BARBARA SONVILLA writes about the divine feminine, the global awakening of women, and their growing role in leadership. She celebrates women telling their stories and taking action to bring alive a collective awareness of the need to respect and protect Mother Earth and nurture life in all its aspects and hold it sacred. In part 2, she shares more of the wisdom of the medieval eco-saint, Hildegard von Bingen.
“In a true vision I saw and heard the following words:
“O daughter of God, out of your love for God
you call a poor creature like myself, ‘Mother.’
Listen then to your mother and learn moderation!
For moderation is the mother of all virtues
for everything heavenly and earthly.
For it is through moderation that the body
is nourished with the proper discipline.”
—Hildegard von Bingen
Moderation (discretio), the mother of all virtues
“As there is order in the cosmos, there is balance in the body.”
This is one of Hildegard’s guiding principles. The basis of this orderly structure depends on the interrelationship of the human and the Earth’s four primary elements, where everything has its place, meaning, and purpose. It is from this order, this balance, that we seek divinity. Discretio (seeking the right measure and moderation in everything we do) is the practice of living the balance and bringing the union between divinity and humanity back to order.
What does Hildegard mean by “back to order”?
When viewed from Hildegard’s idea that human beings are the microcosmic representation of the macrocosm, the “fall from the Garden of Eden” disrupted our originally perfect relationship with Nature, and consequently led to physical and spiritual changes in us, physical fragility, suffering, and disease. But we can restore the relationship through diligent efforts from our side. Hildegard believed that we could strive to bring moderation into our behavior, thoughts, and actions. She taught that a life of measure and spirituality is the right path toward a healthier state of being.
Thus, Hildegard’s practice of discretio is a strength of the soul, a virtue of the mind, and a mode of action. For her, discretio is the mother of all virtues.
“And so the soul loves the discreet measure in all things. Whenever the body of the person eats or drinks without discretion, or does something else of this kind, the forces of the soul are injured, because everything is to be done with measure, since humans cannot always dwell in heaven.”
Hildegard’s golden rules for living
Hildegard’s principle of moderation is deeply rooted in medieval spirituality, and yet it is timeless in its value as an actionable practice for modern living. It is especially timely now as we face climate change and environmental destruction. Finding moderation is a unique challenge in today’s lifestyle. It is worth looking at Hildegard’s guidelines, which are simple:
Benefit and draw energy from nature’s life force (viriditas).
- by healthy and balanced nutrition,
- by balancing periods of activity with periods of rest, and
- by cultivating healthy sleep patterns.
Detox and purify yourself regularly.
Strengthen the soul:
- through prayer and meditation,
- through encouraging your innate talents and virtues, and
- while keeping a check on your shortcomings.
Above all, love the Earth and “welcome all the creatures of the world with grace.”
“We shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice. If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.”
—Hildegard von Bingen
Artwork by Hildegard von Bingen
Barbara is a long-time Heartfulness practitioner and trainer. She has been a course developer and instructor in art and cultural history at European universities. Barbara has additional training in integrative health and continuous health education. Her passion is to combine ancient wisdom, traditional knowledge, and cutting-edge integrative health science. Through hands-on workshops she inspires and... Read more