RHW Podcast Episode 19

Relational Practices of Contemplative Spirituality

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 19 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: The Relational Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God by Being Present with Others.

The Christian church body as a whole depends on relationships to maintain and grow in a healthy way. We lift each other up in times of worship and prayer, and learn together in times of study. But often we go about these activities almost on autopilot, so to speak.

What we are learning about in Contemplative spiritual practices is to be intentional about putting God at the center, before, and during our particular activities.

The Contemplative Relational Practices:

  • Worship
  • Holy Communion
  • Visiting sick or elderly
  • Volunteering
  • Listening

My work schedule right now doesn’t allow room for visitation or volunteering. So my favorite Contemplative Relational practices are worship and Holy Communion.

During Holy Communion, in the Catholic and Anglican traditions, the congregation comes to the front of the church and either stands or kneels around the altar as the priests or deacons distribute the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper.

I love watching the procession of people coming forward and kneeling before the Lord’s table, gathering as a family to be nourished spiritually. It is such a sweet, reverential time of worship.

The subtitle today: Connecting with God by Being Present with Others is important to emphasize here. And the key word is Present. Again, our main focus in contemplative spirituality is keeping God at the center of our practices or activities. So when we are in community with the Body of Christ, fellowshipping with other believers, we honor Christ in them by being present to them while in their presence.

I encourage you the next time you engage in any of the Contemplative Relational practices: Holy Communion; Worship; Visitation; Volunteering; or simply Listening, make a special point to be more present to the Christ in others who are in your presence.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our brief discussion of the Relational Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God by Being Present with Others. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 18

The Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 18 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: The Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God through Discovery and Intellectual Exploration.

 

The Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality include but aren’t limited to:

  • Reading the Bible
  • Studying Church History and Christian Doctrine
  • Having Inspirational/Theological Conversations
  • Reading Inspirational Books, Articles, Blogs
  • Reading the Writings of Saints, Church Fathers/Mothers

There is no shortage of resources available to us today when it comes to learning the things of God. The plethora of books, blogs and Bibles can almost be overwhelming. Over the years I’ve found myself consumed with collecting all kinds, types and categories of books, Bibles and blog articles.

More recently, I have become more intentional about the material I consume. While there are so many incredible books available to me, not all of them speak to the specific message I am focused on learning and teaching.

So I have decided that at this time, I am not reading anything that doesn’t help me toward my specific goals. The books, blogs, articles, podcasts, etc… must fit into the categories and themes on which I am focused:

Benedictine Spirituality; Humility; Addiction Recovery; Contemplative Spirituality; Monastic Spirituality.

Now I’m not suggesting that you stick to these categories for yourself. But you might want to take some time to evaluate what you are spending your valuable time on.

Are the books you’re reading beneficial to the season of life that you are in?

Are they helping prepare you for the upcoming season of life?

Life is short and our time flies by faster and faster each day. I for one have a lot I want to accomplish and I don’t need unnecessary information bogging me down. I want the words I am reading to be clearly aligned with the purpose that God has put on my heart.

Another benefit of being more topically focused is that it helps keep my space less cluttered. In the last couple of years I have given away at least 25 boxes of books. They were all wonderful books, but as I sorted them out in preparation for a move, I went through them based on the criteria I stated above. If a book wasn’t something I was sure I’d read again, or if it didn’t support my life/ministry focus, I needed to pass it on for someone else to enjoy and learn from. This has been a huge boost and relief for me! As a result, I waste less time browsing books/blogs/articles, I purchase fewer books and I don’t feel as overwhelmed. Now when I do read, I am able to be more present to God and the message He is trying to convey to my mind, heart and spirit. Which is exactly what we want in Contemplative Spiritual Practices: to be more present with God and His message for us in the midst of our learning practices.

When beginning your contemplative learning practice, start by setting your intentions. Take a moment to get your heart, mind and spirit centered on God. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to be with you in and through your learning practice.

We must make a point to stop before we start. Often times I am so excited about a new book that I just fly into it without giving thought to what God has for me in it. When we put God first in all our endeavors we are certain to be more fruitful.

Briefly, let’s talk about one of the Contemplative Learning Practices. I love reading Scripture and I’m fascinated with church history, and I engage in most of the practices on the list above, but my favorite right now is reading ancient and classic works of the church mothers and fathers. There is so much we can learn from those who have gone before us.

I find much of today’s contemporary Christian books, though they may be theologically and doctrinally sound, they are often written for commercial success rather than depth of learning. Richard Foster once recommended that we keeping our reading balanced, not just in topic, but in by the age of the as well. In other words, don’t just read older books or younger books. Balance your reading list with contemporary and classic books. I’ve been doing this for a while and it has been very helpful.

Take some time to evaluate your library and how you are spending your valuable time. Make sure that you are reading things that will help you pursue the dream that God has put on your heart. Prayerfully set your intentions before beginning your learning practice. I think you will find your experience will be much more enjoyable. 

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Learning Practices of Contemplative Spirituality: Connecting to God through Discovery and Intellectual Exploration. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 17

Connecting to God Through Creative Expression

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 17 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Creative Practices. 

With the Christmas season upon us, creativity is in the air. Whether you are simply dressing up your home and a tree or going all out making gifts for family and friends.

Although I don’t do much crafting these days, there were many years when the Christmas season rolled around all the craft supplies came out. When my children were young we made homemade decorations, baked and even made many gifts.

The wonderfully thing about the Contemplative Creative Practices is they are in season no matter what time of the year it is.

Here’s a list of practices you might want to consider:

  • Gardening
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting/Drawing/ Coloring
  • Cooking
  • Photography
  • Bible Journaling
  • Singing/Chanting

For many years gardening has been something I’ve enjoyed when I’ve had a yard to work in. It was always good therapy during stressful times. But in a contemplative mindset we can be closer to God using our hands with the caring of his creations.

Many years ago I used a Calligraphy pen when signing Christmas cards. This type of calligraphy while beautifully artistic isn’t the calligraphy I’m talking about here is done with a large brush stroking black paint on a blank canvas. I am fascinated with this contemplative practice and am anxious to learn it.

Painting, drawing and coloring have been close to my heart for a long time. Although I haven’t always made time for these art mediums in my schedule, when I do I’m happier for it. These days rather than painting, I’m drawing and coloring in my prayer journal during my devotional time. I’ve found this a wonderfully contemplative practice that gets me centered on the things/people I’m praying for while calming my own spirit.

For most of my adult life when I was cooking I would always have on the television for background noise. Thankfully, today I am TV free! I’ve recently learned I can enjoy my time in the kitchen without the need to be distracted.

One Contemplative Creative Practice that I really want to learn how to do better is photography. Sure I have my Smartphone camera that takes nice pictures. But I want to have a real camera and take some beautiful nature photos: birds, flowers, plants and animals. There is so much of God’s creation that we can appreciate in a finer way through the magnified lens of a camera.

A few years ago scrapbooking was the most popular crafting kick. Today Bible journaling is all the rage! I haven’t had a chance to get in on this craze but when I can get a space set up with supplies and get my journaling Bible, I’ll be diving in! This is another one of those crafting ideas that you can take seriously or lightly. Either way, it’s a great way to spend time in God’s Word and enjoy some creative time together with the Lord.

My favorite contemplative creative practice right now is chanting the Psalms. I’m a very early riser, waking long before daylight, somewhere between 3-4am. Still in my PJ’s, I tiptoe across the hall to my office, light my prayer altar candle and turn on my chanting songs. In these dark wee hours of the morning there is something very special about chanting the Psalms by candlelight. This is a recent practice, only about 4 months, but it’s one that I plan to continue for many years.

Remember, our goal in Contemplative Spirituality is to keep God at the center of our practice. So that during our activities whatever we are doing: painting, singing, cooking, or gardening, we are in prayer or meditation. Being intentional in this way will do wonders for our personal spiritual growth and for our relationship with God.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Creative Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

RHW Podcast Episode 16

Contemplative Movement Practices

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 16 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Movement Practices.

The Contemplative Movement Practices include but aren’t limited to:

  • Labyrinth Walking
  • Pilgrimages
  • Tai Chi
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Yoga

We will touch a bit on all these Movement Practices but today I want to focus primarily on Yoga.

This first in this series of Movement Practices is walking a Labyrinth. While I haven’t tried the Labyrinth I think it would be an interesting way to practice walking meditation and prayer. A church in the city where we live has created one on their campus. I hope to check it out one day in the near future. Click here to learn more about walking a Labyrinth.

Another of the Movement Practices is taking a Pilgrimage. There are several pilgrimages one can take in different countries around the world. But I think the most famous is the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. I have a friend who walked it this past summer. She said it was a life changing experience for her.

Tai Chi is another movement practice I haven’t had a chance to try but I find it especially fascinating. When I do finally get to try it, I hope to experience it outdoors, maybe on a quiet beach or in a peaceful wooded park.

You may be wondering how sports made it to a list of contemplative movement practices. My initial reaction was questioning as well until I thought more about the sports I would consider contemplative. The first sport that came to mind was golf. Though I’m not a golfer, I can imagine that golfing could be quite peaceful. After all, you’re in a beautiful park, with birds and water all around. Sounds pretty contemplative to me. Other contemplative sports could be fishing, sailing and swimming. These water activities could be very relaxing and give you opportunities for reflection, meditation and prayer.

Many churches today during special times of the year have a dance worship team. The women are usually dressed in loose fitting but flowing dresses much like what women might have worn in the times of Jesus. They move about the stage or sanctuary to a beautiful worship song. I was introduced to this type of dance when doing a webinar class a few years ago. The instructor, Betsey Beckman encouraged those in the class to let go and lean in to God as we listened to the music. Starting with slow simple movements, I gradually learned not to worry about how silly I might look but to use it as a time of praise and worship to God.

My favorite of the Movement Practices is yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga on a fairly regular basis for almost 20 years. My day doesn’t start right unless it starts face on the floor in meditation and prayerful yoga. I’ve learned several basic poses and memorized portions of Scripture that go along with those poses so that when I’m in a pose, I meditate on that verse. For instance…

For Tree Pose: I meditate on Psalm 1:1-3, which reads:

Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night. 

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

For Mountain Pose I meditate on Psalm 125:1

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,

    which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

For Chair Pose I meditate on Ephesians 2:6

I am seated with Christ in heavenly places

 

These are just a few examples of how to blend Scripture meditation with your yoga practices. And of course there are many opportunities to simply sit in silence, pray and ponder the things of God, listening for His still quiet voice to direct your day.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Movement Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 15

Stillness Practices: Breath Prayer

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 15 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Stillness Practices.

Last week on Episode 14 I gave you an overview of our eight categories of Contemplative Spiritual Practices. I’ll review those briefly just as a reminder. They are:

  1. Stillness Practices
  2. Movement Practices
  3. Creative Practices
  4. Learning Practices
  5. Influencing Practices
  6. Relational Practices
  7. Serving Practices
  8. Ritual Practices

For the remainder of this year we will be focusing each week on a different Contemplative Practice category. Since there are only 7 weeks left in the year, so I will combine Influencing and Serving together. Today we are talking about the Stillness Practices category. It includes:

  • Silence
  • Centering Prayer
  • Breath Prayer
  • Lectio Divina
  • The Daily Examen
  • Journaling

In previous podcast episodes we have talked about Silence, Lectio-Divina, and The Daily Examen. Today I want to focus on the Breath Prayer.

Breath prayer is an ancient Christian practice dating as far back as the 6th century. It is usually associated with the Eastern Church, specifically the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches. The Breath prayer is also known as the “Jesus Prayer” or “Prayer of the Heart.” Early practitioners of the prayer would recite, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” to the rhythm of their breath. Over the years, the prayer was shortened to, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy.”

Some people sing or chant the prayer but most usually say it silently within. There are some monastic traditions that use this as a prayer mantra to recite throughout their day. They will quietly whisper it under their breath as they go about their daily activities. I sometimes use the breath prayer during times of stress, or sleeplessness. But usually I use it at evening prayer time with a recorded song by John Michael Talbot called Kyrie, which I will include in today’s show notes on ReachingHurtingWomen.com

Here are a few steps to help you get started with your own breath prayer.

  1. Set aside about 5 minutes where you can be uninterrupted.
  2. Ask God to help you form your breath prayer.
  3. Ponder your favorite name for God: Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus. Choose what resonates with you.
  4. Contemplate on what you want to express in your prayer, what it is that you need. Make it short enough that you can say it in one breath.

Here are some examples:

Lord, show me your way.

God give me peace.

Lord Hear my prayer.

Once you have settled on your breath prayer write it down, sit with it, then recite it quietly to yourself. Let the words flow with your breath. Saying the first part when you inhale and the second part as you exhale.

This is a wonderful way to meditate on scripture. It’s very powerful way to calm your self down in times of stress, or when having trouble sleeping. Even throughout the day when stuck in traffic, whenever you need a dose of peace, remember your breath prayer.

Today we have talked about The Breath or Jesus Prayer a Stillness Practices in Contemplative Spirituality. I hope you will take some time to try out these Stillness Practices during one of your devotional times in the coming days. 

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Stillness Practices of Contemplative Spirituality. As always I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 14

Contemplative Practices

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 14 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Contemplative Practices

As I stated in the introduction here at Reaching Hurting Women we are taking a Contemplative Path to Recovery. By that I mean we are using contemplative spiritual practices to help us cope with the challenges of not only addiction recovery but also the challenges that come with every day life in general. 

What are contemplative spiritual practices? Well they are ways where we can be intentional and deliberate about matters of the soul. They are tools that help us become more aware of God’s presence in our normal life; they inject the sacred into activities that might otherwise be ordinary. By applying contemplative spirituality we can take anything we might be doing: like cleaning house or gardening for instance, and turn them into a sacred spiritual experience.

Contemplative prayer is at the heart of the spiritual practices where we open ourselves to the mystery of Jesus Christ. What we are talking about is taking the essence of contemplative prayer and applying it to other activities so that we are keeping God’s presence at the center of whatever we are doing.

Now let’s talk about the different categories of contemplative practices and the various activities included in them. I have Eight Categories of Contemplative Practices and the different activities in each of the categories. I’m not going to go into detail about most of them, because we will be learning more about many of them in the months to come. But this will give you a nice overview of contemplative practices. As I list them off, be thinking about how you can apply these activities and practices to help you cope with your daily struggles. Let’s get started…

  1. Stillness Practices: Connecting with God in quiet reflection.
  1. Movement Practices: Connecting with God through your body in motion.
  • Walking Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Dance
  • Sports
  • Labyrinth walking
  • Pilgrimage
  1. Creative Practices: Connecting with God through creative expression.
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Gardening
  • Sewing/Knitting
  • Sculpting
  • Music/Singing/Chanting
  • Cooking
  • Calligraphy
  1. Relational Practices: Connecting with God by being present with others.
  • Worship
  • Visiting
  • Listening
  • Communion
  • Conversations
  • Telling Stories
  • Volunteering
  1. Learning Practices: Connecting with God through intellectual exploration and discovery.
  • Reading the Bible
  • Studying Christian Doctrine
  • Studying Christian Church History
  • Reading inspiring books
  • Having Theological Conversation
  1. Influencing Practices: Connecting with God as an agent for change.
  • Voting
  • Attending a protest
  • Coaching
  • Teaching
  • Leading a team
  • Writing a letter
  1. Serving Practices: Connecting with God by sharing your gifts and resources.
  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving blood
  • Serving your neighbor
  • Giving / Pledging Money
  1. Ritual Practices: Connecting with God through ceremonial, cultural, religious traditions.
  • Sabbath
  • Sabbatical
  • Retreats
  • Liturgy of the Hours
  • Creating a Sacred space
  • Building an altar
  • Pilgrimage

This list is designed to help you get started with your own contemplative practices. Remember, our goals are to connect with God in the midst of our activities. That means anything we do can become a contemplative practice if we have God at the center.

Quickly, let’s talk about some of the benefits of contemplative practices.

  1. We will begin to experience inner peace.
  2. Our life will be better balanced.
  3. We will find more purpose and meaning in life.
  4. We will have a healthier perspective on life.
  5. Our recovery will take on deeper meaning.

When we are walking a healthier spiritual path not only will our life be better, those in our circle of influence will be better too.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you have enjoyed our discussion on the Contemplative Practices. We will be diving more in these topics over the next few weeks and months. I look forward to hearing from you. You can leave comments or questions below the show notes. Please take a few minutes and check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

Resources

Trinity Luthern

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman

RHW Podcast Episode 13

Free Will Sacrifice

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode 13 of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Freewill Sacrifice 

There are many places in scripture that talk about sacrifice. In the Old Testament when sacrifices were a part of the worship culture, Psalm 51:17 tells us that God wants a broken and contrite spirit rather than a burnt offering as a sacrifice. Later the Psalmist says:

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name O LORD, for it is good. ~ Psalm 54:6

In our culture and busy life today how can we offer God a free-will sacrifice? What does our freewill have to do with sacrifice anyway? What is it that I can sacrifice to God?

For me it’s not just about giving up the negative dependencies: substances or addictions that I crave. What about our lifestyle, our creature comforts: social media, TV, magazines, activities, people, places… I’m asking myself lately: What am I benefiting spiritually from the things I am spending my time on?

I ran across a quote during one my devotions the other day that sparked this podcast. Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes in his classic book The Sacrament of the Present Moment:

Faith is strengthened, increased and enriched by those things that escape the senses; the less there is to see, the more there is to believe.

In other words, the five-sensory-over-load, that most of us live with on a regular basis, impairs our spiritual growth! The more we are using our physical senses: smelling, touching, hearing, tasting, seeing; the weaker our spiritual senses will be.

Do you ever find yourself looking at someone wishing you could have what they have? Not in a jealous way, but just wanting to be able to maybe have that kind of job? Who are the spiritual giants that you look up to? Teachers? Authors? We have ask ourselves if we are willing to do what they did to get what they got.

Friends, life is short and getting shorter by the day. I am getting serious about the input that I am allowing into my brain and body. There are things I want to accomplish before I die and they aren’t going to happen if I continue to waste precious minutes, hours and days.

In his letter to the Romans Saint Paul urges us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God as an act of worship. Again in his first letter to the Corinthian church Paul says:

All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. ~ 1 Cor 10:23

At one time there were so many rules that the Jewish people had to follow, what to eat, things they could and couldn’t do on certain days and times. Saint Paul is telling us that yes, now those things that once were against the religious law are no longer against God’s law. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are good for us to do.

I have the freedom to watch television all day on Sunday if I choose. But is that beneficial? I have the freedom to eat or drink anything I want to. But is that good for my body?

Is what I am seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, tasting… beneficial in the long run, not only for my physical well being, but for my spiritual health as well?

Free will is serious business, and a huge responsibility. Our free will allows us the ability to own, even change our fate in some cases, though we have no possible way of knowing the potential outcome.

It’s not about whether something is good or bad, moral or immoral, a sin or not. It’s about getting God’s blessing. It’s about what’s best for my life in the eternal scheme of things.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you will check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 12

Sober Solitude

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Twelve of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Sober Solitude. We all may not live alone, but we do all have times of solitude. The question is: How are we using our solitude?

I began contemplating this question last night as I was retiring. You see earlier yesterday I had a stressful conversation with a co-worker. After that conversation I had several hours of solitude before my husband returned home. During those hours I was dealing with some emotional pain that resulted from the stressful conversation. As it’s been my habit for most of my adult life, I ran from the emotional pain to a television program on Netflix.

A few hours later, when preparing for sleep, I thought about my behavior that evening. I had once again wasted some precious time of solitude.

Why did I fall into that old pattern? Why did I allow my mind to dwell on a past conversation that couldn’t be changed? Why did I insist on using my time to imagine future events, which encouraged even more anxious thoughts?

And if that wasn’t enough wasting of my time, I numbed out on social media and on an old television program.

There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality, for life is maintained and nourished in us by our vital relation with realities outside and above us. ~ Thomas Merton

Until we spend time, sober time, (free from any mind and emotion numbing substance or activity) and get to the root of why we are running from our feelings, our addictive behaviors will just switch from one to another.

I recall a story about a grandmother who had her 4-year-old grandson with her in church. As with most young children, he was fidgeting, squirming and kept standing up when he was supposed to be sitting down during the sermon. The grandmother quietly disciplined the boy and he reluctantly sat down. After which he remarked to his grandmother, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”

Isn’t that how it is with most of us?

God has convicted me of a behavior that may have at its root an emotional wound from childhood. Rather than dealing with the root issue, I insist on ignoring the potential emotional growth time available to me in solitude, and instead avoid the feelings once more. Like the grandson, I may be sitting down (free from alcohol and drugs on the outside) but I’m standing up on the inside by continuing to use other behaviors to numb my emotional pain.

So I made a decision to remove Netflix from my Smartphone. This keeps the mind-numbing habit further than a click away. I will be far less likely to turn on the actual television to watch a program.

Before I close today I want to make mention of this week’s lesson at Celebrate Recovery which was on Relapse. One of the most important things I learned to help prevent relapse is the process of taking a Heart Check during my daily inventory. The acrostic for the word HEART asks: Am I…

Hurting

Exhausted

Angry

Resentful

Tense

If in my daily inventory I see that I’m turning to anything other than God to deal with or resolve any of those areas of struggle, especially in time of solitude, I’m not walking in sobriety or freedom.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery. Here we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you will check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

RHW Podcast Episode 11

Temptation

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Eleven of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. Today we are talking about: Temptation.

The Bible tells us that there is no temptation that is not common to man. In other words, we all are tempted. And really we should be glad we are tempted because that means we are doing something right!

There’s another way to look at temptation. What if God allowed temptations to come our way as a dry run, a practice session as it were, a learning opportunity, to see what areas of weakness we have that need to be worked on.

If a donut in the office break room has so much power that I can’t resist eating it, that’s a serious weakness that needs attention.

If before we give in to that donut, or that drink, or that cigarette, fill in the blank with what area you struggle with today… If before we give in to our temptation, we roll the movie all the way to the end, we can see what potential disaster could be waiting after our decision to give in to that temptation.

Each temptation is a dress rehearsal, an opportunity through which we are able to learn without physically going through with the behavior. The challenge is, will we actually take the time to roll that movie all the way to the end? Will we step back from our emotions, our physical cravings, and learn without having to get burned.

Temptations show us what we have allowed to have power over our lives. In some cases, these areas of weakness have become idols in our lives.

If I’m spending too much time thinking about having a drink of alcohol, those thoughts will eventually give birth to that action. In that case, my desires were allowed to grow because I let them grow. We must think about what we are thinking about.

Temptations aren’t just about where we go, or what we do, although they play a part. Many temptations begin right in our mind, in our imagination.

Rather that allowing our imagination to grow the desire into the action, let’s use our imagination to see what pain and heartache that desire can cause if we give in to it.

Let use the power of temptation to make a conscious decision and learn without going through the painful consequences.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you will check out the other columns and resources at ReachingHurtingWomen.com this week. Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.

 

RHW Podcast Episode 10

The Examen

Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Ten of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. My name is Tamara and I will be your host. This week we are talking about: The Examen

For many years I’ve used the monthly calendar to direct my ongoing study of the 12 Steps of recovery: In January with Step One we admit that we are powerless over our dependencies. In February’s Step 2 we come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore our sanity. For March in Step 3 we decided to turn our life and will over to God’s care. For April Step 4 brings us to a time of reflecting as we take a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. In May’s Step 5, we confessed our wrongs to God, ourselves and another person. In June’s Step 6 we are ready for God to remove all our defects of character. For July and Step 7 we humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings. In August Step 8 calls for us to make a list of those we have harmed and to become willing to make amends to them all. Then in September and Step 9 we make our amends wherever it is possible. And now with the tenth month of October, we are focusing on Step 10, which reads:

We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

 

Step 10 is a continuation of Step 4’s life inventory, but it’s to be done ongoing. How we take our ongoing inventory varies from person to person. Some like to keep a running inventory throughout the day; others, maybe take it in the morning and evening. Then there are those who like a seasonal weekend retreat for more in-depth inventory work

When we keep our inventory ongoing throughout the day, it helps keep our amends list short. This is a great use of the Notes app on a Smartphone. We can quickly jot down when we were short with our spouse on the phone at lunch. Then we won’t forget to apologize later at home.

Our Daily Inventory can also be more private at the end of the day by taking a few minutes to journal about the times where we might have harmed someone or acted in anger. However, we mustn’t forget to keep our inventory balanced also noting the things we did right that day. Our journal helps us have a record so when needed we can make amends as soon as possible.

There are many who like to take mini-retreats, to spend some time alone with God to pray and read over their journal entries. This is a great time to celebrate your victories and also see where you can improve over the next three months.

In the Christian Contemplative tradition there is another type of inventory. Saint Ignatius instituted The Prayer of Examen more than 400 years ago. The Examen is a technique of prayerful refection over the events of our day designed to detect God’s presence and discern His direction and guidance for us. There are many books and articles written with different versions and various ideas how to use The Examen. Today I want to give you a brief overview and a sample of the version that I like to use.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola, urges everyone to be taught The Examen, daily examining of our deepest desires and feelings. Ignatius calls our feelings consolations and desolations.

Consolations: connect us with God, others and ourselves.

Desolations: disconnect us from God, others and ourselves.

Ignatius believed that God would speak to us through our feelings and desires bringing about revelation and change. Ignatius adds our need for God’s grace. We aren’t resolving to perfect ourselves by the force of our own will. We are resolving to open ourselves to God’s grace through awareness of where we need His grace.

At the foundation of The Examen is gratitude. Ignatius knew that our awareness of God’s goodness would keep our relationship with God healthy. And if our relationship with God is healthy, our relationships with others and ourselves will be healthy also.

As we work our way through the steps of The Examen we prayerfully review our thoughts, feelings, and actions for today. Our goal is to become aware of hidden motivations that cause the behaviors that need changing. When we become aware of the unconscious motivations that interfere with our healthy intentions, we will be less likely to be dragged into the thoughts, feelings or actions that we want to avoid.

To begin our time of Examen we will set aside a few minutes alone with God. I prefer to do my Examen at the end of the day, just before bed. Some like to do the Examen twice a day, once at lunchtime and then again at the end of the day.

In my version of The Examen there are three steps. Now let’s breath in and prayerfully, slowly begin.

Step 1: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful.

  • If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
  • When were you most able to give and receive love today?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
  • Breath in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.

Step 2: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are least grateful.

  • When were you least able to give and receive love today?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
  • Relive the moment and the feelings without trying to change or fix them in any way.
  • Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.

Step 3: Give thanks for what you have experienced. If possible, share these two moments with a friend.

The recovery community has a slogan, “One Day at a Time” by which they mean that sobriety isn’t achieved in a big resolution, but by trying to stay sober for one day – today.

It’s useful to look at our spiritual life in that same way… one day at a time. In The Examen we are only looking at today, asking God to reveal to us areas where we failed and where we didn’t, where we loved and where we didn’t. Going forward we prayerfully expect tomorrow for God to graciously give us the desire to change and the power to carry it out.

Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles. I hope you will check out ReachingHurtingWomen.com this week as we continue to discuss our theme topic of The Examen.

Until next time may the grace and peace of God be yours.