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“A state of great quiet and deep satisfaction” – St. Teresa

St. Teresa of Avila
1515–1582 • Spain

Born in Avila, in west-central Spain, St. Teresa was one of the greatest women of the Roman Catholic church. She wrote a number of influential books, including The Interior Castle and her autobiography, now considered masterpieces. St. Teresa initiated the Carmelite Reform, which restored the original contemplative character of the Carmelite order, and inspired St. John of the Cross to undertake a similar reform for men. In 1970 she was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI, one of just 33 individuals, and the first woman, to be thus honored.

Church window at the Convent of St, Teresa, Ávila de los Caballeros, Spain

In her book, Spiritual Relations, St. Teresa describes the following experience:

My soul at once becomes recollected and I enter the state of quiet or that of rapture, so that I can use none of my faculties and senses. . . .

Everything is stilled, and the soul is left in a state of great quiet and deep satisfaction. [1]

When she says “My soul at once becomes recollected,” she uses the term recollected in a traditional spiritual sense, indicating that her mind and senses, normally directed outward, now turn within. She then experiences what she calls “the state of quiet or that of rapture,” in which her mind becomes silent, suffused with bliss, and deeply fulfilled.

The Ecstasy of St Teresa by Bernini, basilica of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.

In the same book, St. Teresa describes the same experience again:

These interior things of the spirit are so hard to describe, and still more so in such a way as to be understood, especially as they are so quickly gone. . . .

There sometimes springs an interior peace and quietude which is full of happiness, for the soul is in such a state that it thinks there is nothing that it lacks. Even speaking — by which I mean vocal prayer and meditation — wearies it: it would like to do nothing but love. This condition lasts for some time, and may even last for long periods. [2]

Here again she emphasizes the peace, silence, happiness, and utter fulfillment that characterize this experience.

St. Teresa’s experiences remind us of the fourth state of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness, that comes with Transcendental Meditation practice. Mental activity settles inward, moving beyond perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. We experience an inner quiescence. The mind awake and alert, the ocean of consciousness now aware only of itself, of its own unbounded nature.

Painting of St. Teresa of Avila by the Dutch painter and architect Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

This experience may last for just a moment or two and comes so naturally that we are scarcely aware of it. Or it may last for longer periods. In either case, the practical benefits of this inward settling of the mind are almost beyond description. As hundreds of research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique have made clear, regular experience of this fourth state of consciousness integrates brain functioning, reduces stress, improves health, increases creativity and intelligence, develops one’s personality, promotes fulfilling personal relationships — even improves the quality of life for others, whether they meditate or not.

For St. Teresa as for so many others, this experience was the goal of the spiritual quest. We are fortunate that Maharishi has brought to light, from the world’s oldest continuous tradition of knowledge, a simple, natural, effortless technique — the Transcendental Meditation technique — by which anyone can readily have this experience and enjoy its innumerable benefits.

The experience of the fourth state of consciousness, Transcendental Consciousness, is the birthright of everyone, Maharishi emphasized — and this experience forms the gateway to still higher states of consciousness, more exalted realms of human development, each bringing a new world of knowledge, experience, and life-nourishing power. Thanks to Maharishi, it is now possible for every human being, whatever their age or education, whatever their religion or culture, to develop their God-given potential, to rise in higher states of consciousness and help transform our world.

REFERENCES
[1] Teresa of Avila, The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Jesus, Vol. 1, trans. Edgar Allison Peers (London/New York/Harrisburg: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002), 306.
[2] The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Jesus, 327.