Awakening – 8 quotes from Phileena Heuertz’s book – Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Contemplative Life

by Mark Votava

51T7TEZCf2L1. Living life perpetually asleep

“And living life perpetually asleep doesn’t seem like much of a life at all.”

2. In a state of awakening

“In a state of awakening, my identity was being shaken and dismantled, and I was entering an internal nakedness. It’s difficult to describe this experience. Only in hindsight can I really name it for what it was. I felt like I was losing my orientation for life, relationships and service…”

3. The reinforcement of a false self

“All sorts of factors inhibit us from reaching our full potential and divert us instead toward the reinforcement of a false self. For many women, one big factor is patriarchy. Men too report awakening to perils of male domination. Various sectors of society, in both subtle and painfully conspicuous ways, effectively repress the feminine. Male and female alike suffer from this repression.”

4. Self-sufficient, capable people

“We want to pretend that we are self-sufficient, capable people who don’t need anything from anyone…”

5. The gift of mutuality

“The ones who hold power in any institution are often the most guarded – they are glad for others to reveal their hidden vulnerabilities and needs, but they neglect to reveal their own need. Meeting the needs of someone else may be kind, compassionate and even righteous, but it is, after all, a powerful gesture: You have a need, and I can meet that need. You need me, but I don’t need you… The point… is to remember the gift of mutuality – that we need one another, that we are not self-sufficient and that while we do have a lot to offer and give, we also have a need to receive…”  

6. Developing a mask or costume to hide behind

“Experiencing a certain deficit of our particular ‘program for happiness’ causes us to develop an alternative way of living in relationship… In essence we develop a mask or costume to hide behind to try to gratify our need for power and control, affection and esteem, or security and survival. Maybe if I create a mask I will feel safe and get the attention and acceptance that I want. Maybe the mask will be more interesting than the real thing. Maybe the mask is more lovable than I am.”

7. Contemplation is any way our illusions are dismantled

“Parker Palmer, the respected writer, lecturer, teacher and activist, says that contemplation is any way that our illusions are dismantled and reality is revealed…”

8. One finds and knows one’s self

“The spiritual journey is an invitation to know God and to be known by God, which presupposes that one finds and knows one’s self. Awakening allows for the initial stages of distinguishing between the false and true self. In relationship with God, grace reveals false parts of ourselves and invites us to embrace what is real. We have to abandon what is false for continued growth in wholeness and authentic relationship with God and others. As we press into deeper acquaintance and friendship with God, what is false in our preconceived notions of God, the world and our self burns away…”

In what ways have you pursued awakening in your own life?


My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist