March 8, 2015

Words of Wisdom from Medieval Women.

 International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

For the occasion of International Women’s Day, I collected 15 rather unknown nuggets of truth from wise medieval women for our delight and inspiration.

Put to paper by women who lived long ago, I find these pearls of wisdom spot-on, meaningful and totally applicable to modern life.

Carefully read and taken to heart, these words make me pause and relax in the moment.

A fresh breath, a new look, a heart-opening touch.

Why the words of medieval women? Well, it was in my student years that I first discovered the writings of wise women through my studies in the Middle Ages. I still remember my initial encounter with Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias (from the Latin phrase “know the ways of the Lord”.) Her vibrant visions of a bold and dazzling universe, at first made me gasp.

What do we make of this? How do we read the visions of a medieval woman?

I was intrigued by these writings and set out to familiarize myself with Hildegard’s work. I took to heart the sensible advice she wrote in a letter to Abbot Helengerus of St. Disibod:

“Remember that Wisdom never rushes. Even God’s Son was gradually revealed to creation, in diverse ways. Wisdom’s never in a hurry.”

By reading and rereading, slowly chewing on the words and having the patience to let these words sit within me for long enough, I understood: putting Hildegard’s spiritual truths into a grounding practice unlocks the meaning of these words. Hildegard has put her vibrant visions to practical use in order to create an rare manual for good living. She wrote down her visions to teach. She wrote to teach on life, on how to live a loving—in her case a Christian—lifestyle.

Centuries later, Hildegard’s writings still serve as wonderful teachings on life and transformation. As do all the words of wisdom I have selected here. Although most of the writings I’ve chosen are from the Christian tradition (simply because I’m most familiar with the medieval writings of this tradition) the small collection here is intended for a reader of any background, religion or spiritual practice.

From the French mystic Marguerite Porète to the Tibetan Buddhist Yeshe Tsogail, the wisdom of these women transcend time and tradition.
Poignant observations and practical advice on love, life, wholeness, impermanence, courage, hope and how to live a life filled with meaning and purpose. Sure, some of the work is not “light reading,” for it requires semantic translation to come to a different perspective. It requires work—labor of the heart to read and patience of the mind to let it rest—to come to the rewards of new insights. Rewards that in time will lead you to an expansion into awareness and a connectedness with the here and the now.

So how do we “use” these words of wisdom?

Each of the phrases, poems and quotes are a meditative springboard for contemplation of a specific theme. The words can be incorporated in our regular meditation practice, mindful reading or can be the beginning of a new practice of contemplation.

If we read and take to heart, these contemplations, it will encourage a sense of calm awareness and an insight in the present moment with its infinite possibilities.

For me, the practice of contemplation gets my mindset on to live a life filled with anticipation, energy, enthusiasm and excitement.

On this International Women’s Day 2015 I hope to inspire you to shine your own light on these potent insights hidden by time and raise the bar to your best life!

“We must not wish anything other than what happens from moment to moment, all the while, however, exercising ourselves in goodness.” ~ Catherine of Genoa

1 Catherine of Genoa

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire. Let the truth be your delight, proclaim it, but with a certain congeniality.” ~Catherine of Siena

2 Catherina of Sienna

“Just as women’s bodies are softer than men’s, so their understanding is sharper.”

~ Christine de Pizan

- Christine de Pizan

“We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become.” ~ Clare of Assisi

- Christine de Pizan

“Tighten to nothing the circle that is the world’s things, Then the Naked circle can grow wide, enlarging, embracing all.” ~ Hadewijch of Antwerp

- Christine de Pizan

“Human being is a vessel that God has built for himself and filled with his inspiration so that his works are perfected in it.” ~ Hildegard of Bingen

- Christine de Pizan

“One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.” ~ Joan of Arc

- Christine de Pizan

“All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”

~ Julian of Norwich

- Christine de Pizan

“Patience is more worthy than miracle-working.” ~ Margery Kempe

- Christine de Pizan

“Reason, you’ll always be half-blind.” ~ Marguerite Porète

- Christine de Pizan

“Don’t forget love; it will bring all the madness you need to unfurl yourself across the universe.”

~ Meera Bai

- Christine de Pizan

“Like the evening dew soaking a spider’s web, how long, I only wonder will I last.”

~ Princess Shikishi

- Christine de Pizan

“It is foolish to think that we will enter heaven without entering into ourselves.” ~Teresa of Avila

- Christine de Pizan

“All phenomena are only tricks of the mind, I see nothing to fear inner space. All this is nothing but clear light’s natural radiance, There is no reason to react.” ~ Yeshe Tsogail

- Christine de Pizan

“Heart unclouded, heart clouded; standing or falling, it is still the same body.” ~ Yodo

- Christine de Pizan

Relephant read:

A Perfect Stranger. {Poem}

Author: Elles Lohuis

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr, courtesy of author

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