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The Power of Then

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

The Power of Then

What our past can teach us.
James  Bremner
James Bremner More by this author
Apr 26, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Several years ago I came across a book about a 17th-century French monk named Brother Lawrence and I still remember the impression it made on me. Lawrence was a humble drudge, working all day in the kitchens of his Parisian monastery, mainly peeling potatoes. Yet distinguished French churchmen would beat a path to the monastery to speak to him. This was because Lawrence had gained a reputation as a serene holy man who dispensed grace and wisdom. He didn’t go around saving the world, raising money, or performing miracles: he just stayed in the kitchens, peeling potatoes. I was intrigued.

How did he gain enlightenment? Part of the way he did it was by not dividing his day between “religious” time in the chapel and “non-religious” time in the kitchens. In other words, he discovered how to live a unified life.

Brother Lawrence shows us that whenever we are washing the dishes, ironing clothes, scrubbing floors, or mowing the lawn – we don’t have to hurry up in order to pass onto something more “pleasurable.” By dividing time into “chore” time and “pleasurable” time we create a split in ourselves. What would happen if, like Lawrence, we treated all our occupations with the same attitude?

Lawrence is one of the sages who inspired me to write The Power of Then. I have always been interested in mystics, philosophers and psychologists of the past and it has long frustrated me that their works are not better known or applied to the problems of everyday life. We are sitting on a treasure chest of wisdom and I wanted my book to provide the key.

In the end I tracked down 16 sages and distilled their wise thoughts and ways. One of my favorites is Margery Kempe, a medieval English housewife who lived not long after the Black Death had decimated Europe. At the age of 40 she decided her life needed a new direction. With her husband’s permission she began to set out on religious pilgrimages at home and abroad. She went to Canterbury, Walsingham, Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and elsewhere.

Medieval pilgrims often took their lives in their hands, braving bandits and muggers, stormy seas and creaking, overloaded river ferries. But Margery was a tough cookie. Fiercely independent, indomitably brave, adventurous and single-minded – she is my patron saint of the mid-life crisis. For any woman – or man – her example shows how we can change our lives radically and thereby fulfill our deepest spiritual and emotional needs. Not that we all have to go on pilgrimage; but maybe we can find our own versions of Margery’s pilgrimage – from a commitment to start meditating seriously to learning to play the tuba. Margery shows us the way to slough off the skin of a life that has exhausted itself.

About Author
James  Bremner
James has had a deep interest in spirituality from an early age, which may partly stem from his father’s family’s long line of Church of Ireland ministers and his mother’s family’s association with spiritualism and the Society of Friends. James sees Continue reading