the arising of saudade

Reading is an exterior exercise; meditation belongs to the interior intellect.  

Prayer operates at the level of desire.  Contemplation transcends every sense. ~ Guigo


The arising of saudade* has the power to imprison me to its feelings of anguished desolation. Underneath this homesickness is a calling for a disciplined courage to help depart this state of mind and to wait beside a tranquil pool of water, alone, with a redefined faith that a guide, teacher, companion, savior will arrive to accompany me on a journey of reconciliation.

Within this waiting, I hear a whispered invitation to engage in a mindfulness practice guided by the art of Lectio Divina, a very ancient Christian practice that has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition.  Lectio Divina, a Latin term meaning “divine reading”, is a practice that involves a slow, reflective reading of the Scriptures wherein one listens, reverently, for the still voice of God. This spiritual activity is one that includes mindfulness, meditation, insight, and contemplation.

The practice begins with quieting the mind and cultivating the ability to listen deeply. In the twelfth century, Guigo, a Carthusian monk, described the four stages he considered essential to this practice.  He identified the first stage as lectio (reading) where the Word of God is read, slowly and reflectively.  Lectio opens the door to understanding. The second stage is meditatio (reflection). When a word or a passage is understood, the text is memorized while the reader gently repeats the words.  The repetition interacts with one’s thoughts, hopes, memories, and desires.  Through this process of rumination, the deepest aspects of self absorb the text’s meaning. (The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God.)

The third stage is oratio (response), during which thinking subsides and one engages in a dialogue with God.  That is, there is a transcending of self with a power beyond oneself in such a way that the absorbed meaning transforms the self in a profound and deep manner.  From this, conscience guides one to a life lived more fully and intently.

The final stage of Lectio Divina is contemplatio (rest) where all thoughts, understandings, and meanings subside.  One is invited to simply rest and listen in silence as one is embraced by God, is home, once again.

Lectio Divina is not a goal-oriented practice in which one reaches unity though a step-by-step, technique-by-technique process.  It is a journey that awakens me, as a lay-person, to the arising and vanishing of thoughts and feelings, and to the ebb and flow between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting.

The worldviews of Christianity and Buddhism, as I presently understand them, converge with the suggestions that this sense of homesickness that arises and then fades may be a trace memory of wholeness—of pure emotional connection—and that this sense of home will arise again, and again it will vanish.

From a Western point of view, representing something with words and focusing on them is an “intellectual” process, while representing something through a feeling or image and focusing on through these senses is an “intuitive” process. Intellectual understanding united with intuitive awakening opens doors to greater insight.

The Buddha said that the ultimate truth of things is directly visible, timeless and calling out to be approached and seen.  This reality is always available to us, and that the place where it is to be realized is within oneself.  The ultimate truth is not something mysterious and remote, but the truth of our own experience. It can be reached only by understanding our experience, by penetrating it right through to its foundations.  This truth, in order to become liberating truth, has to be known directly.  That is known by insight, grasped and absorbed by a kind of knowing which is also an immediate seeing.

Wakefulness naturally radiates out when we are not so concerned with ourselves and are able to truly acknowledge the interdependence and connectedness of all that is.

I feel an invitation to be in the moment with stilled silence, I am home.

The still center of being . . . whispers, “Realize Me.”  No sooner is it glimpsed then it is gone. ~ Guigo

*Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English. In the book In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell writes: The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.  (cited in

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Filed under musings, photography, psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized

4 responses to “the arising of saudade

  1. Wonderful word – thank you for introducing it to me. It feels quite apt…

  2. That was a beautiful, thoughtful and thought-provoking post!Thanks for sharing it. :)

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