Everybody Can Be A Mystic: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson

Transcript: Episode 1, an interview with Therese Taylor-Stinson

[00:00:03] Therese Taylor-Stinson: I think those words, Mysticism and Contemplation seems spooky to people, but I think everybody can be a mystic.

Cassidy Hall: Welcome to Contemplating Now a podcast about the intersection of contemplation and social justice. Through interviews with scholars, mystics and activists, this podcast will focus on contemplative spirituality’s direct relationship with social justice. I’m your host, Cassidy Hall, a filmmaker, podcaster, pastor and student, and I’m here to learn with you. For early access to episodes, go to patreon dot com slash Cassidy Hall. On today’s episode, the founding managing member of Spiritual Directors of Color Network, Therese Taylor-Stinson, joins us. She’s an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church and is a practicing spiritually director for over 15 years. Therese is a graduate of the Shalem Institute and a member of the Chilean Society for Contemplative Leadership. In 2015, she founded the Racial Awareness Festival in Washington, D. C. An author and editor, she is the co-editor of Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color and the editor of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice, and her work appears in Kaleidoscope: Broadening the Palette in the Art of Spiritual Direction. Therese is also a certified emotional emancipation circle facilitator with the Community Healing Network Incorporated and the Association of Black Psychologists. In 2018 Therese won an Indie Author Legacy Award in the area of social awareness for her editing of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, and she was named a collaborative bridge builder by Grace and Race Incorporated. So, Therese, welcome to Contemplating Now. And thank you so much for joining me.

[00:02:06] Therese Taylor-Stinson: Thank you for having me, Cassidy. I’m really happy to be with you.

[00:02:11] Cassidy Hall: And as you well know, because we’re friends on some social media sites, every chance I get, I quote your words from your book. Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around Stories of contemplation and justice. And in that book, in the epilogue, you write, “So that contemplation can be whole. It must consist of both inward solitude and reflection and an outward response to the situations in which we find ourselves present and awake.” And that’s entirely what this podcast is about. So my first question for you is this — was action something that was always tethered to your understanding of contemplation? Or did that come later for you, or was it the other way around?

[00:02:54] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So I think that the word “contemplation” is a relatively new term, at least in terms of using it in connection with spirituality. It wouldn’t be until I guess I went through the spiritual guidance program that I would begin to think about how contemplation fit into my cultural context, and I was not getting any of that from the program I was going through. The program was rich, and I enjoyed it, but it really did not inform me about my own cultural context. And so our final paper could be using one of the themes of the program or one of the particular mystics that were held up during that time. Or we could do a research paper. My paper ended up being more of an exploration than a research, but I decided to do some extra reading––20 more books. I had to find different books. That is how I introduced myself to Barbara Homes and read her book Joy Unspeakable, among others. Albert Raboteau’s Slave Religion and Peter J. Paris’ is I think it was The Spirituality of African Peoples, 20 books that I read to try to see how it fit in with what I had just learned from mostly European mystics. There was some history given, and so I know that some of the people in that history are were people of color, but they were never identified as that in the program that I was in. So was action always tethered to my understanding of contemplation? I think I always saw in my own spiritually journey that out of my introspection, contemplation being defined as deep thought, out of my own idea of mysticism that there would be some action. And I know that in Indigenous practices, action is the outcome. And then I think it may have been during the time that I was writing my final paper. I had gone with SDI to an SDI conference that was in Houston, and at the end, they always have, like a little pilgrimage to different spiritually related sites in the city. And I’m not going to be able to remember the name of the museum right now off the top of my head. But anyway, we went to this museum and there was a book in the museum about contemplation, and it was called a “contemplation and action,” and in that book there was a chapter on contemplation and action in world religion, and L. A. Meyer Zola, who was the editor for that volume, wrote this, “Modern humans are constantly tempted to seek spiritual life in sheer method, or else in some kind of blind rapture, ringing with spontaneity and rich in creativity, contemplation needs both. Method in itself leads to dispensation and quarrels. On the other hand, inspiration in itself without the help of method will lead to vein strivings toward creativity for its own sake. Contemplation soars above the archetypes, and from these back to the point from which everything arises. Action is linked to the Greek begonia, which led to agony. Action in itself is always a sacrifice. When we leave the paradise of contemplation and descend into the earth of action, everything, including mystical action, becomes sacrificial. But [unknown word] signifies struggle contest as well as anguish. And that’s a terribly speaking, an unseen warfare. It may well be that the point of failure in contemporary civilization was precisely the failure to realize the necessity of constantly fighting against evil.” So what I take from what he writes there is that the whole idea of contemplation or mysticism is that from that arises the action that we take in the world. And an Indigenous beliefs, their mysticism isn’t so individualistic where it’s about oneness with God. In Indigenous beliefs, mysticism as they would call it–and I really don’t see a big difference between mysticism and contemplation. I think contemplation is just a new word. A newer word, Let’s say. In that mysticism is always for them, what’s for the social good. So there’s always some reaction or action after a time of contemplation or mystical consideration of what’s next.

[00:08:09] Cassidy Hall: Yeah, I love that. And I love I want to unpack a little bit more what you said about kind of just the word contemplation being a new word. And I’m just struck by the way that that can be such a hindrance and make what contemplation actually is in the form of mysticism or otherwise almost inaccessible just because by language were almost complicating what it actually is, what’s actually happening.

[00:08:35] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So I remember there was only one other person of color in my cohort when I went through the spiritual guidance program and toward the end of our cohort, Spiritual Directors International had a conference in the Washington DC area, and so we decided to go. But in in that cohort we had a conversation –we were the only two persons of color in the cohort, and we began a conversation about, you know, where are other people of color? We know we’re not the only contemplative that are people of color. And so then we go to the SDI conference and look around and we see a few others. And it turned out to be women, African American women that were reading some of the same books we were in asking the same questions. Where are people of color? We had dinner with them that night, and then we decided we would––SDI helped in that they had networking tables at the ending luncheon where you could invite people to have a conversation about whatever topic. And we started going around finding people of color and asking them what they come to our networking table. To my surprise, to my ignorance, perhaps because we were in the Washington DC area, I hadn’t really connected to the international part. And so I was thinking I was going to be calling African Americans only to the table, and we ended up with people from around the world, actually. And we were not a large group of people of color, but someone from Korea, someone from Puerto Rico, some people, different people from various countries in Africa, which was wonderful. And we were all asking, Where are the people that are like us? We’re sure we’re not the only ones.

[00:10:35] Cassidy Hall: and correct me if I’m wrong. But it sounds like Are you getting to the origin story of the spiritual directors of color network? 

[00:10:41] Therese Taylor-Stinson: Pretty much, yes, because at that table we talked. Everybody was saying, Where are the people like me? We decided that we would take each other. Actually somebody other than me, although it was in my head, somebody other than me said, “You know, maybe we could write a book or something,” and I was like, “Yes, let’s write that book.” And so we took names and phone numbers, contact information. At the end of that conference, we all went in our separate directions except for me really. I went home, I started telling my friends, they started telling their friends, so we started gathering people that I hadn’t even expected to gather after that, and then the people who I had their names and addresses, we started the network very loosely, and we wrote our first book and it published in March of 2014. And I remember one of the people on our conference call who was writing in the book is saying, “This is the first organization I’ve ever heard of that’s written a book before they’re even incorporated.”

[00:11:51] Cassidy Hall: Even the origin story of that is a demonstration of contemplation’s role in action and justice. And can you maybe just express a little more how you see contemplation’s role in social action and social justice in our world?

[00:12:06] Therese Taylor-Stinson: I think that everybody should have some contemplation, some periods of introspection in their life, and for me, those periods of introspection, whether it’s figuring out something where you feel stuck or, you know prayerfully considering what it is that you’re called to do or whatever brings you to that place out of that place should come some response of some sort. So I guess what I was explaining to you and telling you that story is that in the midst of this cohort, learning about contemplation, learning about being a spiritual director, reading about contemplative practice and, you know, reading the many European mystics and everything like that–out of that came that action for me to want to write something that made it relevant to people of color as well as hopefully finding other people of color who were having a similar–maybe not the same, but a similar experience. And out of that came our first book, Embodied Spirits.

[00:13:23] Cassidy Hall: So we already explored a little bit, thinking of contemplation and mysticism as kind of interchangeable. So kind of along with that, in your contemplative life and your life of mysticism, do you see a difference between being a mystic and being an activist?

[00:13:39] Therese Taylor-Stinson: I think you can be an activist, so I think those words, “mysticism” and “contemplation” seems spooky to people, but I think everybody can be a mystic. You know, mystic means––the root of mystic is “myst,” which is the same root is mystery and mystic, you know, basically means that you you’re living with a certain amount of uncertainty and whether we like it or not, we all have some uncertainty about things. And I think the only difference between a contemplative or mystic or whatever you call the person and the normal person who might be living with uncertainty is that we embrace it. You know, other people may, and we live in a culture that you’re supposed to have the answer for everything. So we live in a culture that if you’re just sitting around, you know, embracing uncertainty, then you’re not very well credentialed or something. But I think we all live with it. You know, I really think that those words, and I remember that being one of the discussions we had is we were starting the Spiritual Directors of Color Network. One of the things that came up for us is how can we make this journey that we’re having less spooky, you know, less, um, something that only certain people, only certain individuals can have that experience because if we’re having that experience, surely there others of us that are having that experience now some of us may be uncomfortable with that uncertainty and not want to take this path. But I think all of us are capable of having this path, and even whether we call it “contemplation” or “mysticism,” I think an activist somehow comes to the conclusion that this is what they’re called to do, or this is what they have the energy for. And they may have been in the midst of the active-contemplation or mysticism, without maybe calling it that.

[00:15:48] Cassidy Hall: I love that I did not know about the root of mysticism and just the idea that it’s just a willingness to go into the unknown, to just go there. That’s beautiful.

[00:15:58] Therese Taylor-Stinson: You know, in Indigenous practice, that is the way they see it, they don’t you know, they believe in the spiritual world. You know, I don’t know if they call it “mysticism” or not, but they believe that, you know, whatever energy we get to do certain things are coming from the supreme being and given to us for community––to give our gifts in community and you know, very deeply and very broadly, I think that’s why we’re all here. Just like the trees air here to exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen with us and all of the ways the planet works to sustain life here. I think we’re all here for that same reason––whether we know it or not.

[00:16:47] Cassidy Hall: Yeah, yeah, right. Along with the Spiritual Directors of Color Network and some of the other things that we’ve discussed about spiritual direction, it’s striking to me that, a lot of spiritual direction programs are lacking. Black mysticism, Black contemplation. You know, we go to Howard Thurman a lot, but beyond that, I mean, there’s a lot missing.

[00:17:12] Therese Taylor-Stinson: And we haven’t gone to Howard Thurman a lot, actually. I know that people who go through seminary, particularly Black people who go through seminary, and if they go to a historically Black institution, they may learn about Thurman. If you go to Howard University, you will for sure learn about Thurman. Thurman worked there as a matter of fact at one point. But generally I don’t think that there is a lot of emphasis on Black spirituality. Particularly, I don’t even really think it’s just this country. I think that whiteness and colonialism is been, you know, spread throughout the world. But what I know about most, I guess, is the United States. And so in this country we live in a culture that from the Constitution has been you know promoting whiteness. And so in my book Embodied Spirits and in my paper that I wrote for my final paper for the program and published in SDI’s Presence Journal, I talk about how as I was reading I read a story from Albert Raboteau, where he talks about the enslaved. Actually, he doesn’t talk about it, but he’s explaining it in the third person. So there’s another person who’s observing the slave behavior, particularly around religion and Christianity, I guess. And he talks about how the enslaved––many of them, not everybody, but some of them had sort of a rule that you didn’t even try to read the Bible, which we weren’t allowed to do it one point anyway. But you didn’t even attempt to read the Bible until you were able to experience God or the Holy for yourself. And so isn’t that contemplation isn’t that mysticism to have that experience of God before you start reading the Bible about God, they that was the way they did things. And in my writing, I wanted to compare that with someone that was a reliable source for most people. And so I found a text by Thomas Merton, who explained contemplative practice in the very same way that the African people brought here into enslavement were practicing it without even knowing. I don’t know if they use the word “mysticism” or anything, but these were things that they had. The story about on the slave ships, when they were being brought over here, they were all packed together, and they were actually deliberately intentionally separated from people who spoke their language. The way they shared their pain together was in what the slave-catchers and and the ship people called “the moan.” They would moan in away together that I can imagine might have even been kind of a harmony with them, really expressing that they were having the same experience with one another. So this mysticism, this contemplation, which they probably never called it, was part of their very core of who they were. Particularly here in the United States, we make words for everything, but we know that when when Jesus was teaching and and when we go back to some of the languages that were the Hebrew and and the Aramaic, they were imprecise languages, and one word could mean many different things depending on who was talking and what they were saying.

[00:21:03] Cassidy Hall: The power and the truth and the rawness and the again the physicality, like going, again, going to the unknown––and right without having to put words to it or say it, right? That is holy.

[00:21:17] Therese Taylor-Stinson: One of my favorite books, Gerald May, I don’t think he was a founder, but he was one of the principals, and I think, one of the initial people in the gathering of people for the Shalem Institute. And he wrote a lot of books for Shalem and helped them, you know, to develop their spiritual guidance program. In his book Will and Spirit, he talks about, I think it’s in the chapter on energy, but he talks about how the experience of a thing is different from when we begin to talk about it, the moment we begin––just like me now talking to you now, the moment I begin to try to put words to it, it’s no longer the experience. That the truth, the truth, the raw truth of a thing is something that you probably don’t have language for.

[00:22:09] Cassidy Hall: Amen. So one thing I want to move into which you know we’ve kind of been getting at this whole conversation is this idea, this concept, of “public mysticism.” And this was first introduced to me by Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Homes in her book Joy Unspeakable. And I wonder if you could unpack that a little bit for us –– the significance of public mysticism, what it is to you, what it means?

[00:22:31] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So again, going back to African mysticism because Christianity is not the only place where you find mystics. There are mystics in the Christian tradition, but they’re also mystics Sufis in the Islamic tradition, there’s mysticism in Buddhism, there’s mysticism and a lot of places including Africa. And so in Africa, and among Indigenous people, so you know, Native Americans perhaps as well––There has always been a sense that whatever it is that you are receiving from you know the source, however you define or call that source, whatever you are receiving is for community, communal interest. At the core of most cultures, community is more important than the individual, and so whatever is given the individual, whatever gifts are given the individual, they are meant to be used in community. And reading Barbara Homes, but even considering that for myself, there are many public mystics that perhaps have gone unnamed as such. Even Thurman himself, I don’t think many people really referred to him as a mystic, you know, but he was, and he was a public mystic. He offered his mysticism as his public protest, you might even say. Some people were upset with him because he didn’t join in the civil rights demonstrations and everything, but he girded, undergirded the whole movement in contemplative practice, though I doubt if they were calling it that at the time. If you think of an Islamic, a Black Islamic figure, Malcolm X was probably a mystic, he often spoke in those kinds of terms. Harriet Tubman was a mystic, a public mystic. And, you know, I’m thinking that Thurman, his grandmother, was in an enslaved person, probably around the same time Harriet Tubman was doing her thing. And I don’t know what all Thurman may have heard from his grandmother, but surely he’d heard of at some point of Harriet Tubman, and I can’t imagine that he didn’t from his grandmother and Harriet Tubman, just from her life, learned some of the things that he was teaching people of color about internal freedom, you know, and how Jesus himself self-differentiated although we’ve kind of made Jesus into a figure who sits on a throne and all of that, Jesus was one of the people on the margins. But he was able to self-differentiate himself from their condition in a way where he could find the genuine and himself and out of that be of help to others on the margins with him. And eventually it got him in some trouble, but, you know, we can all be getting in some trouble if we aren’t going along with the status club.

[00:25:42] Cassidy Hall: Amen. So we’ve talked about going into the unknown as this mysticism and contemplation. And I wonder if we could talk a little bit about looking at it in the reversed so in the reverse. So what could collective protest and, you know, movements today like Black Lives Matter, tell us about contemplation. So, looking at the public movement, what does that tell us about mysticism or contemplation?

[00:26:07] Therese Taylor-Stinson: I think this goes back to what I was saying earlier you were asking whether an activist was a mystic as well. So everybody may not, or they may embrace in different ways that which is uncertain or unknown. But I think there’s just something within us, I mean, it’s part of the life process, you don’t know everything. And if something is meaningful to you and some kind of way and meaningful enough for you, to put your life on the line because Black Lives Matter people have definitely put their lives on the line many times, you know, arrested, you know, they could have ended up very easily, like Breonna Taylor or George Floyd or something. Whether they call it “mysticism” or not, the ones that I know, they do feel some deep spiritual connection and and some deep calling to do this work, otherwise, it would be impossible to do, I think

[00:27:10] Cassidy Hall: At the end of the day, some of the most mystical things that we’re attached to don’t and won’t and don’t have language. We can’t talk about it because it’s so deep or it’s so collective, it’s so just full of the truth and love and beauty that we all need.

[00:27:28] Therese Taylor-Stinson: And and it drives us to action and sort of lends to the Indigenous belief that these things are meant for us, for public service, for community. And so whatever the private experiences isn’t really that important. What’s important ism I find this situation that I’m feeling called to act or to speak or to do something to make life better on the planet.

[00:27:55] Cassidy Hall: Yeah. So recently you and I had a brief email exchange where we were we were talking, and you reminded me of the value in the importance in not using the term “BIPOC” in the way that it minimizes individual story and limits the depth, um, that could be expressed by an individual. I’m learning, and I’m doing my work and I’m processing all that. And I was really humbled that you were willing to express this to me because it just showed me another way that whiteness and in my participation in whiteness, has co-opted language and shown kind of this laziness towards learning and understanding. I’ve also seen that whiteness and white supremacy has done this with contemplative language, which is a lot of what we’re talking about today, too. Just even, right, this need for language about contemplation and these kinds of things. And also how whiteness is kind of framed contemplation as inactive. All this to say I’m learning a lot about the range in the importance of embodiment and all of contemplation, including language and how one talks about it. So I wonder if you could share a little bit more about how the fullness of story of personal story impacts our ability to contemplate or go to a place of mysticism.

[00:29:13] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So for me, it’s not even about story. It has to be with me being a human being with an experience that you cannot define with an acronym. You know, if you say I’m African American, that says something about who I am and where I came from. If you even say that I’m a Black person in America that says something about my experience and and who I am, you know. But if you call me a “BIPOC,” that means nothing, you know, and you’ve clumped me in with a lot of other people whose experience may not be the same as mine, and they have their own identity and cultural identity that they would like to lift up. So, you know, I am retired from the federal government and in the federal government, acronyms are everywhere, so I’m used to acronyms, I’m not someone who doesn’t know anything about acronyms. But the thing about the federal government is when they use acronyms, they’re talking about agencies or, you know, things, objects, perhaps they given acronym to. They’re not talking about people, and human beings have stories, but even more than that they have identities. And so to clump a bunch of people together –– And as I start pushing back against the acronym “BIPOC,” I also myself, I want you to know I’m not just smacking you on the hand, because it made me look back at myself when I’m talking about the community that we define as an LGBTQ community, we’re using an acronym, but these people have names too: they’re lesbians, they’re bisexual, they’re transgender, they may like to call themselves queer, you know. So they’re not “LGBTQ.” Because that doesn’t explain anything that makes them, that just clumps a whole bunch of people. It makes it easier for us to name them that way, you know, if we’re writing or talking about them, but it takes away their humanity. That’s the way I see it.

[00:31:26] Cassidy Hall: Yeah. And I mean I really value that in this discussion. It reminds me of, I was just writing a paper, I was just finishing a final paper on Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Queer Womanist Theology, you know, in that book she talks about how “oppressions on one level intersect with all oppressions on other levels” and kind of recognizing how intersectionality can point to the dynamic of God’s image, but at the end of the day, it’s all a purely separate image of God on each and every person. At the end of the day, you know, all those oppressions, stories of oppression and marginalization are entirely different stories, entirely different experiences. And, as you say, specifically, people. I mean I identify as Queer and my queer experience is different from my neighbor’s Queer experience, who maybe was rejected by their family or something like that. And it’s taking the time and the willingness to not be lazy and being able to fully see each other.

[00:32:27] Therese Taylor-Stinson: I can see if you’re writing a note to somebody using the acronym because, especially with our phones and everything. But if you’re writing a book or, you know, if you’re having a conversation and you’re talking about people, you should identify who they are and not trying to make them an acronym, that that seems very disrespectful to me.

[00:32:53] Cassidy Hall: Thank you for that. So in our world today, how at this time are you experiencing God and mysticism or activism? And what is your hope for the future of mysticism and activism?

[00:33:08] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So I identify myself, is an anti-assimilationist, and so I don’t clump myself––I mean, I do see blessings in my life, but I don’t clump myself with the privileged or whatever. But I feel in this time quite privileged as I understand the plight of many people of color who are more vulnerable to this virus, who I sit in front of the television and cry like It’s my own son being suffocated under the knee of a police officer who doesn’t care. Or I hear about a woman named Breonna Taylor who carries my last name being shot for no reason in her own house, awakened out of her sleep and shot, and then nobody does anything about it. And then a Black man, an attorney general, gets up and justifies such a thing? I could get very emotional about now. I’m a spiritual director at heart, everything I do comes out of that. And so my clientele has doubled, people are being introspective and I get to sit with them and people of color in particular, because that’s who I always really wanted to be able to sit with. So to be in this moment and sitting with people who are saying “what is mine to do” and you know “where do we go from here?” It’s a privilege and a blessing, you know that I get to experience. And because we’re on Zoom to be able to experience the varieties of ways of worshiping and considering different kinds of things, I think this time that we’re in ––as a matter of fact, I’ve been telling many of my directees that it’s something that I learned in my own experience that when trouble comes I used to get very anxious and disturbed about trouble, I didn’t want any, but what I’m learning now is that it’s an opportunity to learn, and it’s an opportunity to discern direction for your life. And I have done that and it’s brought me to this time here where I get to share with other people, you know those things. And so I don’t think that this time of pandemic and racism and craziness, I don’t know what else to call it, and all the things that are going on right now––I see blessing in the midst of it, and I get to experience some of it where I know there are others who––I have lost a couple of people that I know, but I have not lost ––at least not yet, lost close family members. I have not been sick myself in that way, and I’ve been able to sit with others and offer blessing and love and hope and to experience community. I don’t have any complaints except that I wish we could stop this because I do know that the numbers of people who have died and the situations that many people, particularly people of color find themselves where they can’t even find a place to wash their clothes so that they don’t be sick, is something that I am quite aware of.

[00:36:33] Cassidy Hall: And I love that, you know, you’re talking about having more directees and more people wanting more introspective. And it’s striking that, you know, that’s what we’ve been talking about that is public mysticism: going into the unknown and doing that collectively. I mean, that’s beautiful. Who’s someone for you or people for you that embody mysticism? So maybe some mystics that we don’t normally think of.

[00:37:06] Therese Taylor-Stinson: You know, this might be controversial for some people, but I think Jeremiah Wright is a mystic, I think Traci Blackmon. I’ve seen her, I’ve been in her presence when she preaches and everything, I believe she’s a mystic. I think Barbara Homes is a mystic. You know, I want to talk about and I’m talking about Black people also, not so much others. But I see ordinary people in my life who demonstrate for me mysticism. You know, maybe in some of my directees, if they’re not there yet there on the journey. So and then, you know, as I mentioned, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., you know, Howard Thurman––so many people in some kind of way practice mysticism. And I believe the people that I named, even though they aren’t named that publicly so much, they knew. They knew who they were. But again, the personal experience with the divine was not as important as how they poured it out into the community.

[00:38:24] Cassidy Hall: You know, just for for a second I want I want to go there with you on Jeremiah Wright because recently in a class we were studying the relationship between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright, a man named Professor Joseph Tucker Edmonds came and talked about this idea of –– we essentially only accept these, palpable domesticated prophets–– whereas someone like Jeremiah Wright, who was actually living out and living into the words of James Cone, you know, but we can handle Cone’s words in a book, but we can’t handle it in the flesh?

[00:38:59] Therese Taylor-Stinson: James Cone was a mystic.

[00:39:01] Cassidy Hall: Yeah, and I think there’s so many mystics in our midst that we’re not willing to go there with and, you know, white people in particular white people, especially white people––mostly, to embrace the fullness of the prophetic in our presence, I mean––

[00:39:17] Therese Taylor-Stinson: Which is nothing new, if you read the Bible. The prophets were not popular people. They had all kinds of crazy things happen to them, including Jesus, you know, he got killed. So, you know, it’s not a popular thing to do.

[00:39:37] Cassidy Hall: Therese, could you unpack a little bit more about what it means to be a certified emotional Emancipation Circle facilitator?

[00:39:45] Therese Taylor-Stinson: So emotional emancipation circles are for people of African decent or those who identify as Black. And they are circles where we confront the lies that have been told that we have absorbed and we try to get past that and learn about the beauty of our own culture and experience and to be who we are and proud of it and not let it be something that continues our trauma or the trauma of others. So in our circles we have seven keys, the EEC’s were created by an organization called the Community Healing Network in Incorporation with the Association of Black Psychologists. It is a tool that has been given to us by professionals, and then we go through a training and organize groups, and wherever we live in the world to talk about those things and to heal ourselves and become more comfortable with who we are as people of color.

[00:40:59] Cassidy Hall: So, Therese, you mentioned something about the racial Awareness Festival. Could you share more about that?

[00:41:04] Therese Taylor-Stinson: It’s always the third Saturday of October. So right now we’re just beginning. Planning, we’ll start to advertising, send you something about it, if you like, or you can even Google “Racial Awareness Festival,” I’m sure and find out something about it. 

[00:41:21] Cassidy Hall: And yeah, obviously, in speaking with you, I mean, before we talk today, it is obvious to me that I am speaking with a mystic. So I thank you for your work. Um, your sacred and holy work and presence in this world. And look forward to your books. More of your books, rather, I’m looking at two of your books right next to me and more of your work. And thank you so much for joining.

[00:41:48] Therese Taylor-Stinson: Thanks for having me, Cassidy. I appreciated talking to you.

[00:41:51] Cassidy Hall: Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Contemplating Now, to support this work and get sneak peeks of new episodes, join me over at patreon dot com slash Cassidy Hall. This podcast is created and edited by Me, Cassidy Hall. Today’s episode features the song “Trapezoid, instrumental” by EmmoLei Sankofa, which she has generously allowed us to use. Please find this song and more from Emmolei Sankofa on your favorite streaming platform or by visiting E Dash s-a-n-k-o-f-a dot com. The podcast has created in Partnership with the Christian Century, a progressive ecumenical magazine based in Chicago. The podcast is also created in Partnership With enfleshed, an organization focused on spiritual nourishment for collective liberation. For liturgical resources and tools head over to enfleshed dot com. One final quote from our guest today from her book Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around. Stories of Contemplation and Justice: “It seems that some people who call themselves contemplative have merely found a way to justify their own procrastination or to explain their introversion or to defend their unwillingness to change in the face of injustice. Remaining silent when there’s a need to speak. I have learned that our practice of contemplation requires integration into our callings and lifestyles. So that contemplation can be whole it must consist of both inward solitude and reflection and an outward response to the situations in which we find ourselves present and awake.”

Published by Cassidy Hall

Cassidy Hall (MA) is an author, filmmaker, podcaster, student, and holds a MA in Counseling. She works as a Teaching Assistant at Christian Theological Seminary where she is studying for her MDiv and MTS degrees. She also serves as Student Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ. Since 2017, Cassidy has been the Secretary of the International Thomas Merton Society. Cassidy worked on the production team of the documentary feature film In Pursuit of Silence and her directorial debut short-film, Day of a Stranger paints an intimate portrait of Thomas Merton’s hermitage years. Her podcast, Encountering Silence features interviews with contemplatives, modern-day mystics, and explores the ambiguity of silence in our modern-day lives. Cassidy’s work centers around the tension and intersection of silence and social action and contemplation in a world of action.

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