Listen in as Erin gives a first-hand account of her journey towards contemplation and motherhood. Her insight, experience and vulnerability will leave you wanting more and living out this deeper knowing within us.
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.
Chelsea Whipple 0:44
Hi, friends and welcome to another episode of the contemplative motherhood podcast. We are so happy that you are here with us. I'm Chelsea and today we get to hear from my amazing co host Erin and get a glimpse of her journey of becoming a contemplative mother. Are you ready?
Erin Thomas 1:04
I'm so ready, friend.
Chelsea Whipple 1:06
Yay. Okay, to start us off, can you tell us a little bit about your adorable family?
Erin Thomas 1:11
Oh, I sure can. Um, let's see they are a handful. A lovely. I have two kids, one boy and one girl. And the boy is eight and the girl is five. And we are currently an active waiting family for domestic infant adoption. This basically means we are hoping to adopt an infant soon. I am married to my husband Olin and we have been married for 10 years. And we live in the hot, humid and beautiful Coastal Georgia.
Chelsea Whipple 1:50
I'm jealous in more ways than one. But thank you. So in our intro that we have we you describe yourself in a few words, a creative counselor and a spiritual seeker. What does that mean?
Erin Thomas 2:08
Yeah, those are big words, right? Difficult to sort of define yourself in three adjectives or three roles, especially in motherhood. So let's break that down a little bit. I think specifically in the area of spiritual seeking, I feel as though I am the type of individual that always seeking more in every aspect of my life. I sometimes use the word sojourner. I'm basically temporarily residing in a place both physically and spiritually for some purpose to fulfill and meaningful part of my journey with God. And so, spiritually seeking is just part of my identity. With the flipside being that embracing this sort of journey has meant that I might be catapulted or led to another portion of, you know, a different chapter in a different part of the world, or where I am now, and in the story that God and I are writing together. And so quite, literally and figuratively, I am a writer. I am a just a lover of words and word smithing. I don't know if that's a word, but it should be. Um, and stories that have really formed my character. And they ultimately I feel like have given me tools to flesh onto paper, the messages that I feel inspired to share and being a contemplative motherhood mother is one of them. So as far as counseling is concerned, professionally, I followed that academic track. I have a master's in counseling. But I found as I continued down this track academically and began to study it, there was more meaning and significance in this portion of my identity. And I found that I naturally desire to hear the life stories of others. I enjoy hearing about their pain, and their suffering and ultimately their desire for meaning. And so as a result, I feel it is part of my natural tendency to yearn to encourage and provide. So ultimately, all of that led to my interest in the intersection of psychology and spiritual formation, which is another can of worms. But all of that to say, this is part of the spiritual seeking aspect of myself creatively. I just find the steady anchor in creative outlets, such as art, music writing. And so for me, my purpose in the journey of contemplative motherhood is fulfilled through using those various outlets and intentional.
Chelsea Whipple 5:21
Yes, you did, and so much material I'd love to dive deeper, but maybe we will do it another time. So how would you describe how you live your contemplative lifestyle?
Erin Thomas 5:35
I remember asking you this question and how in the world do you possibly explain this, right? First of all, I find that it's really important for all of us to evaluate what that means for us specifically. So everyone lives this differently. Everyone has a background and a value system that they come from. So they're different traditions, different family systems, different journeys of faith that all sort of intertwine into this lifestyle. So I think it's important to sort of make sure that we say, everyone lives this differently. For me, in a simple way, I desire to have an intentional practice and presence of a dear deeper, spiritual meaning in a relationship with the Divine Presence of God. That's, so I read that down in my journal. And and you know, I think, to unpack that a little bit, I actively embrace the mindset within the context of my journey as just being a present mother. within the Divine Presence.
Chelsea Whipple 6:56
Can you say this one more time.
Erin Thomas 6:59
Yeah. So that the my mindset is just within the context of my journey, that I'm a present mother, within the presence of God. And that looks so different for so many people. And we all got there from some point or another, and how we sort of made the decision to jump into this lifestyle. What is this? What this this entail? And if we could give a dictionary answer for all of our listeners, you know, like that would be, that would be so easy. But we can't So yeah, that's one sentence. How I have gotten to this point, and what that looks like.
Chelsea Whipple 7:51
Now, last time, I had talked about my hamster ball. And I'm wondering if you could give us a visual example. Similar to that, your prior history?
Erin Thomas 8:05
Yes. So I love that you can obviously tell that we have teacher spirits must have a visual concrete example to apply. Right? And I was, I started thinking about this and remember those, but no, I think it was like the late 80s when we were first. First in school, this was when we had the old Apple Macs that you press the Escape button, and they had these super, super simple printers. But they had that connected computer paper. I feel like for me, my life felt like this constant connected computer paper with a need for preparation, just a constant output, desire for achievement that is really inherent in my being. But I felt like I was wavering. And I felt as though I wasn't solidified inwardly. And felt an achievement since even within in my spirit, but there was no peace. And so on paper, it was looking incredibly productive, right if I were to turn in my resume of my life and the checkboxes that I had sort of checked over time, but I was wavering with this unpredictable emotion, emotion and grappling with a lot of circumstances that were sort of unforeseen. So yeah, that was a lot of computer paper. There was a long chain of paper.
Chelsea Whipple 9:58
Yeah, and I do wonder, but you don't have to answer this because I remember you had to put it in the printer a certain way, the perforated lines had the line. Because if not, it get all crooked, and then the paper wouldn't come out. Right? And then you would feel like an existential crisis.
Erin Thomas 10:18
Listen, I could go on about that for an hour. I mean, I could rabbit hole for an hour, because that entails exactly who I was as a human being. But ultimately, looking at that, looking as though I was a person that looked productive, per se. On paper, I was still not internally anchored. And I wanted that, I wanted, whatever that look like. And I had an extensive background of various faith traditions and, and all kinds of rabbit holes spiritually that I had gone down, but ultimately served, circling back around, I wanted to live and be anchored in peace and have meaning and a time period where there was a significant amount of suffering in my life. That was, that was the goal. But I think that's true for a lot of people. You know, I mean, if we look back at our journey, we make decisions and ultimately have big transformational moments when we are going through a really difficult time period. So, you know, for me, personally, there was some grief and loss, I'm moving away from family, a constant changing environment. I found myself on a farm after living in the city for a really long time. I had a child with complex medical needs, who I was, you know, through certain circumstances, unexpectedly homeschooling and I had a toddler, okay, like a toddler should be enough. But I think ultimately, that realization that so many of us have that we don't have control over our external circumstances. And you don't have control over the suffering of the world. And I couldn't achieve that control outwardly. But I knew that it was possible. But I didn't know exactly how to do it. Oh, gosh, I can so relate to that. So I just want to say yes, yes, yes. The hamster wheel, it's still it's, it's still there. It looks a little bit different. And so I think, you know, sort of as a sidebar, I think it's important for us to think about contemplative motherhood, practically. Many of us who some of our listeners may be listening may have never even heard this word before. Maybe we have read some about it, but we don't know how to practically practicing this kind of thing. Practically practice. We're gonna go with that.
Chelsea Whipple 13:29
It's always a thing.
Erin Thomas 13:30
It's a thing.
Chelsea Whipple 13:31
Whatever words you splice together
Erin Thomas 13:38
Inevitably, as an achiever, by nature, what am I gonna do, right? Such an achiever. Um, I thought there was like some point of maturity, that I would get to spiritually that therefore everything else would line up, and then I would be like, whole or peaceful, or anchored, or whatever language you want to use to place there. And so I did some digging, as most of us do, and for me, that was a lot of books. And seeking mentors, and learning what everyday practices of contemplative motherhood look like. And so I carve out time for rest. Rest. We love that word. It makes me feel restful, crazy life, a motherhood, rest is hard. And I had sort of a preconceived idea that rest was Sleep, which, clearly we're all a fan of most of us, especially if you are a mom, you just dream, those times when you can put your face on the pillow
Chelsea Whipple 15:13
Except when you face is on your pillow and you can't sleep.
Erin Thomas 15:20
Isn't that the worse? Yes. And see, that's not a state of rest, in fact, right. And so, rest specifically for me meant being present and not doing or needing to achieve. And that was hard. For me, I am a doer. So rest. The second practical component was creativity. I by nature am a very creative, artsy soul. And so music, art and writing have been really pivotal in my spiritual life and my development. And soul care. This is the one soul care is one that I'm probably the most passionate about, and where it intersects with my background. And soul care, I think really looks different for for different people. But in my case, it's sort of looking at sometimes we use the word self care, but I think we say self care in the sense of a mother's, like, take a shower. That doesn't feel like care to me, feels like, like an essential for life, you know? Right, like, Oh, you get to eat today? Yeah. Congratulations, you get to eat sitting down. That's amazing. I think I am really big on language, obviously. So moving from self care to soul care, and what does that look like to care for your soul. And I think that's the one that we notice the most, when we don't attend to it. So, soul care may look different for different personalities and different faith traditions. For me, soul care is reading time in nature. Soul care, for me was therapy. That's really important to say. And that has been a very extensive part of being able to fully embrace the contemplative lifestyle. Yeah, there's a lot there. There's a lot there. And I think it's important that people know that, like, your soul care, your practices are going to look different, and we'll unpack but what we're looking for, and ultimately, what we desire is the result. And for me, that was a transformational process of being connected with the divine in a way that has bled over into other areas of my life, including my relationships with my children, and into our family life.
Chelsea Whipple 18:41
I love that I'm gonna have to think about what my soul care is. I have never really thought about what I need to take care of myself, my soul. Yeah. Wonderful. Thanks, Erin. So how would you define a contemplative mother?
Erin Thomas 19:01
Yes, so defining a contemplative mother. I think it's important to know that like, there is some level of embracing of our external circumstances, right? Like our kitchens and dining rooms may be really loud. We may be chasing a child at one point or another, or we're shuffling back and forth to, to a sport or an extracurricular activity. So I think, understanding that we're not removing ourselves from those circumstances necessarily. But we're desiring more of an inward process, and that connection with the divine. And so for me, that means feeling a holistic anchoring in my mind, my body, and spirit. Those are The three tenants that I sort of insure to do encourage others to do and make an inventory of those. and that is how we come to use your intentional practices. I hope that makes sense.
Chelsea Whipple 20:21
It does, the holistic anchoring. Yeah, the whole list, so many words, you are a wordsmither?
Erin Thomas 20:32
Well, I enjoy the source. I do. I don't know if everyone, like me just enjoys at the source, but a little quirk of me. But, you know, being present as a mother and being present in the divine spirit. Those are the two primary components. And, you know, so I think, ultimately, is important for me to share that I think most people who know me, personally know that I'm still a super wild and free mother. I still have those desires to let my hair run wild and take adventures into the creative unknown, and I still have that achievement nature. But I embrace those components of my identity as both Erin who is a spiritual being, and Erin, who is a mother to my children. And then with that, I place it in a larger vision and within a contemplative perspective. So I say yes to mud, puddles, and messes. And I understand that laundry and dishes are just like a constant evolution. I say no to things that don't line up with my set of intentions that I feel anchored within me, and I consult the Divine Spirit of God. Within that set of intentions. I remove destructions or task actions out of a need to just sort of complete a list, right. And finally, you know, it's a learning process. And as I go, I feel as though it's another chapter, and we're building another layer. And the contemplative lifestyle has now evolved into our journey as, like a whole family, a whole contemplative family, who just sort of happens to homeschool. Yeah, that's sort of the gist of it. I I don't know, I think there's a lot of unknowns, right? The world is basically a classroom, and I feel like I'm still learning.
Chelsea Whipple 23:11
Yeah, I think that's the beauty of being always calling it a journey. You know, not knowing where you're going next, what's going to change? Because every day presents itself with a new set of challenges.
Erin Thomas 23:30
And I hope in the future, we're going to be able to share some of those fun experiences with our kids. So you know that you're not alone.
Chelsea Whipple 23:45
Having our kids interrupt us and everywhere, everywhere in the household. I'm sure everyone can relate to that. One thing, Erin, I have known you for almost 16 years, which seems so crazy. I know. But even listening to you today, like it is amazing. One, how much I can relate to this journey. And I don't know if anybody else listening can really relate to that. desires and the anchors and that holistic seeking, you know, kind of a thing, but I was so surprised also, how much I learned from you. Yeah, I mean, that's a long way. Yeah. Yeah. What? You don't know I'm going to ask this question. So we get to ad lib a little bit, but what is there an invitation for our listeners that you can find in your story that would be helpful.
Erin Thomas 24:56
It's a really good question. One of the things that I think a lot of us tend to do and inventory are have a moment where we ask for a deeper meaning. And we ask for a connection with the spirit, or with the divine. And we ultimately, a lot of it comes from suffering, or from a difficult time period or a challenging time period. And so I encourage you, if you are sort of in the midst of a challenge, what you would consider a challenging time period, whatever that looks like to do that level of inventory that says, What specifically Am I seeking? And why. And ultimately, I think if you ask that question, then you're opening yourself up to a world of more questions. Right. But more opportunities, you know, definitely more questions. Yeah.
Chelsea Whipple 26:20
Yeah, cuz we say in the contemplative lifestyle questions are good answers are bad.
Erin Thomas 26:25
Right? Well, I think question, good questions just lead to more good questions. We all have the answers. And clearly no one would have a podcast. Am I right? We won't have a podcast if we did not have questions. Highly Yeah.
Chelsea Whipple 26:43
Yeah, a good. A good success marker for Erin and I would be that you constantly are asking questions.
Erin Thomas 26:52
Sometimes that can result in like three hour phone conversations. So it's okay to know when to pause the question. Yeah.
Chelsea Whipple 27:03
No, I love that invitation. Because you don't hear that type of invitation very much. You know, worrying at your Yeah, looking at your life from a point of view that we try to run away from or pack down inside of us, instead of allowing it to be a part of us, you know, to take us on our journey. And wherever that leads, so beautiful, I love it, friend, thank you. So, like, we want to do with every podcast is to end it with a practice an intentional practice, we will use Erin's word. So Erin is going to lead us here with an intentional practice that she likes.
Erin Thomas 27:51
So this was something that I actually learned early, early in adulthood, and it's called body tension awareness. And this is an inventory of body tension, exactly what it says. But I think that you'll find in areas that you carry more tension, you tend to ask more questions of like, why am I so tense in this area, for example, I carry a lot of tension in my hands. And that's because I like to write a lot. So, you know, I think, not to be overly analytical. This is really has the ability to sort of become a greater practice later on. But you first began by a general awareness of your upper body and a general began by the tightening of every segment of your muscle groups. So we start from the bottom and we build to the top. Beginning with your bottom limbs, we tighten and then through our torso, we tighten. And then with our face, and our head and our upper body, we tighten. And then we loosen. And then in a final action. centralize your mind on one word that will relaxes and brings peace to your spirit and with every effort, relax your mind.
Chelsea Whipple 30:29
I think I'm going to go take a nap now.
Erin Thomas 30:35
I will join you. Oh, that is just one of my favorites.
And that will there's a segue for that later. I think that's that's a practice that has more unpacking to do. But I wanted to share this quote. Father Richard Rohr if you're not familiar, I'm a huge fan. I think many of my fathers or mothers right. Definitely has been that. "All great spirituality is about what we do with our home. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us." What?
Chelsea Whipple 31:24
Can you read that one more time?
Erin Thomas 31:26
Absolutely. All great. Spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us.
My father Richard, or for the win.
Chelsea Whipple 31:52
Yeah, I can't just guess I love the mystics. No, no.
Well, everyone, thank you so much for joining us. Stay tuned for our next one. And Erin, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
Erin Thomas 32:10
I loved being here with you, friend. It feels like we're in the same room even though we're not. Yes. All right. Until next time. Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast. With us your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple.
Chelsea Whipple 32:30
To get regular updates on our podcast, hear new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes and find our show notes. Make sure to go to our website, www contemplative motherhood.org.
Erin Thomas 32:44
As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and then helping us share our journey with others. 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 program mamas across the board. So until next time of the purposes
Transcribed by https://otter.ai