‘What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe.’ These 3 sentences come from my self-adopted contemplative grandfather, Thomas Merton.They ring so true for me that they were the basis for my thesis paper in graduate school.
Well, for me, they represent an embodied response to one of my essential life questions - how does contemplation intersect with day-to-day life?
So there is this contemplative rhythm in some monasteries of the Christian tradition called the Divine Office...or the Liturgy of the Hours. Today’s episode is going to be the first of a series I’ll be doing on the reimagining of the Divine Office into my own personal reflective interpretations as a contemplative in the world. The intention is to mark each of the Hours but in a form very different from their regular practice behind monastery walls. In other words, this is what a contemplative rhythm looks like in my particular life.
“Quoting the ancient I Ching, [Gail] writes about “coming to rest in motion.” She should know: a world traveler and social activist, Gail brings the steady calm she finds in the mountains to her work at peacemaking in a troubled world. ”
- Elizabeth Lesser cofounder Omega Institute
I feel like an absurd lover torn between two beloveds. But rather than being drawn to different people, I’m torn between landscapes. My primary loves are the lakes and trees of Minnesota, but I have also deeply fallen for the desert mountains and mesas of New Mexico. And still if I drift into memories, I recall other landscapes that pierced my heart. When it comes to landscapes, Gail Straub is my people.
Gail Straub is the author of The Ashokan Way: Landscape's Path into Consciousness. In the book and in our conversation Gail shares her wisdom on the dance of landscape and consciousness, her friendship with poet-philosopher (and one of my personal heroes) John O’Donohue, the role the Ashokan reservoir has played in her social activism, and her growth into a wisdom elder. The contemplative gift of The Ashokan Way is that Gail is a generative model of how to attune to a practice that requires focused and embodied attention to develop an intimacy with something larger than yourself.
Gail Straub, co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment Institute, is one of the world’s leading authorities on women’s empowerment. As part of this focus, she co-founded IMAGINE: A Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women to help women heal from violence, build strong lives, and contribute to their community. This initiative applies the Institute’s empowerment methodology to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal “to promote gender equality and empower women.” IMAGINE initiatives are under way in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan and South Africa.These are just some of Gail’s accolades. I am not going to list them all because after this conversation you should head over to her website, empowermentinstitute.net to learn more and possibly support her work.