The Movement of Longing – 5 quotes from Phileena Heuertz’s book – Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

by Mark Votava


  • The movement of longing

“The movement of longing makes us vulnerable…”

  • The darkness of night

“During the darkness of night, there was a restorative work taking place in the dark and hidden places of the body – a sign of the genius of God’s creation… The secret work of God was transforming me.”

  • Death is the culmination of darkness

“We want the fruit, the new life, but we resist the dying. Death is the culmination of darkness. During a season of darkness, I wrestled with God, trying to hold on to that which needed to die – my preconceived notions of who God is and who I am. Much of what my identity had been based in was being shattered and I fought to hold onto the crumbling pieces – having no guarantee of who I’d be without my false-self security blanket. The burning away (purgation) of my false self was a horrible experience. At times, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I was sad and disorientated, and all seemed dark. I was losing grasp on who I was. I questioned all my life’s decisions, wondering which of them had been connected to my true self and which had been motivated by my false self. I was just trying to keep my head above water in the sea of darkness when everything about my identity seemed to be fading away.”  

  • The one who neglects contemplation

“…the one who neglects contemplation is at risk of being motivated and driven by false-self compulsions. When one neglects giving attention to his interior life, he is not master of his house. His ‘programs for happiness’ control him, and he goes through life unaware that his ‘service’ is more truly frenetic activity. He is not only blind to the real needs of those he serves but to his own needs as well. True acts of service do not build up our egos but bring us into deeper solidarity with the poor, marginalized and victims of injustice…”

  • Allows for space within to be carved for intimacy

“The spiritual journey allows for space within us to be carved for intimacy. Intimacy is about knowing and being known. But sadly there are a lot of obstacles that keep us from achieving this most necessary of human needs. ‘Programs for happiness’ that our false selves cling to threaten to prevent us from reaching our hearts’ desires for intimacy. We seek power and control, affection and esteem or security and survival, and none of these pursuits leave us fulfilled. At the end of life’s journey, it doesn’t matter what we have, what we do or what others say about us. What will matter is whether or not we are known and loved for who we are, and whether or not we have known and loved our family and friends well. This is why family and old friends are the dearest. They know us – the good, the bad and the ugly – and they still love us. We want to be known, and we want to know and love others well – this is the truest success in life…”

What is the movement of longing leading you to?

Phileena Heuertz is the founding partner of Gravity, a center for contemplative activism, and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active 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