... Instinctually I knew that "matter matters." Later I would understand more theologically that "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," that is, that God permeates all the materiality of the universe. I prayed with my favorite saint, Teresa of Avila, "Oh Lord, you are on the earth and clothed with it." I discovered the 20th-century mystic-scientist, Pierre de Teilhard de Chardin, who made my heart soar when he wrote about "the spiritual power of matter" and sang rhapsodically, "Matter,...I surrender myself to your mighty layers,...The virtue of Christ has passed into you...."
I first saw the magnificent desert of the American southwest at age 21 and have lived there ever since. It was love at first sight, the most dramatic epiphany of my life. It felt like coming home -- to myself. I recognized the outer landscape as a mirror of my inner soulscape.
The desert is the homeland of my heart. I don't find it barren as many do. I find the desert spacious, a perfect embodiment of what my Buddhist friends mean by sunyata, infinite spaciousness. My spiritual path is cultivating a heart as spacious as the desert: wide open to every direction of the compass, wide open to every creature that walks, flies, or crawls through it, wide open to every change in the weather: darkness and light, sun and rain, aridity and dew, heat, cold, and wind.
St. Teresa, who grew to become my best friend, called the human soul an "Interior Castle." "Let's not imagine that we are hollow inside," she wrote.
"The soul is capable of much more than we can imagine." This infinite and noble spaciousness is what I learn from the desert.
Friday, September 5th, 9.00 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
"Spiritual Practice – Bringing Presence into Our Lives"
Friday, September 5th, 6.00 p.m. – 7.00 p.m.
"Questions & Answers with Tessa Bielecki and Veronique Desjardins"
Some words from Tessa Bielecki’s writings
“There is an intimate and ineradicable connection between life and prayer. When we really live fully, exuberantly and divinely –we inevitably pray. At our retreat centres we do not teach people how to pray. Instead, we induce people to live. We set the stage and create the climate for prayer through a lively human atmosphere that makes it possible for prayer to erupt naturally and spontaneously...
Prayer is like being raised up by a mighty eagle and carried aloft on its wings, drowning in an infinite sea of supreme truth or quickly reaching the end of a long journey and finding everything all at once. Prayer is like being in a garden where the fragrance of the flowers permeates the entire atmosphere or being inebriated with a kind of divine wine. Saint Teresa says that prayer is like watching a bullfight. If we pray, we are like the poeple in the stands, safe from the bull. If we don’t pray, we are defenselessly down in the arena, confronted by a raging, snorting bull.
Ecstatic prayer is a shining sun and a tremendous Yes. In earthly matters there is both ’yes’ and ‚no’, but in prayer there is only ‘Yes’.
Prayer does not erupt only in designated religious places, in the presence of specially designated objects, persons, or rituals, or at specifically scheduled times. Real prayer erupts everywhere and anytime. We must be earthy mystics.”
In the spirit of the ancient Mothers and Fathers of the Desert, Tessa Bielecki has lived as a solitary for more than four decades in the mountain deserts of Colorado. For Tessa, this no-man’s land represents a perfect image of our inner desert – the space of silence and connectedness that all human beings share.
As part of the Carmelites, a Christian order of contemplative prayer, Tessa served as a nun and Mother Abbess of her community for almost 40 years before turning her life over to the desert in 2003. Her background also includes a rich blend of the contemplative Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Islam.
Her love for the desert as a geographical and metaphorical cradle of spirituality inspired Tessa in 2005 to co-found The Desert Foundation. To this day the Foundation is a vehicle that fosters dialogue and mutual respect not only between the indigenous desert people, but also on a global scale between east and west. Tessa teaches at Colorado College, is an author, and also shares her knowledge through lectures and retreats.
- Teresa of Avila: Mystical Writings Crossroad New York, 1994.
- Holy Daring: An Outrageous Gift to Modern Spirituality from Saint Teresa, the Grand Wild Woman of Avila Element, Rockport, Mass., 1994. (out of print)
- Ecstasy and Common Sense Shambhala, Boston and London, 1996.
- Wild at Heart: Radical Teachings of the Christian Mystics Sounds True Audio, 2007.
- Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life Shambhala Audio, 2007.