Living from the Spiritual Heart

by AbbessJane

Jane Tomaine is Abbess of the Feline Cloister. An Episcopal priest and retreat leader, she is also author of two books on The Rule of St. Benedict.

“Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God.
Prologue  9a

What is living from the spiritual heart?  What does this way of living look like when we fix a meal, drive to work, or  mow the lawn?  How might a spiritual heart impact how we approach and do those many tasks we have every day?  What does a spiritual heart mean for our relationship with God?


The Spiritual Heart

Tilden Edwards, founder and former executive director of the Shalem Institute wrote a number of years ago about living from the spiritual heart in a publication called “Weavings.”  He explains that the spiritual heart is conscious of our intimate connection with God and accepts the present moment.  When we are living from the spiritual heart we rejoice in the reality before us whether it is good or unpleasant.  We know that all is within the touch of God’s grace and love. The spiritual heart moves beyond the ego and its demands and is freed for the “calling of the moment.”

The most fundamental step “towards opening our spiritual heart is to open our longing for God: our yearning for God’s fullness in us and the world, through and beyond every desire we may have.”*

I’d like to share the meaningful and practical ways he gives to help us place God first in our hearts and in our lives.  I’ll include related verses from the Rule to show how Edwards’ ideas can help us to live the Rule that we cherish.  After all, St. Benedict open the Rule with a call to living from the spiritual heart.

Listen careful, my child, to my instructions,
and attend to them with the year of your heart.  Prologue 1


Awakening to God

Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say:  It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Romans 13:11).
Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God, and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls our this charge:
If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts (Ps 95:8 and Prologue 8-10)

When we awaken in the morning thoughts and feelings can overtake us and send us down an anxious path.  Edwards says that our first spiritual task of the day is to recall our desire for God “right through that stream of consciousness” and “consecrate ourselves then to God’s immediately present, pervasive love through all that registers in our minds.”  We “awaken to God.”

Remembering to do this practice is challenging.  But when I do remember, upon awakening in the morning I intentionally notice my thoughts and feelings which are often in a confused muddle.   I immediately open my heart to let God into the messy mix.  I’m not sure exactly what I do – perhaps it’s a combination of thought and a physical opening of the chest.

What then happens?  Instead of being carried away by worries of the day—what I must do, will I have time, I dread this or that, I’m tired,  etc., etc., whatever it is—I invite God into the mix.  God is then able to take the power out of the negative thoughts and feelings.  God helps me change that channel of fret and worry to the channel of peace and hope.  Awakening to God saves us “from beginning the day on some seemingly autonomous track of worry and driven activity.”  We begin instead with our trust that God is with us.


Remembering Our Desire for God Throughout the Day

“We believe that the divine presence is everywhere.”  RB 19.1a

Edwards notes that so much inside us and in our culture separates us from our spiritual heart.  I believe that we are all well aware of this fact.  Pressures for success, accomplishment, and achievement harken all around us.  Technology pressures us into doing more, NOW!  More is better, and so forth.

To counteract these pressures we turn to God in prayer throughout the day.  Prayer brings us again into receptivity to God’s presence.  Here is Edwards’ prayer, but we can use whatever is meaningful to us.

“Holy One, you know how easily I forget your radiant presence; remind me of it again and again through this day, through all my mental processing and activities; I want to be yielded to your loving truth through all things.”

Your prayer could be words of Scripture, even be a wordless turning of the heart to God.


Cultivating Open Hopefulness

“Place your hope in God alone.”  RB 4.41.

The loving truth mentioned in his prayer can come in many different and unexpected ways.  Our goal is to be open and available.  Edwards says that a “wide-eyed, open hope frees us to be more in touch with what is of God during the day, rather than being in touch only with what we have predetermined by our too controlling and narrow expectations.”

I  admit that it can be difficult to conjure up hope.  But one way to lessen our grip on life is to be curious about how situations will unfold.  Ask the question, “What is God doing here?”  We then really look and listen  to discover a possible answer and our own role in bringing about God’s plan.


Practice Any of the Classical Spiritual Disciplines

“Listen readily to holy reading, and devote yourself often to prayer.”  RB 4.55-56

“Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God.”**  RB 43.3

Any of the classical spiritual disciplines for attentiveness will help us remember our intention for God. Edwards cites the following as ways to help us remember our intention to be present to and available for God:

Lectio divina (Holy Reading – prayer using Scripture), imaged prayer, worded prayer, icons and other art forms, carrying words of scripture through the day, the Jesus Prayer, a stone, etc.


Find Resting Places Throughout the Day

“What, dear sisters and brothers, is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us?  See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life.”  Prologue 19-20

Edwards suggests that we practice appreciation as a way to rest in God at times during the day.   He explains these resting places of appreciation as  “times during which we commit ourselves to just being and appreciating what is given.”  We move back into communion with God and with creation “just as an end-in-itself love affair.”  And so we make what he calls “resting places,” pauses in the day where we allow God back into our sphere of the day.  At times like these that we “realize how far we have tried to go in taking over the day with our plans and how little we have leaned back into the source of all true activity.”

These “restings” can be internal and external.  They can be alone or with others.  I have found such resting places as I move from one activity to another—to just pause, take a breath and turn to God.  My office is below ground level, but I have four good-sized windows that open to my perennial garden.  One of my restings is to stop and look at my garden.  It doesn’t matter what the season is, this resting helps me moveout of my own small sphere into God’s creation.  Refreshing indeed.  Edwards offers yet another resting – we can even appreciate “the open spaces between our thoughts as being full of God.”


The Paths to Living from the Spiritual Heart

I believe that Benedict would appreciate what Dr. Edwards says in his article.  Perhaps one of Dr. Edwards’ suggested spiritual practices could help you towards living from the spiritual heart.  Here they are.  What one or two speaks to you?

Awakening to God
Remembering Our Desire for God Throughout the Day
Cultivating Open Hopefulness
Practicing Any of the Classical Spiritual Disciplines
Finding Resting Places Throughout the Day

Thanks for reading the article.  I hope it helps you in your journey.


© 2022 The Rev. Dr. Jane A. Tomaine

A Tool for Living Every Day from the Heart

* All quotes in the articles are from “Living the Day from the Heart” by Tilden H. Edwards, Jr., found in Weavings, July/August 1992,Upper Room Publications,  32-35.

**The “Work of God” is the Divine Office or Daily Office, the main work of monastics.

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