to believe that if she wasn't continuously thinking of God, or If her mind drifted to something worldly, she was sinning. She would regularly go to confession to talk about the ways her mind would drift. This went on for 17 years.

Teresa's main practice was to imagine that Christ was inside of her. (This is one of the basic techniques outlined in the yoga sutras: to meditate on one whose mind is unconditioned.) This is what Teresa continuously aimed for through what Catholics call contemplative prayer [ oración mental ] which she said was: "...nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us."

Teresa was deemed a mystic,best known for her ecstatic experiences which resulted from her practice, what she called a transformative union. She described four levels. The fourth, called Devotion of Ecstasy, was when ".... the consciousness of being in the body disappears. Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space....."

What struck me and my husband is this description seems to accurately depict the descriptions that many Indian saints have used to describe Nirvakalpa Samadhi , a total union with the Divine, during which all thought ceases, and the individual "I" becomes obliterated in the bliss of the merging with source. It's also important to note that Teresa said that there was nothing that she could do to bring on this state, make it last longer than it does, or bring it to an end. It was a completely spontaneous and was a direct result of her practice.
Thank you for putting your spirituality first during this time of deep practice. I am practicing with you.

Love, Sarah

Sarah McLean
Director, Feast for the Soul, Inc.

P.S. Thank you to you who have donated to keep the Feast alive! The Feast is cost-free and commercial free. It's open to anyone who wants to join. You are never asked to buy anything or upgrade. Our overhead is low, since everyone (but our web-designer and this email service) works absolutely free. Our operating budget is less than $6000 a year. If each person who observes the Feast donates 50 cents, we'd be golden! Click this link if you feel moved to donate.
Meditation Teacher Highlight
Aqdas Newmark has been a mureed in the Sufi Order International since 1976 and serves as a representative, retreat guide, and mentor for Suluk Academy.

Her retreats and workshops highlight illumination, integration, and spirituality in everyday life. Professionally, she is a psychologist in private practice in California. This meditation is focused on opening one's senses, heart, and soul to spiritual light, unity, and to the light of Divine Guidance.
Spiritual Practice Tip
Sufi Prayer

Sufi prayers were brought through by Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi Movement, now known as the The Inayati Order. They are divided into four categories based on the time of the day. This is the midday Prayer. You can say it silently or aloud. They are said to be stronger when said aloud, as the vibration of the sounds penetrates the energy centers of the body and reaches to the inner plane of our being. They can also be accompanied by movement. To know more about Sufi prayer, you can download this PDF.

Most gracious Lord, Master, Messiah, and Savior of humanity, we greet Thee with all humility.

Thou art the First Cause and the Last Effect, the Divine Light and the Spirit of Guidance, Alpha and Omega.

Thy Light is in all forms, Thy Love in all beings: in a loving mother, in a kind father, in an innocent child, in a helpful friend, in an inspiring teacher.

Allow us to recognize Thee in all Thy holy names and forms; as Rama, as Krishna, as Shiva, as Buddha.

Let us know Thee as Abraham, as Solomon, as Zarathushtra, as Moses, as Jesus, as Mohammed, and in many other names and forms, known and unknown to the world.

We adore Thy past; Thy presence deeply enlighteneth our being, and we look for Thy blessing in the future. O Messenger, Christ, Nabi, the Rasul of God!

Thou Whose heart constantly reacheth upward, Thou comest on earth with a message, as a dove from above when Dharma decayeth, and speakest the Word that is put into Thy mouth, as the light filleth the crescent moon.

Let the star of the Divine Light shining in Thy heart be reflected in the hearts of Thy devotees.

May the Message of God reach far and wide, illuminating and making the whole humanity as one single Family in the Parenthood of God. Amen.
Living the Feast
I 'll leave you with this video which inspired me today: Mysticism, Meaning and the Self by Brother David Steindl-Rast. You are a special kind of mystic.

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