Contemplation in Practice

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I am drawn to silence and contemplative prayer as an intimate and deeply fulfilling relationship with Divine presence and mystery. I find peace more and more as I faithfully and freely offer myself to silence as ‘be-ing’ present with the ground of all being. This experience deepens and magnifies when I share in silence with others – vulnerability is shared when silence is shared. I invited others to form a contemplative practice circle with me in my area. The people who participate in the practice circle with me also seem to long for the gifts of silence, centering prayer and other silent prayer practices dedicated to the sacramental nature of being present to Divine mystery. Recently, I spoke to them about the practice to appreciate their reflections on silence and contemplation.

Some said that the appeal of the practice is the gift of sitting quietly within a group and creating inner space for the Divine. Others affirmed that and expanded on it by sharing that daily life felt steadier, more grounded when they sustained an inner intention to attend to relationship with presence. A relationship that feels more precious when shared with others in the gathering. Someone opined that the group silence punctuates and expands a strong feeling of our interconnectedness that has a healing quality to it. This really resonated for all of us as we acknowledge that this quiet centering time spent in contemplative prayer, alone or as a group, binds us all more strongly together into Divine presence.

Several people in the group have been devotees of Centering Prayer through the Father Keating method and shared the experience as the connecting point to a sense of an eternal inner Self where G*d dwells.  Another shared the sense that the most powerful aspect of Centering Prayer is what Father Keating calls the central and vital piece – beginning prayer by offering one’s consent to be present and open to G*d in mind, heart and spirit, and to G*d’s presence and action within. It teaches us the language of G*d – silence. It is an exercise of faith, hope, and love.

We moved on to talk about our ups and downs in our contemplative sittings. We seemed to agree that it is good to habitually turn our wandering minds to the present moment. We also agreed that it is best not to expect contemplative prayer sessions to be perfect – the most important thing is showing up each day to be in the silence of G*d’s presence. One experienced and more mature contemplative in our group shared that she gradually sees areas where her heart can open more fully as she comes to know G*d as total, unconditional love and basks more and more in that love. As the years of centering prayer accumulate, she senses that her consciousness is being transformed.

Still other members of our group embrace a more Buddhist approach to silence through meditation and experience this practice as mindful presence – an awake, accepting, spacious awareness. Contemplation is to witness, observe the ‘contents of mind’ without getting caught up in them, feeding them, resisting or chasing them, or identifying with them. The myriad gifts of silence are the awakening to presence.

Interestingly, many observed the absence of silence in church worship, as they know it. Most wished to create more sacred space and time for the gifts of silence in church worship as an experience of G*d’s invitation to us. As we hold silence, we ultimately listen to G*d dwelling in holy presence and we practice holy listening – blessings that invite sacred listening and appreciation of sacred presence.

And so contemplation for us is a ministry and prayer practice of presence. A few members in the group really wanted to stress that for them, the contemplative appeal is a humble, monastic-like longing for a life of service, prayer and simplicity – utilizing and sharing one’s gifts, anonymously to co-create sacred community. We are blessed to be the recipients of the mystery and mercy of Love through with, and in us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Encounter

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I am an active volunteer. Most of my volunteer work draws me into settings with people who are in some degree of need. Like many who give of their time in these ways, I often feel I receive so much more than I give.  It is authentically hospitable to simply take care of another’s most obvious needs, mindful of the complexities of their unspoken needs.

Haiku is a perfect format for reflecting on my encounters with others in this volunteer work as it too, dances simply with the complex.

She 

Those yearning blue eyes

Memories gone – shards only

SPIRIT – be with her

 

I 

See with my heart’s eyes

Re-member YOU with a touch

Through, with and in YOU

  

We 

Gather together

In-dwelling time – faith, hope, trust

Small acts of your love

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Capacious

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Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ~Rabindranath Tagore 

And so it seems that what I find within myself is more capacious and more important than the distractions of the world. Not to say that my action and service in the world are unimportant, but rather that both action and service flow from my inner capacity- an intentionally generated inner spaciousness. When my love and compassion become the fulfillment I require to be in the world, then everything that comes to me, with me and through me, I am able to receive.

Is this the possibility of becoming incarnate love and compassion in the world? Is this spaciousness born of freeing myself of those worldly things that bind me? It is my sense that to acknowledge and live from this inner truth is to be soul fully present in life. Will my sense of purpose, my understanding of what contribution I am uniquely called to offer become clearer as I surrender to this truth?

As I move through my daily experiences, I increasingly see the heart and beauty that many people bring to menial tasks. I am aware of a sacramental presence in the way people treat each other with kindness and gentleness – laughter and hope. To catch glimpses of this omnipresent beauty through casual encounter strengthens the fabric of my connection to all around me.

Perhaps in the end, Mother Theresa is wise to observe that we are at our best when we ‘do small things with great love’. Perhaps life’s difficulties are eased not by ridding ourselves of difficulty but by transforming suffering through love and compassion– maybe this is the important capacity to strengthen. Reality doesn’t change, I do –

 

 

Rebinding

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In my reading life, I have come across two perspectives of terms that have opened my eyes and simplified my own perspective on church. The first, is the stem of the word religion – re-ligio – literally defined as, “rebinding”. The second, is liturgy when defined as a dialogue with God. Each of these perspectives invites me to step back and consider, from my most naïve self, what it means to participate in religion and liturgy – church.

It is fascinating to me to consider religion as a source of potential rebinding. Rebinding human and divine perhaps. It seriously shifts the experience of participating in religion to hold it in this light. Our many divided experiences and realities – the ones that leave us broken – are mended as we find and enter a unitive reality – human and divine. I wonder what it would be like to engage in religion fully from this perspective. How enlightening, how generative, how hopeful it would be.

And envisioning liturgy as a dialogue with God truly expands my appreciation for what has been and truly emancipates my understanding of what is. Suddenly, all things from my daily prayer life, to my contemplative groups, to the myriad sacred moments in a day are lush with life and a living spirit. This must be lived from the heart for it is a kind of knowing that surpasses knowledge. And one that informs and enhances my view of others.

So, how do I engage religion, as it exists around me with this renewed appreciation? If I can see this, can I also share this? Might I live this? Over and over again, I am struck by how simple things are and yet…

In Silence

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Richard Rohr suggests that, “ As a general spiritual rule, you can trust this: The ego gets what it wants with words. The soul finds what it needs in silence.” Most of my religious upbringing and training taught prayer through words. Whether it was a morning prayer or an evening prayer, it was normally expressed through language; and at that, memorized language. I was trained in a way that suggested that the gateway to a relationship with the divine was provided to me by religious language that people who were ‘in with God’ would try and provide to me. And, I am sure that this early training provided a kind of scaffolding to orient me toward an established path of dialogue and liturgy with God. Then, one day, something shifted for me – inwardly – rendering what I experienced outwardly through religion less fulfilling. A sort of restlessness expanded within me nudging me toward a relationship with God best found in silence.

Initially, entering silence was difficult it was hard to settle my busy mind and almost frightening in contrast with the noise and distraction of my daily life. Yet, an inner longing provided me the wisdom and patience to practice silence and increase my tolerance for detaching from the busyness of my mind and my life. Over time, I have reached a new kind of experience with silence. Now, I find that there is a rhythm to silence and I experience silence as a spaciousness of being.

Silence as the space beyond all language draws me deeper into a sense of peace and connectedness. As I learn to dwell more often and more comfortably in this essential place of inward being, my outward experience seems to be enhanced by a kinder, more compassionate sense of life. I embrace the idea that this prayer practice nourishes my soul which in turn replenishes my heart and my presence in the world.