We profile our very first Amma of the season, Miriam from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition. Miriam, who is known as the sister of Moses, is much more than an afterthought. As one of the first Jewish female prophets, her youthfulness sprung out of her as she drew the lines for her people. Listen to her boldness, her willingness to fight for the oppressed, and her connection to the Divine. We will all leave inspired to take up the mantle that Miriam creatively leaves for us. She challenges us all to use our feet as our prayer, our voice to sing loudly, and our hearts to keep pushing for change.
Check out www.contemplativemotherhood.org for bonus content, blogs, and sign up for our newsletter.
Chelsea Whipple 0:05
You're listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast. My name is Chelsea. I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director, and pilgrim.
Erin Thomas 0:13
And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor, and spiritual seeker. listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle through hearing about each of our lives,
Chelsea Whipple 0:26
you'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background
Erin Thomas 0:35
so grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. And let's get started.
Erin Thomas 0:42
Hello, hello. Welcome back friends and thanks for listening to us today. We are really excited for you to be here with us. on season two of the contemplative motherhood Podcast. I'm here with my favorite co host and dearest friend, Chelsea Whipple. Chels Hi.
Chelsea Whipple 1:03
Erin Thomas 1:04
How are you?
Chelsea Whipple 1:06
You know, good. I'm here. Right? I am. I'm present. I'm aware and I'm intentional today.
Erin Thomas 1:15
Hey, listen to me. You've got your elevator pitch down.
Chelsea Whipple 1:20
All my mantra words.
Chelsea Whipple 1:22
Good for you.
Erin Thomas 1:23
Well, I'm excited and I think this is going to be a great episode and we are just want to take a moment to thank you guys for joining us. And I want to say that we're just really happy to have you here in this space, taking time out of your day to be present with us. We know that you could probably do 10,000 Other things right now, but we are happy that you are here. We are super excited and thrilled. Enthusiastic, not overly enthusiastic, not overly enthusiastic. Right. I'm gonna rein that in a little extra little extra. But we're excited about our second episode of season two and we really have a treat in store for you guys today.
Erin Thomas 2:08
So if you have listened to the first episode, if you haven't, that's okay. But if you did you know that this season we are talking about stories of the Ammas and I am beyond excited. I know I've said that probably four times. But this is a beautiful, beautiful story. And today, we have an incredible honor to introduce to you. i It's epic, and I don't know if that's still a cool word because I'm old but I feel so my friends thank you for being here. I'm going to pass it off to Chelsea, who you guys she has done massive legwork here and just sacred work with her head to the ground on this episode. And she's been really inspired by our first amma having a friend and so I'm really excited to hear from you about this. So let's do it. Um, can you tell us about our first amma of the season?
Chelsea Whipple 3:15
Yes, yep. So today we are going to talk about Amma Miriam and so she comes from the story of Exodus it's found in the Torah or the Christian Bible. And her story sets up many other Ammas of our time. So she's kind of one of the earliest ones that we have information about that we can really glean from her. And she's considered, this is pretty cool, the first female Jewish prophet, and she's earned her title in this episode. As what we affectionately call the contemplative liberator.
Erin Thomas 3:58
Yes. Okay, so I love what I got to interject, because I love what you've done with this. This is beautiful, contemplative liberal writer. This is really an interesting and powerful concept and specifically for this spiritual mother or, as we affectionately call her. So our episode today is going to outline her Miriam, contemplative, liberator. So if you're listening and you're asking yourself what exactly is a contemplative Liberator is and why is this Amma so important? Don't worry. We are here for this. Okay. Um, so let's dive deeper Chels and get some more context and understanding can you share with us the incredibly rich beginning of Miriam's narrative?
Chelsea Whipple 4:47
Yes. So Miriam's story that we're going to talk about today, and we're going to flesh out is inspired by the book Defiant: what the women of Exodus teach us about freedom. And I'm going to say the author's name very slowly so I can pronounce it correctly. Her name is Kelly. Nikwondoha. and um, she really breaks down the story and really frames Miriam as this contemplative liberator. So Miriam story, as a young girl is really brief but powerful. So during her time, this was in Egypt, the Pharaoh had noticed that the Hebrews and Miriam is Hebrew, who lived on the land in Egypt, were multiplying at too great of a number. So Pharaoh decided that the male babies had to die and the female babies could live. So the story really begins with a story of motherhood, and were introduced to Miriam's mother named Jochabed who gave birth to a male baby and hid the baby for three months. And so when it was no longer feasible to hide the baby, she created a basket and sent the baby down the river towards the Nile. And perhaps you're familiar with this part of this story if you've heard it before, but really, the story has just begun. And this is where Miriam enters so she's not named in the story we find out later her name, and she's identified just as the baby sister, and she hides among the reeds to find out her brother's fate. And it's then that the daughter of Pharaoh finds the basket and discovers there's a Hebrew baby inside. So a bit of context that we can infer is the daughter of Pharaoh knew the law that Hebrew male babies must perish. But this is where we begin to see the boldness that becomes Miriam's mark tribute. So Miriam and all her youthfulness daringly approaches the daughter of Pharaoh to ask if the lady would like a Hebrew wet nurse to care for the baby. She doesn't ask are you going to keep the baby? She just assumes at this point, that no no woman would want this baby to perish.
Erin Thomas 7:16
This is a concert that's such an amazing plot twist to me, right like how smart of her to think of this concept. And I'm actually kind of nervous for her right now. So, here let's keep going for and I wonder as the story continues, and we are going to learn more about who this young lady was Miriam, I want to ask you this. What sort of things stand out about Miriam initially, and why are these attributes of her character? Why are they important?
Chelsea Whipple 7:51
Yeah, so what stands out in this passage? Is that it is Miriam, this young, we don't know her age. We just know that she's young, is the one who saves the baby. She immediately steps in to intervene. And she understands her surroundings. She's lived in oppression. She's lived in the midst of an empire. But that does not stop her from saving this life and finding a way because later she's going to connect the baby back to his mother. And the baby we find out later is Moses and stays with his mother until he is weaned where he is then raised and protected by the daughter of Pharaoh. So I always find this interesting. That here you have this Hebrew male baby that was supposed to perish. Saved by his sister and is raised by an Egyptian princess basically. So if you know this story, you do know later on how impactful Moses story is. But sometimes, if we're not careful, there's a failure to understand Miriam's role in the story. So her story continues, and we'll get to that but let's pause here to look at youthful Miriam youthful Amma Miriam and note her wisdom, courage and connection to the spirit at this point. So first of all, Miriam did not ask for permission, she did not wait to see what would happen to Moses. No she took action. She saw an injustice and made a difference right then at that moment, as a young person, she might not have understood the consequences in her age might have been why she was the perfect person for this job.
Erin Thomas 9:51
Okay, so this is I want to stop right there from because I think this is a really important point that you bring up. And here's why. So as contemplative mothers were, most of us are raising young people, right. Well, and if you're, if you're not, this is so important, and I think we have to be aware that the character of younger generations is vital to continuing a story of liberation of the oppressed. And this is a fundamental component of Miriam story. So you have and will continue to flesh this out, but we are already seeing that Miriam has given us an example of contemplative action of liberation. And so I want to lean into this a bit. I want. Let's Let's get in there. How might we be able to lean into this concept a bit of contemplative action of liberation and roll this out in our own lives, even knowing just the very beginning of her story?
Erin Thomas 10:57
Yeah, that's a great question.
Chelsea Whipple 11:00
So I you know, if you look right now in our world today, you know, I'm always so proud of those young people who take action, who have the courage to stand up and stand out and say something that's not right. And sometimes, like, let's be honest, we as adults, can turn our heads looking for others to solve this problem to say what we fail to say. To protect the most innocent, we shrug our shoulders thinking that we can't make much of a difference. But for young people, they know all it takes is their voice. Call it naivete. But a lot of the time it really is what our world needs. Their pure voice infiltrates the strongest of stances. It's as if the world takes notice when the young speak up about an issue of importance. The conviction in their voice makes it so we cannot turn away their emotions and their speech really penetrate out of the space of purity. You know, so personally, as a mom, you know, I hope I'm teaching my kids I'm hope that they can see other kids. You know that they will stand out and stand up, protect those that are hurt and use their voice to make effective change. And I'm going to read a quote from the book Defiant that we introduced earlier. And of course as my academic self it's on page 87.
Erin Thomas 12:37
We are very appreciative of that
Chelsea Whipple 12:39
as Yeah, sure that all the author gets proper credit, but Miriam teaches that desperate times required her to push past fear and do the bold, pragmatic thing necessary to save her brother. Maybe this is a trait of our youth, inserting herself without calculating all that could be lost, or rather because she knew who could be lost. The calculus of the Young is different than that of adults. It's quicker and more clear cut. So Erin, I want to pivot to you, you know, what do you find powerful about stories of youth to boldly stand up against injustice, you know, and also how could you see this story as a powerful contemplative practice?
Erin Thomas 13:32
Ah, that's a really good question. And I want to say that I'm generally hooked on this story for more reasons than one but and I don't want to take up too much time because I there's so much to hear about on the Miriam and I can't wait to get to more of a story knowing how it is. But I'll say this. Wow. I've heard the story there before and placing and in this context, really, it allows us to see how what we may deem as small insignificant actions at the moment, can have a lifetime of application. And so I kind of found myself when I was reading this story is if Miriam, as young as she was, I mean, did she really know how powerful her action was at the time and you know, I agree with you, I think, in the sense that very often we really disregard the power of voices of our youth and we need to lean into that and not diminish or downplay their role and making a significant significant impact with a contemplative action. So I want to break this down a bit, because I really think this template helps us to understand why the story of these Ammas are so important, and specifically, is Miriam, so important, and much of what we've talked about up until this point, if you've listened to season one, etc. If you haven't, that's okay. But many of the subjects that we cover in the contemplative life involve a more stationary stance right? a posture of stillness and settle the spirits a beautiful, peaceful place and I think in general, we don't always compare contemplative life with how that bleeds over into our life of contemplative action. And so I think it's really important that we take note of that specifically because we're gonna bring this up again and Chels is going to use it in context for this term, contemplative action and out of the overflow of the contemplative life we find that there are actions that draw us in right and as a result of our presence, in present with ourselves, with others and our connection to the divine. There is an overflow that happens. And so obviously, we're going to share more about Miriam story and commentary, and there's a lot of texts out there, but I think it's really important to point out that even in her boldness, Miriam's tasks weren't necessarily what we would deem as glamorous, right. And oftentimes, we equate boldness with sort of this cinematic tendency, and yet in reality, I don't always think that's the case. And the fact that very well could go unnoticed or thought of as a simple task of what she did. And yet, it wasn't, she was bold, and it was powerful. And in this story, she shifted the narrative altogether. And so I'm going to stop yammering on. I hope that you can share more of this story with us, Chels and I. So I'm curious how really does Miriam illustrate her lead as a contemplative Amma? And do you notice any specific parts of Miriam's story that lean towards her partition participation, excuse me, and contemplative practices like how does this work?
Chelsea Whipple 17:06
Yeah, yeah, cuz we just have a few lines from her so far. We have one dramatic action that she did. Right, you know, stepped in and made history. So, you know, we really don't read about Miriam's connection to the divine, you know, we don't have any poems that she wrote or anything like that, but it's almost inferred in the story. So it's as if something was guiding her to those reeds, who gave her boldness to speak out initiated the words that came from her mouth. So what we know and understand about the Hebrew people, is their utter devotion to Hashem. And I'm using the word Hashem, which really just means The Name. It's a devotional term for the great one. And this is just again to further kind of expand our language a bit more, and use different terms that signify what most of us refer to as God. So the Hebrews are called by Hashem. For Hashem in Miriam would have had a connection of utter devotion that lead into every ounce of her being, you know, the, the idea of the sometimes we split the spiritual and physical and emotional parts of ourselves. This would not have been an understanding with them. They are utterly devoted in physically, emotionally, spiritually every part of their being and devotion.
Chelsea Whipple 18:42
Chelsea Whipple 18:43
So, you know, it really, really is and what can go unnoticed in this story again, at these just few lines, it's worth mentioning is her trust, I struggle with trust. You know, but she trust that Hashem is leading her that she has a great purpose. This is why she's considered one of the first female prophets but this great purpose is not born of a great namesake. She's a Hebrew, female, living under the thumb of an empire. She trusts because that is simply who she is. Now, her story doesn't end thankfully for us. So, you know, let's move a bit to the other part of our story, and share more about this narrative of Amma Miriam to really help us to know her better as she continued her life. And what is profound about her story is the boldness and creativity of our age, this connection to the divine that found its way into her story once again. So sometimes when you read about women in religious contexts, especially historical religious context, they become nameless stories. They're just mentioned as women. But let's remember nameless, is not powerless.
Erin Thomas 20:16
Yes. Can we say that, again?
Chelsea Whipple 20:19
Nameless in these stories, so nameless Is not powerless. So as the Exodus continues as a story arc continues here we have her brother that she had saved Moses has really met God and is leading the people, leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt, and is drawn from the strength of Miriam and by his side because Miriam continues to be by his side, and this is important. She's not named as a constant companion. You will hear more about her brother Aaron in these stories, but she pops back up in these stories time and time again, when we find Hashem speaking directly to Moses. So out of out, after Moses has led the people through and God has split the Red Sea and I know I am just summarizing a very impactful story, but just to focus on her. So after this happens, we get her song. It's called the song of Miriam. And it's a really a beautiful life giving and liberating song that inspires women after women throughout the ages to use their voice. So you'll hear it in the Jewish context, in the Christian context that will reflect on the Song of Miriam.
Chelsea Whipple 22:14
In Midrash and Aggadah tells us that it was not, oh sorry, tells us that it was Miriam that is the regular composer of this liberating song and it gets credited to Moses most often. But its really referred to as Miriam as the one who spoke it. That she lamented. So this wasn't It was a song of praise but also a song of lamenting all the death and destruction that came not just by the hands of Pharoah to her people but by the death of the Egyptians too. So she's lamenting both sides of it. You know, as if to keep that connection with suffering to become human to stay human basically. And to know that tragedies, no matter if it makes you victorious, still are tragedies. So you know when I say Midrash and Aggadah, again Midrash is just kind of a term of ancient rabbinic interpretation of Scripture. They're beautiful stories. And if you're ever interested to know stories of brief interactions with people of the Jewish Bible and the Christian Bible, that's a great resource and Aggadaha, which is just a rabbinic narrative. So she really takes over in these two narratives. In these literature's spell out the nature of both relief, joy, sadness, and utter desperation. Okay, Erin, I am going to pivot to you real quick. Because, yeah, I need to take a drink of water.
Erin Thomas 23:41
Yeah, fine. And I think this is really, really important. And one of the things that we want to point out is that these literatures really spell out the nature of relief, and joy and sadness and utter desperation and what really encapsulates when you flee for safety, right, and that surround Miriam and the women. They grab their musical instruments and they ring out every ounce of their bodily and emotional energy that has been inside of them in their lives up into those points. And I want to, I want to expand on that a little bit, and then we can kind of go back to the narrative but I, you know, I love music. And for those of you I'm going to give a personal application like I think this is really important and significant. But as we listen to the stories of these Ammas, we want you guys to be able to take this powerful story of Miriam this beautiful story and apply this in some way. And so I love music. This has been something I have grown up with. And this is very significant about Miriam. And so we know that music is used in various contexts throughout history right? I mean, there are incredibly powerful cultural meanings and in various cultures, and so in every sense, Miriam song and dance is the over arching theme that brings us sound of freedom and liberation. And so we cannot minimize that at all. I think it's important to know that song and dance are amazingly powerful, contemplative practices, and they happen in my life, most certainly. And so I want to know, Chels, can we sort of walk through this experience? Can you paint this picture for us of what did this look like?
Chelsea Whipple 25:53
Yeah, and I'm, I'm gonna hope that I can paint this fully without having to interrupt myself.
Erin Thomas 26:01
Bless her heart. She's a little under water friends. I am so that we're here for this. Thank you.
Chelsea Whipple 26:08
Yes, and I appreciate you stepping in for me. So you know Miriam's grabbing her tambourine. And leading the women gathered from the Red Sea after fleeing Egypt to lament, to worship. And so her feet become her prayer. Her song and dance, they become her prayers. She becomes the voice of those fleeing their homes searching for a new life to survive, to prosper. You know, I wonder Can You Hear Miriam's voice in those people that have to flee her feet leading them and guiding them. And if we again dig deeper into her story, you know, to notice that her leading the women in the song and dance means that she was trusted among the women. So in context, she's already been leading. She's already been a liberator. They know her as a pillar of their community. They trust her voice. They trust her purpose. They trust her connection to the divine, to the Divine, and as a result, she is the one that helps them connect with the divine. You know, so that's, you know, our journey in the story with with Amma Miriam has shifted, and we can see her grow before our eyes. You know, from the youthful bold, daring and trusting God to becoming a presence intertwined as a prophet. You know, able to hear and boldly Praise God. So, you know, we're really at this transition point here and I wonder, Erin, you know, how is this Amma speaking to you in your life right now.
Erin Thomas 0:07
I love this so much. And I want to say, despite being under the weather friend, you have painted a beautiful picture. I, I found this is true in my own life and I want to I want to dig a little bit deeper into what we're painting. This picture here and I found as I've dug deeper into contemplative life, primarily, we say, connecting with the divine in a present way I want to talk a bit about song and dance of Miriam because I think this is very significant. And I shared a little bit with you that I love music and that music has been a contemplative practice for me, and I know that I'm not the only one that this resonates with. But as we often know, right, with contemplative practices, things that we try out, require this incredible level of vulnerability. And our practices often evolve over time and so if you're a musician out there, or you love music, I know so many of us do, and there's reasons for that. I could go on about that for days right? But um musicians we talk about this a fair amount, in a metaphorical sense, but very much of what we write and sing is an expression of our inner voice and it's a level of consciousness that literally doesn't feel like it becomes known until it's expressed in this way. And if you are a songwriter or a musician or someone who connects with the divine through music, you know that this this may resonate with you. And this is yet another expression from Miriam of contemplative life in action. And so let me give you a little bit of an example of context. And I actually think this is kind of funny because if you listen to our podcast for a while, you know that Chelsea and I've known each other for quite some time. We like to think that we are still young. But we have been friends for very many years. And I was really quiet in the use of my voice initially.
Chelsea Whipple 2:22
That is such a long time ago Erin, but you're right, I forgot that about you.
Erin Thomas 2:27
Yeah, I mean, I'm sorry, I had a brief interruption, but I was, I was pretty young. I want to say I was 21 Maybe and so I was really quiet and the use of my voice and this is crazy. I can't believe I really can't believe that you knew me at this time, because I'm almost embarrassed to even say it aloud. So when I was first utilizing this practice myself, and my connection to the divine, there was a boldness there, but it was not when I had stepped into and it was not yet one of freedom. And that's what we see here in this narrative with Miriam. As we develop spiritually in every capacity, we noticed that our practices may take on layers and for Miriam, I noticed this She's no exception, right? And so for me, I can tell you that as I've grown into this practice, as I've grown into the musician and song and dance, contemplative practice, sitting with it and allowing it to be expressed more. There is really freedom in that and in fact, I think I have found that using my voice, my singing voice or my speaking voice and the place where I feel most connected and bold, in my own story, and with the divine. And so as I'm hearing you tell the story about this amazing Amma Miriam, I wonder what she must have felt and this pivotal moment of liberation. And so I wonder friend, like do you think this is what happened with Miriam and in reality, it you know, how does this connect you to the Sacred? I'm interested to hear your thoughts about this? Yeah, I can do that.
Chelsea Whipple 4:30
Yeah, I'm just kind of thinking about, you know, the words that you expressed and the connection between being a contemplative and having practices or, you know, disciplines or you know, whatever it is that we define it as in that sense of boldness that comes with it that comes from a different place. You know, and wondering, how that does connect with Miriam you know, she's not her life, she's not quiet. And she becomes kind of this loud, booming, you know, I will not be silent but I will sing out loud. I will lament out loud. You know, I will move with all my might and I will shake this very earth. Like, can you hear that in her like just that inspirational. You know, it reminds me of being a contemplative in action. And those are words from St. Ignatius, Ignatius of Loyola. And
Erin Thomas 5:44
in context. Thank you friend.
Chelsea Whipple 5:47
I'm sorry but that is just my nature. I have to reference everything but you know, so a contemplative in action is basically someone who really defines her life as being present and connected to you know, sacredness. It's not about just sitting in your room, praying in a corner, which sometimes I will admit is my idea of it.
Erin Thomas 6:16
That is the visual image we get, right.
Chelsea Whipple 6:19
It's actually the more you're connected to the sacredness, the more action you take in the world. You know, it's not you're not fleeing from the world. It's like you're living in the world in such a present way that by nature, that boldness comes out by nature, you you see more of the suffering of the world, and you desire to take action in it, and that's where I see her that's how I see her as this contemplative liberator. You know, her connection with the Divine is so convicting that she moves into action, organizing in standing true to who she is. So, So Amma Miriam teaches us to tap into our youthfulness of not doubting, you know, having the courage to be open and vulnerable even if and when the world chews us up and spits us out.
Chelsea Whipple 7:24
You know, she continues to stay open and vulnerable against the worst of circumstances. You know, so my final thoughts for blessed Amma Miriam and again, this is going to come from our book Defiant page 184 If you're interested,
Erin Thomas 7:42
I'd pick it up.
Chelsea Whipple 7:44
The quote that she leaves us with with Miriam we are Miriam's descendants so it's time we compose more freedom songs, and dedicate more time to drum circles. It's time we move in stride together to lead our communities out of bondage, out of scarcity and out of injustice. It is our turn to carry Miriam's drum.
Erin Thomas 8:14
My goodness, that's so poetic. And I am I'm just speechless at this is such a good story. And we've only scratched the surface and so we encourage you all, like if you resonate with us, please dig into this and we're gonna make sure to have resources available so that you are able to, to really dig deeper if if this is something that you resonate with, and I kinda want to sing a victory song. I promise. We will have to save that playlist for later because it is time to wrap up our story of Amma Miriam and so Chelsea, thank you so much for leading us through this story and inspiring us in so many ways. And I want to tell you, you my friend are a true Amma and it takes one to know one so thanks for sharing that with us. I I'm just I'm happy to hear the story and to be where we are right now. And so, in our previous season, we often share a practice or challenge for the week, and we want to offer our regular challenge to you after all after each episode of season two, excuse me, and since Chelsea's got a little bit of some under the weather Ness going on, I'm going to lead us in our challenge for this week. And really what we're gonna do is share a suggestion of how we can apply the freedom song the narrative of our contemplative liberator Miriam. And this episode, we talked about Amma Miriam. She started her spiritual journey early, trusting the spirit to connect her and protect those most vulnerable and in her specific case it was her brother, she boldly stood up and she stood out and her powerful words were central to the message of the Exodus. Her example was an example that the Divine is always with us. emboldening us, strengthening us. So take a minute who has been this person in your life that inspires you and emboldens you for change. Take a moment and cherish that soul in your life with a brief pause
Erin Thomas 10:32
and now moving forward, what is the life giving and liberating act that beats on your heart right now? offer that to the Divine and be present to that act and then take action. Be bold network, connect with others. Take a step because in every sense, we are all Miriam.
Erin Thomas 10:58
Thank you for being here with us listeners and we will see you soon. Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple
Chelsea Whipple 11:12
to get regular updates on our podcast hear new episode drops interact with us and find our show notes. Go to our website,
Unknown Speaker 11:19
www dot contemplative motherhood.org. There you can also sign up for our newsletter.
Erin Thomas 11:26
As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and in helping us share our journey with others. We invite you to regularly check our blog, our aftershow blog posts will allow you to dive deeper on the content shared on it. So if you enjoy today's podcast, make sure to subscribe rate and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai