Silent Notes from a Noisy Journal- Starbucks Mysticism

St Placid Priory, Lacey, WA

Here at St Placid Priory, my ongoing discoveries in the contemplative enterprise have been eye-opening, soul-expanding, and at the risk of hyperbole, even a little mind-blowing. And, although I will never grow appreciably better at navigating these things, they are the stuff of life’s best acquirements. 

But, for all that, I admit I’d likely not make a good career contemplative. Those brave and hardy souls who risk it all to face God so closely, so regularly, are a breed unto themselves. The monastic experience is so rich and good – for a time.

However, I also need my present reality – a corner chair at a local Starbucks. This lively interchange of strongly felt opinions (poorly considered in many cases), postured pretensions, all with a sprinkling of social anxiety, is just as real. Equally fraught with the beautiful danger of God-among-us. In true Celtic fashion, it is as much a thin place as any other, the ridiculously unexplainable. All while sipping a hot Americano (that came out wrong, didn’t it?).

I am still very much a marketplace Christian. The agora is yet my home, despite my penchant for the numinous and otherworldly. My vocation is to pursue the heart of monasticism amid the mire and stress of busy, workaday folks. In the rat’s nest of holy chaos that is the avenue, the neighbourhood, the hospital bed, the lover’s bed (mine, of course, not just random!), the early morning rush hour, all of it awash in the presence of the God who sees.

I am called to be a mystic in the mess where mystery meets mammon (no extra charge for the clever alliteration). I guess that, alone, is a significant rediscovery of my time here. I am coming to miss the buzz of the city. Perhaps even long for it. If spirituality can’t work here, then it can’t work anywhere. Otherwise, it’s not spirituality, or some inauthentic version of the same.

Whatever else may come from my days here at St Placid, at least I can say with confidence that I don’t belong here for any length of time. The outside world calls me back to share my hard-earned discoveries. And this notion, this understanding, draws me to these contemplative moments in very specific ways. 

I dive down deep with God to rummage around in there together. I let God mess in ma bi’niss. Revealed to me are tiny snapshots of my soul that, surprisingly, is more calm and rested than I might otherwise have expected. Armed with these pictures of the potential stillness and breath available to all, I am then called back out to where little people fight big dragons. Out where tears fall with no one to dry them, or just with whom to sit and cry together.

Far more than any silence, or spiritual gymnastics, or fancy Desert Father talk, the prayerful in-this-world life speaks most readily to who I am and prods me toward what I need to become – a Starbucks-mystic-martyr-monk (for this alliteration, I’ll gladly take donations).

I’m the coffeehouse cliché (and okay with it)

I want to be a ready, willing, and eager purveyor of Jesus to the crowds. Simply put, a lover equally of marketplace and monastery for the purpose of sharing God’s mysteries. Someone possessive of contemplative spirit called to witness to a hurting, unjust world the great riches of the gospel. 

Lord, help me do exactly that, even if imperfectly.


15 thoughts on “Silent Notes from a Noisy Journal- Starbucks Mysticism

  1. krazykiwi

    Rob, I loved your exchange — “I also need my present reality – a corner chair at a local Starbucks. Equally fraught with the beautiful danger of God-among-us. In true Celtic fashion, it is as much a thin place as any other, the ridiculously un-explainable”. The phrase “a thin place” is what piques my curiosity. I’ve struggled for years with this very notion — “Where does one encounter these thin places?” Are they found in the mundane — or in the sacred? Are they found — or do we create them (in our sub- or unconscious)? Can they appear in both. I suspect the latter. Finding and resting in these “sacred spaces” seems to be my biggest challenge. How have you ‘found’ them on your spiritual sojourn? Can they be felt, for example, when we practice Contemplative prayer?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are multiple challenges with the notion of ‘thin places.’ Marketplace spirituality (New Age, etc.) have coopted them to mean something as wonderful as a good shit or an orgasm. The Celts, along with the entire Christian mystical tradition would be aghast. They cannot and probably should not be sought. They’re only caught and experienced in moments when God imagines it to be necessary. We can only wait in expectant wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. krazykiwi

        I love this — it takes the control away from us pitiful, egotisical humans, and places the truly magnificent possibilities onto a Being our puny minds cannot even begin to comprehend — gotta luv it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. We sometimes forget that, at root of the best of the monastic tradition, are the arts of spiritual direction, hospitality, and education. It is the life of prayer making a profound difference in a world desperately thirsty for it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rebekah Scott

    … Now comes the hard part.
    Step away from the computer, the concepts, the cheering followers. Step outside the hermetic comfort of Starbucks.
    Take your mystic self out to the street, and make life better for the souls out there.


    1. I love Newcastle! My father-in-law was from there. Yes, Starbucks has become quite disappointing in that regard. They didn’t start out that way but, once a company goes public and there are investors to keep happy, profits take charge over people. Sad. It serves my purposes here largely to make my point. But yours is a good one as well. Another post perhaps?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris

    I believe this is the whole concept of a bodhisattva. An enlightened individual, or at least partially so, that remains within ordinary world for the purpose of easing the suffering of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Despite that also being the title of a Steely Dan song (yes, glib I know!), it is also fascinating to me. I have a growing interest in comparative spiritualities and how the Christ can be found in and through them all.


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