Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Becoming a Contemplative Mother: What is it all about?

June 06, 2021 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 1 Episode 3
Becoming a Contemplative Mother: What is it all about?
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
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Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Becoming a Contemplative Mother: What is it all about?
Jun 06, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple

In this episode, Erin and Chelsea break down the often intimidating word: Contemplative.  Oftentimes, contemplative gets used as contemporary but this can miss the importance of the spiritual teachers who left much knowledge for us and had much to teach us about a contemplative lifestyle. The episode also dives deeper into different faith traditions, languages for the Sacred One, and glimpses of what being a mother can mean for a contemplative.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Erin and Chelsea break down the often intimidating word: Contemplative.  Oftentimes, contemplative gets used as contemporary but this can miss the importance of the spiritual teachers who left much knowledge for us and had much to teach us about a contemplative lifestyle. The episode also dives deeper into different faith traditions, languages for the Sacred One, and glimpses of what being a mother can mean for a contemplative.

Chelsea Whipple  0:06  

You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast, my name is Chelsea, I'm a teacher practitioner spiritual director and pilgrim. 

Erin Thomas  0:15  

And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor, and spiritual seeker, listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle, through hearing about each of our lives. 

Chelsea Whipple  0:28  

You'll hear our triumphs failures, practices and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background. 

Erin Thomas  0:36  

So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started. 

Welcome to a new episode of the contemplative motherhood podcast. I am Erin Thomas, one of your hosts and I am here with my dearest friend Chelsea Whipple, and today we are going to unpack a very large subject matter.

Don't be intimidated, but I think it's important to say this a lot of, we were just talking about this and so often people ask us, what does it mean to be a contemplative Mother, what is contemplative motherhood? And so today we are going to do our best attempt at unpacking this subject, and wow we don't look to have a ton of answers. We hope that this does invite questions for you guys. So, here we go. You ready, 

Chelsea Whipple  1:36  

I'm ready Erin and I really think we need to ask for grace from our listeners and Erinn, as our wordsmith wizard, we're gonna need some of that today. Wordsmith wizard is what I call Erin.

Before we begin, and we're going to talk about and try and break down this big word of contemplative and I want to point out that the word contemplative and the word contemporary are not the same thing, because those can get kind of confusing. And really, when we reference the contemplative path it's as ancient as the birth of religions, and the evolution of consciousness. But the word contemplative feels as if it is just resurfacing in our modern times, and it goes by many names, but for us, the word contemplative feels right.

Erin Thomas  2:35  

yes and I want to also say that you may hear us interchange contemporary contemplative and contemplated. Because it does often in different contexts gets referred.

And one of those pronunciation so just wanted to throw that in there but Chels, I'm interested to see how do you define a person who identifies as a contemplative and has a contemplative lifestyle. Like what does that look like.

Chelsea Whipple  3:07  

So I want to point out what's great is that you and I probably describe it differently.

And you know we mentioned it briefly within the context of our own journeys, but let's try to dive deeper into what we are talking about when we constantly use that wording contemplative lifestyle.

Now, disclaimer, Erin and I are not experts. We have probably read a fair share of books about this topic. And we encourage anyone who's interested to really dive deeper to do the same, you know, listen to what those desires are for you on this journey. And I guarantee you there are wonderful and fruitful books on the topic, you know, we found that. To begin, you know, finding those authors that speak to your spirit are perfect ways to begin.

Now for me, there are a few key terms that assist me in my journey. Anchor, grounding seeker, pilgrim, intentional, present, aware. So, a contemplative is someone who seeks a deeper more and the more is really identified within each person. So the person's body mind and spirit or body, mind, soul and spirit, live in the present moment.

Now, what I mean about the present moment is the person is not in a daydreaming fantasy land where worried about what's left on the to do list or still thinking about something that happened in the past. It is a present moment thinking that anchors us to the reality of what is happening around us. and this person is a tune to his or her emotions. They find anchors and grounding in the common in everyday life. Now, intentional practices or spiritual practices. They help a contemplative to be present in the moment in really aware of his or her senses and surroundings.

Now on this note, a contemplative is on a journey, always on a journey to seek out all of these things, and it's not something that happens overnight. You're gonna have good days, you can have bad days. I for one, and still of course working on all of it, of maintaining the presence. You know when I talked about a daydreaming Fantasyland, because that's totally me. I am off in some other world, most of the time.

Erin Thomas  6:02  

There we go, we got a name for it.

Chelsea Whipple  6:05  

So really for me, being a contemplative is by folding my being into that one being the sacredness of life. The creation that inhabits our existence. Now, as we've discussed our ideas and definitions of contemplative, you know, throughout this podcast sit with your feelings, you know, what do you think, know what feelings may arise. You know what do you glean from this conversation, what do you clean from the word contemplative What do you glean from the words that we use to describe it, you know, and really what does not serve you in this explanation that doesn't describe you, or where you're at in your journey.

Erin Thomas  6:47  

You know I'm going to interject here I think this is a really, this is great friend. I love the ability, first of all to share what terms have been supportive in nature. Again, maybe this is part of the word smithing portion of me. And, but I do find that so many times, we are looking for words to sort of define how we feel, who we are. When you and I were sort of discussing this lifestyle I felt like I tried to whittle down a little bit about what words I would use but this is difficult right I mean, these are, these are big words. Yeah, but, yes, as I shared before and I'll share again, these words are have significant for meaning and their love for Me.

There are times that I found that are supportive in my journey. And these are different for everyone. For me, these include deeper, more holistic or addressing the aspects of my humanity, pilgrim intentional, desiring wisdom, whole hearted and center to serving aware. A soul care emphasis. For me, this includes advocacy and action behind my contemplation, as well as emotional and spiritual healing and it is to me emotionally intelligence focused.

And as Chelsea you mentioned before, I think, as a summary, this does involve addressing the, you know whatever terms you use to define this but my, my mind my soul, my body and my spirit, and, but with a great desire for my spirit to be attuned with the divine. I'll tell you, like, gracious, you know I have no sort of contemplative resume, okay.

This was not something that I can type out as part of my career path, right, or can even explain it in those sort of professional academic terms but I seek the divine with every fiber of my being, and I know that this is a continual journey of what I would call transformation, a quest for internal and external alignments. And that's sort of a concept in and of itself, and we get the question a lot, you know, about contemplative motherhood.

Does a contemplative have to be part of an organized religion, Chelsea, I would love for you to answer this question.

Chelsea Whipple  9:47  

Yeah, yeah. Great question, great question, and one question, you know that you, as you listen to this to really sit with us and me sitting with this. You know, I, I would say the easy answer for me is no. And now with that we each can define our journey in our spiritual practices within the confines of our faith,  And that's really where you begin. Yes yes yes. So we each can define our journey in spiritual practices within the confines of our faith traditions.

You know, most of the time if you're part of an organized religion. That's where you begin. That's how you understand things throughout your journey. That's how you grow and you can ebb and flow from that. And your journey is going to take you wherever your journey goes, but to me, a contemplative finds meaning where the divine leads.

And that's for me. And I'm going to be honest and I hope this is not off putting, but you just kind of give yourself some space to listen, but see if this opens up an invitation for you. And again, I do not want to limit the divine, into the confines of beliefs. No, I do feel beliefs ebb and flow, and they shape us, but not necessarily control us.

And some can serve us for a while, and then a different type of belief can present itself. And so for example if I put this in terms to not be so out there but maybe in terms that. Maybe it's some simple simple terms I won't do math for you here because that's normally what I would do but. So for example, I might only stick to a belief that snakes are evil. Then I missed the reason for that snakes very existence. What that snake brings to creation. And if you've ever watched a snake slither away. The beautiful physical beauty of that movements. You know the pattern of the snakes back, there's just so much complex complexity that goes, that I can miss if I've already predefined what the snakes very existence is. Now that might be a little bit of a silly example, but I hope it kind of illustrates what I'm trying to say about beliefs and really falling where the divine leads.

So for me again. I want to feel the presence of the sacred one surrounding me at all times and be aware of that. And if I limit the sacred one to only beliefs that I've learned. I might miss the very presence I desire. So, now, in that same breath.

It really is my faith tradition that helps me to understand the presence, the nature and desires of my spirit, and how that helps to feel at one with the Divine.

Erin Thomas  13:05  

Oh goodness, Chels that's such a. That's so profound to me to say that it is your faith tradition that helps you to understand the present and natures and desires you know that's putting it into context a little bit. I am absolutely. I'm with you on this one I think this is a difficult question to answer because again we struggle with language to use to describe what it means to follow this lifestyle sort of as a whole. Much, much less religion or terms we use in a religious context.

And what's great is that both you and I have varied backgrounds right and. And I think that's it's a beautiful portion of what we bring to the table. But this isn't to inflate our egos, or checkboxes. I think for us, we want to sort of convey our hearts that it's just a desire, heartfelt desire that our sharing is full of hope, and then it might be helpful to you.

Although I think it's important I want to share a little bit about my personal background, so that you can sort of understand what it looks like to place it places lifestyle and a context for an individual. Um, for me, this is sort of how it looked.

I let it be known that my faith, my prayer, faith tradition and current practice includes the study of Christian texts, and the person of Jesus. But it is not limited to only that. And the thing is, is that as my journey. Yours may not even be in the same country, or zip code, as you may not be at a place where you feel you can even share what ancient texts or mentors or influential figures have influenced your journey in the contemplative lifestyle, so we encourage you to do that, to give yourself, self space to process and to sit with it.

But the great thing, I think that's important for us to share about this podcast is you have a place here to, even if you don't identify with either Chelsea or myself and our prior backgrounds or faith traditions.

It's important for us to convey that. We'd love to hear stories that are different than our own faith traditions. And ultimately we hope to share the diamonds and gems and treasures that we've sifted through and our own sandtray of searching, per se, because there's a lot of searching.

I want to elaborate, again, another teacher over here, but this was sort of my example with this metaphor just like sand at the beach, seems endless, and boundless. I find it impossible to place my faith or spirituality in a small textbox, her a one conversation of question and answer with audience, like that's just really difficult. Even being a writer you know I can't. I can't articulate that, in fact, often, I'll be honest, my emotionally impatient personality can get reactive. And I sort of get irritated by the question. A little bit if I'm honest, because it's not an easy task. And so we don't want you to feel overwhelmed by that discussion.

But this I know within this context that my faith tradition and my background helps me to understand my heart towards the divine. And as a result, I feel less intimidated or fearful about where to go from here. Even if I don't know exactly what the destination is.

I'm anchored in peace, that I'm not leading myself down a path of unrest or confusion or busy avoidance, but ultimately being led by the continual process of aligning all of my being, to my spirit seeking oneness with the Spirit. 

Chelsea Whipple  17:20  

Oh, Erin, I always love your passion and vulnerability. And one thing I learned about you is that you are willing to always open yourself up and share your story. You speak truth to power, and I'm always encouraged by your courage. Now I'm glad you shared about your faith tradition. So I grew up in the Catholic tradition, and that's really where my love for the ancient mystic started. So Meister Eckhart,  Theresa of Avila, desert mothers and fathers, Julian of Norwich, Cloud of the Unknowing and on and on and on.

I now worship in the Episcopal tradition. And I spend most of my work and time involved in my local interfaith community, and love drawing inspiration from other spiritual leaders. Now some favorites that I quote, would be too long to list and this, this, to me, is a huge favorite of mine Rumi, who's a Sufi mystic. Yes, she's seen a lot of my quotes that I get from Rumi. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Hesche, Thich Nhat Hanh, I mean just beautiful inspirational speakers.

Erin Thomas  18:33  

This is so interesting. This leads me to ask another question that I think is sort of equally as difficult to pull back, but obviously we've talked a little bit about language, what Chels, what do you, what language do you use to describe God.

Chelsea Whipple  18:52  

No pressure. Oh my goodness, this is an evolving.

Yeah, I don't want to say an evolving door as they ever exit but it's just that like that circular frame where it's just like, I don't like to use one word I use many words as much as I possibly can. Now you will hear me most likely say divine, a lot, and that is just because of the word I am on right now.

But, yeah, I could pop up with another word but. So, I felt very limited by our English language. I mean even translating text from a different language to English, you're always missing something. So, we have this language barrier, and this limited use of words to really describe the unknown right like just the all encompassing. And so, I have not heard that one perfect word that describes the all encompassing being maybe besides using all three all encompassing being so I use the next best thing, which is normally adjectives, and it helps for me to use adjectives that truly get to the heart or the closest words that I know that get to the heart of how of what I'm trying to describe.

If I'm in nature, I'm probably using words for God that that has to do with nature, if I'm in total, awe of wonderment, like to use the sacred one, you know, And I, I heard once, a professor of mine say in a spiritual director class that spiritual directors are trying to connect others to the boundless mystery that we dare call God. Oh I love that.

Erin Thomas  20:41  

Love that.

Chelsea Whipple  20:43  

And he struggled so much with those words so it helped me to kind of frame that struggle a bit. And, you know, I also am very aware of language and how it can be used to divide.

And I do not want this podcast to be primarily based on a particular faith tradition. You know I want those that have a different faith tradition, no matter what that is. And those who do not have faith tradition to feel comfortable in this space with us.

So, my wording used to describe God is within this context as well. So if this concept is kind of new to you using different words to talk about the all encompassing being, the creator and you traditionally use only one word to describe the unnameable one. Then I offer an invitation to just, I know I love my invitations, but to try something new, and see if it is agreeable with your spirit. You know, use a different word in your prayers or whatever you would like to do. And if it's not, that's okay.

You know this journey is about you. It's not about me. It's not about Erin, no we talk about our own journeys, but it's about you, and you know we are here present with you and we're here for you. 

Erin Thomas  22:07  

Yeah, absolutely and I'm glad that we're sharing this and that's what we ultimately want this episode to be is to share our heart behind this podcast, and this lifestyle and and describe a little bit about what this space will look like.

I so enjoyed this discussion on the, on God, and the different terms we hear for God. That's the chorus of dogs in the background, in case you didn't. That on the podcast. It's not a child. This time it is a dog.

But, you know, a little bit along these lines. I just, I think part of it is that we want to express our heart and love for people. And this is why we're here to be okay about talking about hard questions and not always knowing the answers. That's really hard, especially depend a lot of a lot depending on your background and where you are now. I wanted to unpack that a little bit and I wrote myself a couple of notes Chelsea You briefly mentioned that while we share a lot about of our journey, We don't wish for ourselves, or anyone to be limited to the confines of our faith traditions. And I concur, like, 1000 times. We don't, we don't want that sort of ambience here. And I want.

In order for us to share our heart, it's helpful for us to share a bit of our personal background, and that's why we do it, which you'll hear more about, obviously, as we stumble through this like unguided territory for us, and this podcast. Let me give a personal example for some context when it comes to describing God. For me personally, my background as a counselor, which is a component of my experience, we are often taught that it's important to acknowledge that there are influences in our lives that determine our value systems, and the way in which we approach any sort of spiritual concept, right. So for example, our cultural identity is often rooted in various mentors text and concepts that drive our thinking, and then therefore drive our quest for spiritual direction. So, on the flip side, this can turn us away from anything remotely related to spiritual concepts terms languages texts buildings, you name it, or it can turn us and lead our journey toward something. And this is the concept I like to call the community or the cultural influence, sort of, along with that in addition to our family of origin, our past experiences within that context, both good and bad influence how we feel about spiritual components of life. And it is okay if these are difficult and hard spaces friends, sifting and sorting deconstructing and reconstructing this is what I've come to know as a familiar experience. And then there are sort of the innate characteristics of our personality. So for example, our preferences or chemistry or temperaments that determine somewhat of our response internally to conversations surrounding God or the divine being.

And this sort of is the concept of internal individual influence, and it's also equally important to acknowledge.

So because I say all that because I want to let you know that our hearts are for you in this place, and it may very well be that this concept of a contemplative lifestyle feels extremely intimidating, and maybe not something you wish to explore. At this time, that's okay, you can come back to it.

But we want an invite you here.

It's tough, and, but I hope that you stick in here with us.

In fact, I want to encourage you to sit with some uncomfortable emotions for a bit and sift through. What fears may be inhibiting further excellent further exploration. I think that's really important, oftentimes we don't know what our fears are, when it comes to spiritually seeking as well I think it's important to mention, and this is where my counselor heart comes in. If you've experienced trauma in any sort of capacity, or you have gone through a long period of crisis, please know that that also has a position of influence in your life that influences.

So many different aspects of how we sort through this. If you find yourself triggered in any way, when you're exploring the contemplative lifestyle of this. I encourage you to just seek out a safe person, safe person and a safe space and in a supportive, and if necessary professional environment. Because these sort of spiritual seeking concepts can be really difficult, but they can be liberating.

So to wrap up these challenging questions without shying away from them. We want you to know the goal of this podcast, and that is to share the contemplative lifestyle with you from many points of view.

And Chels, I hope I step out and say this for both of us that we desire this to be a safe and sacred space.

And that's sort of fluffy right what does that mean it means that by saying that we hope that your own construction and reconstruction and implementation of the contemplative lifestyle could look very incredibly different from mine.

And so I wrote down a few things that I want to encourage you with. And here's what we want you to know. There is no right or wrong way to go about this journey. This is a journey, a lifestyle, and not one destination. We are all pilgrims in some form of exploration. And here in this place. We don't claim to have the answers. We've told you that. No, we don't profess to be incredible academic scholars.

While I do have a degree in counseling, this is not a substitute for counseling, always feel the need to say that disclaimer, or guides really, but we are also just fellow spiritual seekers. We seek to share our experience with hopes that it may be an encouragement to get in.

So all of that to say, here we are we stumbled on the words on how to express to share this with you and open up this space for engagement right.

We really believe in this lifestyle, and because we do. We think it's important for us to share our intentions, not to define it for you, or to give answers or to influence you to our own preferences of resource syntax. Our heart of contemplation, and the contemplative motherhood lifestyle is to open up a space of conversation, a community of desire for more, and to kindle a fire in our spirits to search for the divine in every part of self and outward expression of the world.

So where you end up is ultimately a personal quest.

I wanted to. We've done this before. And Chels I've been talking a little bit about this particular exercise but this week for our invitation, we want to invite you and encourage you to do some digging, or journal, if you feel comfortable.

Find a quiet space, we know as a mother that can be challenging, but even if it's just for a few minutes, or seconds, right, take several deep breaths. and attempt to remove your distractions. Maybe you focus on a inspiring photograph or a beautiful painting, or maybe you just sit on your back porch, and then proceed to ask your spirit questions that maybe you normally avoid some examples maybe, what are your deepest questions? What am I looking for? What do I feel is missing in my life? And what more do I seek?

If you're able to go further, go for it. Write down a desire, determine if there's something in particular that we've talked about today that you wish to delve into and give yourself space on how to meet that desire with the spirit for how to begin.

And once you're done with that, lay it down lay down your writing utensil. Close your journal and hone in on centering your spirit in this quest.

Chelsea Whipple  31:50  

Oh, what a fun journey this is going to be Erin. So I'm gonna end us with a quote, this always brings us inspiration, and this is by James Finley, the contemplative way is like a monastery without walls, a gathering place for people who are searching for something more, something more meaningful, intimate and richly present to the gift in miracle of their own life.

Erin Thomas  32:28  

Thanks for hanging in there with us. 

Chelsea Whipple  32:30  

We need a deep breath. Yeah, 

Erin Thomas  32:33  

thanks so much for hanging in there with us and unpacking this, and we hope to do this in different ways and share more specifics but this was sort of our best attempt to give you an opportunity to begin this exploration with us as we seek the presence of the divine in motherhood. And within this chaos. So, thank you so much for joining us, and we will see you soon. See you soon. No, we'll hear you soon. We'll see you soon.

Chelsea Whipple  33:14  

Will sense your presence. That's right.

Erin Thomas  33:17  

All right. Bye. Bye. On the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple,

Chelsea Whipple  33:26  

 to get regular updates on our podcast here new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes, and find our show notes, make sure to go to our website, www contemplative 

Erin Thomas  33:41  

As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and then helping us share our journey with others. So if you enjoyed today's podcast, make sure to subscribe, rate, and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. So until next time.

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