Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Amma Rabi’a: The Contemplative Beloved. Part 2

May 02, 2022 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 2 Episode 6
Amma Rabi’a: The Contemplative Beloved. Part 2
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
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Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Amma Rabi’a: The Contemplative Beloved. Part 2
May 02, 2022 Season 2 Episode 6
Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple

Erin and Chelsea discuss Rabi’a al-Adawiyya and her connection to Sufism in Islam. As a 9th century amma from Persia, her writings and poem bring life into so many disciples and modern-day contemplatives. Her trailblazing path by describing the Divine as the Beloved leaves us wanting more and more of her teachings. Journey with us as we dive deep into her life, her inspiration, and find ways to drink the living waters of the Beloved found in all of us. We discuss her in two episodes so our listeners can walk with us as we slowly uncover the wealth of her being. She shows how simple unity with the Beloved is and how we can uncover the Beloved found within us all.

Check out the After The Show blog posted on Wednesdays at

Show Notes Transcript

Erin and Chelsea discuss Rabi’a al-Adawiyya and her connection to Sufism in Islam. As a 9th century amma from Persia, her writings and poem bring life into so many disciples and modern-day contemplatives. Her trailblazing path by describing the Divine as the Beloved leaves us wanting more and more of her teachings. Journey with us as we dive deep into her life, her inspiration, and find ways to drink the living waters of the Beloved found in all of us. We discuss her in two episodes so our listeners can walk with us as we slowly uncover the wealth of her being. She shows how simple unity with the Beloved is and how we can uncover the Beloved found within us all.

Check out the After The Show blog posted on Wednesdays at

Chelsea Whipple  0:04  
You are 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  0:25  
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  0:34  
So grab some coffee tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started. 

Erin Thomas  0:42  
Hello, hello. Welcome back friends to the contemplative motherhood podcast. I am Erin Thomas and I am here with my co host and dearest friend Chelsea. Whipple. Hi friend.

Chelsea Whipple  0:54  
Hello Good to be with you again.

Erin Thomas  0:56  
I know a long time no see there's so much there you guys we have actually are doing a two part. Series I want to say series but it's just an episode on Amma Rabi'a. And so we just finished part one and we are excited to move into part two. So just to give kind of a recap. We've discussed a little bit about Amma Rabia's background, and we have touch on many of the teachings and just beautiful, beautiful stances that she had. And so the last concept that we touched on, primarily by just listening to her poetry is how she desired not that her emotions would be swung about and how she moved throughout the day, but that a greater awareness and would be with her and all that surrounds her. And so we asked you guys and challenged you to dwell on that for a bit this is pretty much our concept of what we reiterate here on the podcast, right? We are 

Chelsea Whipple  2:11  
use different words but it's all the same. 

Erin Thomas  2:13  
Exactly. We are seeking to be present with the Divine and here and her beautiful language with the beloved and yet still present. In our lives and motherhood. And that's hard. I want to say that she probably maybe have had a little bit of a less distractions. But you know, being that it's so early on and not a ton of writings that we have to look back to you know, who knows we don't know what she dealt with during her time. We only have snapshots and beautiful poetry that has been passed down for us. So bridging back to Amma Rabi'a Chelsea, our resident historian can you share with us a little bit more about maybe her teachings and how so it within her teachings and you know, I mean, within Sufism, what are these things that she really focused on in her life?

Chelsea Whipple  3:15  
Yeah, so a lot of her writings talk about prayers, and what prayer meant to her and how she would pray. You know, we read one with a poem, you know, that would be considered a prayer. And she really taught about value, what kind of value prayer is in someone's life. You know, to find this unity with a beloved. So she stressed that sub supplication so you know, when we kind of have supplication our prayers were asking for something or for someone or for ourselves, she said never entered her. talks with the beloved because. The goal for her is union. And I will say this for myself for myself as well is union with the beloved. So if the goal is union, then our hearts with God with the beloved our beloved, are one already, so prayers she would talk about is conversing with the beloved, having conversations with the beloved, in prayers, our actions, you know, we saw that with Amma, Miriam, prayers are poems, songs, silence, all the conversations that go in our head. our wanderings, our rabbit hole trails that we often go on at least I do with people and in my head. Intentional longings are also prayers, prayers, are our emotions, prayers, are conversations with friends. You know on this podcast, prayers are what. the words that come out of Erin and I's mouth. You know, when we're with our kids, our prayers, you know, all the words that slip from our mouth because the beloved and I are one so those conversations, those actions that we do those emotions that spring up are our prayers.

Erin Thomas  5:31  
I love this because this really brings life to this concept. And I know that many of us if you're listening you may be from a variety of backgrounds. And so your view on prayer may be different than mine. And what's so beautiful about Abba Rabi'as concept of this is that it felt like she has sort of an intimate communion with God, that was just like this continual conversation. Do you feel like that's sort of what's going on here?

Chelsea Whipple  6:06  
Yeah. So you know, because often, you know, depending on who you are, again, I'll give an example of myself. You know, I I've memorized a lot of prayers. Like, I had to memorize prayers in order to honestly go to the next grade in my school. And so I have a lot of prayers memorized. So in my mind growing up, it's like prayers are the certain set of words that are said to, you know, said to God, and that is fine. And that is prayers. 

Erin Thomas  6:37  

Chelsea Whipple  6:37  
But what she's bringing to the surface that is really helped me in my own life is to know that every act of what I do is prayer, because the beloved and I are one because the beloved rests in my being. So sitting down to have an intentional time with the beloved is a prayer. Walking with my feet up the stairs carrying a huge basket of laundry hoping it doesn't fall all over the place while balancing a kid dragging behind me, is also my prayer. So that is just profound in his made a huge impact in my life. And so I want to share another poem from her that kind of highlights this unity and how she expressed it. So she says,

Chelsea Whipple  7:32  
in love nothing exists between breast and breast. Speech is born out of longing, true description from the real taste, the one who tastes knows, the one who explains lies. How can you describe the true form of something in whose presence you are blotted out and who's being you still exist? In who lives as a sign for your journey?

Erin Thomas  8:08  
Wow, there's so much imagery there. And I feel like she was a profoundly gifted communicator. And I know that we're really only scratching the surface here and we really only scratched the surface in part one, but to kind of bridge a little bit for and I am interested in getting some of your personal feedback. How does this sit with you like where are you with this information and with this beautiful lens that we're looking through right now? How are you feeling with all of it, and it can you share that with us a little bit

Chelsea Whipple  8:57  
yeah. So I knew that she was someone that we should profile because she has made such a huge impact in the faith world and the way that she does she has this ability to describe you know the ultimate reality as beloved, which is such a key term, you know, we've talked about in other episodes and you know, in season one to about these terms that we use for, you know, the divine, and how they all mean something, and so to call the divine beloved means something and so she's such a unique figure, an early figure, to have really understood what beloved means, but also at the same time because of the century she's living in. It can be very hard to understand those teachings. And it's like you're really kind of mining. What does this mean in my modern day world that's not surrounded by this culture. You know, how can I understand exactly what she means by these poems or you know, what the intention was? And even the words and if you if you read there's some beautiful books about her that we will post on our after the show, you know, blog is that they can be kind of conflicting, and they can challenge how we perceive the world and that's the most that's the hardest, again, is that Eastern viewpoint of having to remember this is a communal view, instead of an individual view, even if she writes, what we are thinking is from an individual view because she writes between her and the beloved. It's still this idea of this communal viewpoint and so you kind of have to keep checking yourself on what that means. And there's one such T teaching about gratitude that I really kind of struggled with. And Erin, I really want to pitch this to you because I think you have an amazing perception of gratitude in relation to suffering. And I think Amma Rabi'a is the same. And I'd love to kind of hear your thoughts on how Amma Rabi'a talked about gratitude. In connection. She connected it with patience. And how do you see that relationship between gratitude in the midst of suffering?

Erin Thomas  11:27  
Yeah, gracious, no pressure here. Got so much there, and there's so much to chew on here. And I kind of want to encourage you to if you're listening you know, we've touched on some of her teachings, but in order to familiarize yourself with some of the language that we're using, I want to put a plug for season one. Because we definitely did touch on gratitude there but I want to go deep with this for a second. So maybe you're listening in your car or maybe you need to pause and wait until you're able to process and sit with this concept of gratitude that I want to share with you more deeper personal experience. And so when I was reading about Amma Rabi'a, and her concept of gratitude, there's so much there because there are so many terms that she even used in her writings that I resonate. With deeply. And so without giving a large life story, I can say with a very large certainty that the depth of this connection of gratitude and suffering runs extremely deep for me personally. We always on this podcast want to give you a way in some insight and how this applies to your life story. And so here we are, with this sort of concept and so I want to share with you a bit of a personal experience. I think in reality, many of us have been at this crossroads and I want to explain that a little bit more because Crossroads tends to be a u a term that's used frequently in all kinds of different contexts, but where we ultimately find ourselves in tragedy are suffering. We often find you know, whether it's from a string of choices or result of being a victim of trauma in any form. You really kind of define what that means to you. Okay. I can't tell you what your trauma or your choices or what your life event was. That really is a definition that's left up to you. But I want to talk a little bit about this process and um Amma Rabi'a did an amazing job of sort of connecting this. And for us, when we experience trauma or tragedy, which happens frequently in our lives just as humans, there's a process that happens with us internally. And so after tragedy there is what we will get would consider a fork in the road the spiritually and possibly physically for a lot of us. I know that sounds like a philosophizing definition, and I don't want to really generalize but for a lot of us a significant suffering experience completely changes the trajectory of our future. It changes the way we view everything. It changes how we do this process we have to make perhaps intentional choices, some of them may be emotionally or physically, some of them spiritually and. This word that I love to use is that we come to a point where we have to do an inventory, as I like to say, and it's really like we're being assessed at the scene. I get this imagery of just like I survive this. I know I'm standing here, but I'm at triage, like what is left, where am I? And so, whenever this point comes for you and your life, just as you've seen this theme over and over again with our spiritual ammas we might find ourselves asking questions about what we believe and why we believe it. And that's just a reality. There is really a cognitive dissonance that happens for a lot of us like an internal struggle right?

Erin Thomas  15:53  
So you may hear the term deconstruction, which I sort of have mixed feelings about, but that's another episode for another day. But deconstructing is really just a way of describing there's a time for pretty much all of us at some point in our lives, where we have to sort through what we think and what we believe. And there is a fear context surrounding this process. And I want to say out loud like, that's okay. It's okay for this process to have some fear attached with it. I'll be frank with you and say, We have to be careful though not to polarize this process, sifting and sorting through the waters of contemplative life at very many points in your life is absolutely a a life changing experience, and it's not meant to rip us out of these peaceful waters. So to give you an example, and a cut to it, two years ago, I lost a child and there was as you can imagine, a very sorting and sifting that occurred. And I want to explain that this tragedy wasn't transactional to me. I could not for the life of me Recoc reconcile my suffering and this intellectual sense, right? Through thought processes and reasoning and I could barely understand my emotions. If you've been through grief, trauma, tragedy, major life events, you know that grief just does this naturally. We all have this experience in some way in some form. So I want to give you a little bit of a visual, and we've talked a little bit about what this flipping upside down looks like. And this is just a different context. It's almost like a Jenga tower. I don't know if you're a Jenga player. Maybe depends on your age gracious. I don't even know Chels, how old is that game? 

Chelsea Whipple  18:09  
Its still Around, 

Erin Thomas  18:10  
right. Okay, so maybe it's been remodeled. I'm not trying too much with my age here. But to give you a visual a lot of times when this sort of process happens when we see this suffering, and we see that this particular event and life changing experience flips our life upside down. It's like a Jenga tower. And these are the blocks of our human life. They are our experiences they are our hearts, they are our soul. They are things that we have learned and unlearned, they are relationships, they are so much and as we begin to reconstruct to place these intentional blocks of our life back in some sort of working order. We're deciding what to keep and what to place aside. And we find some times that figurative tower might lean differently.

Erin Thomas  19:09  
I say frequently that I'm really certain. And I know that this is kind of an interesting concept, but I am just so certain that my heart beats differently now since experiencing the loss of a child. And so maybe you have an experience like this. Maybe it's a relationship, the loss of a family member, a heart ache, an event that caused your heart to beat differently and thus, our union with the beloved shifts, and it takes a different shape. And different, again, is not bad. It's just that it's different. And so we have different language and contemplative circles that we use for this right? But really, this can either drown out our belief in the beloved by pulling us in so many different directions, or it can give us union that is an outside of our own abilities. And so our reconstruction of block by block step by step we build, but these blocks are intentional acts of gratitude. I am thankful for this and we may literally and a physical or metaphorical sense be dragging some of these blocks. Some of them may feel heavier than they used to. But they are built by a posture of gratitude that comes from a deep inner work and grit and this is what we are seeing in these ammas. So as we go on and continue with life, and even though it's not the same as it once was, I think we'll find that the blocks just begin to feel lighter. As we express gratitude, more and more and more, it becomes an overflow of our exchanges with a beloved and I think this is what Amma Rabi'a is really talking about in connection with gratitude. So I want to connect this a bit for us just a little bit. Throughout this series, we are continuing to see that suffering changes the way in which we move forward. It changes the way we interact with the beloved. And these ammas despite profound stories, they're awesome many of us who are experiencing that as well. It changes how we interact with people. It changes the way we respond to the Beloved. And I have to just kind of give a sidebar that this is a term, beloved is a term that I love. But for the reason that our hearts beat differently yet hopefully, a feeling with depth that wasn't as anchored before. There's gratitude that we have allows our hearts to beat differently and as a result, there's a depth there that is a communion with a beloved that wasn't present perhaps before. And so in this process of deconstruction or reconstruction when our external circumstances do not meet like this patient, peaceful posture of our heart internally, you know, we can intentionally practice building gratitude in the deep spaces of our hearts stories. And these heavy blocks that are at the bottom of this tower, they're at the bottom of the tower for a reason. Through this process, the building becomes lighter, our endurance grows, our character grows. Our journey takes different steps. And as a result, we find that gratitude is a practice that joy is something that exudes from us from these intentional processes. So I hope I haven't lost you with that. But I wanted to share specifically about gratitude from that posture because in reality I think a lot of us don't always know how to approach this gratitude practice. And Amma Rabi'a had just such a unique viewpoint on this. And so as we build our blocks up with things that we are deeply connected with, and things that have shaped our world and have changed how our heart beats, as a result, we can just be profoundly grateful. For the joy that we have.

Chelsea Whipple  24:01  
Yeah, and I

Chelsea Whipple  0:04  
Thank you set this up perfectly. You know, because sometimes when you talk about gratitude, you know, you see it as being thankful, 

Erin Thomas  0:15  

Chelsea Whipple  0:15  
Gratitude is so much more than just being thankful because it's like kind of that deeper level because, you know, when you brought the connection to gratitude in the midst of suffering and you know, just to bring this back to Amma Rabi'a, and how she talked about gratitude and its connection to patience, you know, which is mothers and caretakers can be something you know, having an eternal act of love. Yes, I don't want to overlook the fact that she had, you know, she connected gratitude as something that is the ultimate practice and to make sure that we understand that gratitude and suffering can be connected as well. I think is important for people to hear. Yeah. And, you know, so for her, gratitude produces Joy. Joy can look different, if you're happy or if you're sad. 

Erin Thomas  1:24  

Chelsea Whipple  1:25  
and again, Joy does not equal happy, 

Erin Thomas  1:28  

Chelsea Whipple  1:28  
And so the way she talks about I want us to remember that joy does not equal happy because you can still feel joy. It's just a different type of joy and sadness. And if you've really ever gone through, it's only if you've gone through suffering in which I think everybody has gone through some sort of suffering, whether it's 

Erin Thomas  1:46  

Chelsea Whipple  1:47  
a lot, or even just a little, there's always been some sort of suffering in there. So I think you can kind of understand that. So for her, you know, gratitude produces joy. And it produces joy in both the giver and the receiver. Whether that to people whether that's you and the beloved. So when we give, we are sending not only that act, but the feeling and faith with the gift, and when we receive we not only receive that act, but the feeling and faith that came with the gift. And so the patience also, is we connect to gratitude with patience, and I always have to bring it back to, you know, with our kids, for example, because you feel a lot more grateful when you're acting, you know, using the act of patience with it. So my kids for example, I have a lovely, lovely child.

Erin Thomas  2:54  
I love that

Erin Thomas  2:55  

Chelsea Whipple  2:56  
 was to take on onrynous to a higher level. So he's not my oldest and he competes with my oldest because he wants to kind of He wants that sense of responsibility that you know, the oldest one gets he wants to kind of be faster than the oldest one you know, he's kind of always compares himself with the oldest. And so it's like he's like, I gotta be more onry than the oldest. And so for him, it's like, I can understand the connection with patience when it comes to gratitude. Because it takes him longer to kind of sit still and you know, listen and all those things. So it's like, if I keep holding on to that patience, the depths of my gratitude is so remarkably deeper when he meets that goal, you know, or does something even when he's not onry like I can feel that effect. But I'm kind of going off on a tangent of how it kind of personally applies to me but and so her idea was that gift is not the one to be in awe of, or to feel grateful for not the gift, but it's the giver, who your joy comes from who that gratitude really comes from, and to focus on the giver rather than the receiving process

Erin Thomas  4:20  
itself. Okay.

Chelsea Whipple  4:21  
And you know, she talks about gratitude is really a lifetime activity. So she writes a lot about prayer and she writes a lot about gratitude. And so when we turn inward with our beloved, that sense of gratitude rises, without knowledge or sentiment, it just becomes a part of you, it becomes a part of our being. Exactly. And in turn, you know, we realize the relationship to love. And that love and gratitude are so closely linked together. And it doesn't discount suffering again, but because, you know, suffering and gratitude are interlinked together as well.

Erin Thomas  5:04  
Yeah. I really have to say that because the interject here because that that is a deep, overwhelming love in union with the beloved. Like to even have an understanding of that that that gratitude is a love and union with a beloved. I love that so so much. Can you give us a little bit more please?

Chelsea Whipple  5:33  
And I want I want to leave us with this as as we wrap up. You know the this episode is the idea of the connection of union with the beloved in a communal worldview. So when we start to live in this union of belovedness you know, we start to see others alongside of us and this act of love. When we live as our words are conversing with the beloved, no matter if it's a store clerk we are speaking with or children as we put them to bed. So take a moment and really think about the richness of this act. So the beauty of finding the beloved in the midst of chaos, you know, finding the beloved in your most terrible horrible no good very bad day. You know, the very act of worship, becomes our to do lists, our laundry that's always needing to be done. The tears that need to be dried, the heartache and pain of those that suffer. You know, the joy of finding that missing sock.

Erin Thomas  6:46  
Okay, all the praise hands for that. The Missing sock.

Chelsea Whipple  6:53  
That is where the beloved is, I believe love it is in those very acts. And that's what Amma Rabi'a teaches us. So everyone is the beloved in turning inward to ourselves. And finding the beloved. There then can spread, the beloved to every corner of this earth. And that can be our challenge for the week.

Erin Thomas  7:24  
Oh goodness. This is so good, my friend. There has been a lot here. And so thank you for walking us through the life of this beautiful poetic Amma Rabi'a. I feel like I'm even more solidified in this path and to looking you know, just forward to hearing more stories of our historical and our modern day ammas. So I'm going to close us with a last poem to soak in and live out from Amma Rabi'a. 

Erin Thomas  7:59  
You have infused my being through and through as an intimate friend must always do. So when I speak, I speak only of you. And when silent, I yearn for you. 

Erin Thomas  8:20  
Thanks so much for joining us for part two. of Amma Rabi'as story and we will see you 

Erin Thomas  8:26  
thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast. With us your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple

Chelsea Whipple  8:34  
to get regular updates on our podcast hear new episode drops interact with us and find our show notes. Go to our website, www dot contemplative There you can also sign up for our newsletter.

Erin Thomas  8:48  
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 after show blog posts will allow you to dive deeper on the content shared on it. So if you enjoyed today's podcast make sure that subscribe rate and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. Until next time

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