A Contemplative in the World

By Julie Elliot ~

We’ve just completed our fourth residency of the Pacific Jubilee SoulGuiding program. It was a joy to gather again in our community and this time we found ourselves surrounded on all sides by beautiful, original paintings by Lois Huey-Heck, one of our program mentors. Lois has been interested in the spiritual teachings of the “Hermit” for many years and this is the second time we’ve encountered her artwork and knowledge of these teachings. The first time, we were at a 5 day residency that was a silent retreat. In silence ourselves, it was powerful to learn about the hermit who can live in the territory of deep discernment; a place of quiet and solitude that is separate from the collective prejudices, hysteria, and popular opinions of the time.

At both residencies, we’ve encountered the hermit Hermitalways wrapped in a mantle, walking with a staff, and carrying a lamp. With each encounter, we’ve learned a little more about these symbols and I’d like to share some of this wisdom with you:

The lamp: held out in front of the walking hermit, the lamp represents the effort of human intelligence united with the intelligence of the Divine. It’s just enough light that the hermit can see the next step or two.

The mantel: wrapped around the hermit, the mantel represents the capacity to withdraw (not completely and not forever) into deep discernment. This capacity and willingness to be silent and listening is the capacity to live in unknowing. And this is critical – when we think we already know – or work hard to convince ourselves and others that we know – we do not have room for new revelations. No room for truth.

The staff: before taking a step, the hermit feels for the ground with the walking stick. It symbolizes the connection that hermits have with the reality of life as it is … hermits are connected to the ground of reality, not with two feet but with three.

The hermit teachings were a rich addition to the our residency. Other elements included more time to deepen our learning and experience of spiritual direction. We also experienced practices of presence through movement, simple rituals, singing, and chanting. We had presentations and teachings in the large group. We met in the afternoon for a cafe style discussion of pertinent topics. Everyone valued our time in small groups where we learned and practiced a new peer mentoring process that will be an emphasis of our at-home work in the next phase. In true Jubilee fashion, our heads, hearts, and bodies were engaged. What a rich tapestry the program mentors wove for us to experience!

As we prepared to leave, we were gifted with a hermit card representing one of Lois’ paintings. My card is a touchstone for the qualities of the overall residency – contemplative, evocative, spacious, embodied, integrative, experiential and transformative


Julie - croppedJulie Elliot is enrolled in the SoulMentoring stream of Pacific Jubilee. She’s also responsible for communications for Pacific Jubilee. If you have questions or comments about this blog, please be in touch at julie@pacificjubilee.ca


The Jubilee Programs offer training in spiritual direction, spiritual growth and soul development. We explore the contemplative life through spiritual practices including the enneagram, integration of head/heart/body, silent retreats, “holy listening” in journey groups and contemplative prayer and meditation. Read more about spiritual direction by clicking on our 3 national programs: Ontario Jubilee, Pacific Jubilee, Prairie Jubilee