I’m sitting quietly, hearing the beautiful sounds of Yo-Yo Ma’s Not Our First Goat Rodeo, aware of the scent of my sandalwood incense, and the slight breeze coming through a window that will be closed soon enough as the morning heats up. 

My breath slows and deepens and my body relaxes as I meditate and give myself Reiki. Lately a pervasive sense of heaviness trails me whatever I’m doing. So I ask Reiki for help in finding focus, compassion, creativity and joy today. I visualize myself setting down a heavy suitcase, full of things that are not serving me.  This brings some relief. Then, these words float into my mind. I see them, as if on a screen:

All is well. All manner of things will be well.

I feel an uplift; an immediate a sense of comfort and hope. 

The words are familiar, but I’ve never before given them much thought. I’m pretty sure that my recall of it isn’t quite right, but still, this time the quote makes me pause.

I want to find out who said them, what the context was, and what the original words were.

Unexpected Discoveries

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Julian of Norwich

This what the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, who lived from 1348-1416, wrote in what is thought to be the earliest surviving book by a woman that’s written in the English language. That’s pretty amazing right there. And there’s more.

While little is now known about her, what is known suggests a woman who survived serious challenges, developed a deep compassion and strength, and whose thinking was a strong and original. My guess is that it was her non-orthodox views about the divine feminine kept her works from being published until long after her death.

Understanding Why Her Words Can Help Us Today

Julian lived through three rounds of the Plague and a violent uprising. Of course makes me think of the connections between events in her life time and our own. She cloistered herself for much of her life to serve as anchoress at St Julian’s Church.   

She recounts receiving the words quoted above in visions of Christ that came to her during an illness so severe she was given last rites. She saw Christ as suffering, but also as radiating “… warmth, sweetness, and a kind of ineffable joy” with no hint of condemnation toward any member of the human family. (Source: All Will Be Well, cited below).

Deeper Than Religious Affiliation

I’m neither Christian nor a follower of mystics, and yet Julian’s writings hold a power for me, because her message speaks to our shared humanity. In her HuffPost article Julian, Mirabai Starr says:   

For those of us non-Christian and post-modern types, try substituting the word sin for shame, or blame, or even karma.  In other words, we screw up, but that only opens the tender heart of the cosmos where we can find refuge and come back into wholeness.

Julian’s words reach us from across the centuries, bringing compassion and comfort we need today as much as it was undoubtedly needed during her time. 

I’m grateful to this woman for the words she penned, words which have survived the ages to soothe today’s troubled hearts. 

 Sources and Credit

All Will Be Well: The Radical Optimism of Juliana of Norwich

Juliana of Norwich (Encylopedia Britannica)

Julian of Norwich (Wikipedia)

Photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelations_of_Divine_Love#/media/File:Revelationsofdivinelove-title-colour.png

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