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.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2007)

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Mac Beth is a fresh new way to approach your prayer time. While invoking your creativity, you can contemplate on the issues, people, places and things that you are bringing to God. I have found this avenue of prayer to be relaxing yet inspirational all at the same time.

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.

 

Praying with the Body: Bringing the Psalms to Life (Paraclete Press, 2009)

If you are looking for a way to combine your exercise time and devotional time, I have the book for you! In Praying with the Body not only you will learn how to implement praying the psalms while doing yoga type poses you will also be able to keep three of the Liturgical prayer hours. This is a beautifully written and designed book. You may want to also check out the other books in the Active Prayer Series. 

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.

Celebrate Discipline

MEDITATION

The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. ~ Richard Foster

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES:  activities that make us capable of receiving more of God’s life and power; exercises unto godliness.

The Spiritual Disciplines call us to move from surface living to deep inner transformation. But to change our inner most being requires dedication, an intentional commitment to new actions, and new habits.

MEDITATION: a long, steady look at God, His creation and His Word; stopping to give God our undivided attention.

Meditation is an inward discipline, one that leads to intimacy with God, a deepening of our life, making more room for God.

Many Christians are turned off by the word Meditation. Christian Meditation is unlike traditional Eastern Meditation where the goal is total emptying of the self. What we are talking about here is meditation upon God, His goodness, and His Word… sitting in stillness and listening for His Voice to speak to your spirit; a filling of our spirit with God’s Spirit.

Let’s consider a few practical questions regarding Meditation: 

  • WHAT TIME OF DAY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
Personally, I prefer my meditation time be in the morning when I first wake. But with work schedules that vary around the clock, not everyone is waking in the morning or sleeping at night. The important thing is that you find a time that fits your schedule and dedicate it to meditation. Start small with just five or ten minutes. As you get more and more comfortable with meditation you will find yourself forgetting about time as you soak in God’s Presence.

If I’m sleepless at midnight I spend the hours in grateful reflection. ~ Ps 63:6

  • DOES MY POSTURE DURING MEDITATION MATTER?

We should find a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you get drowsy. It’s often best to begin with sitting in a straight back chair. If you lay down you may end of falling to sleep. Not that that’s a bad thing, but save this relaxation technique for bedtime. I practice Yoga each morning and find this a wonderful time for meditation on various Scriptures. Surprisingly, a long hot bath is where I have my best meditation time.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

  • WHAT AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF MY MEDITATION TIME? 
There are many benefits to meditation the least of which is a closer walk with God. With a foundation of silence and solitude in meditation we will find ourselves less stressed, daily life comes with more ease. We will have greater appreciation for the things of God: His Word, His Creation and most importantly His Presence in our life.

I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished and give a long, loving look at your acts. ~ Ps. 77:12

Here are some suggested meditation activities:

  1. Take a nature walk, meditate on the wonder of God’s Creation around you. Enjoy the plants, trees, birds, squirrels, clouds, the breeze… This world is full of beauty that we miss everyday!
  2. Select a section of Scripture (Ps 139, Ps 86, Ps 42) read through it slowly. When a verse pops out, ponder it. What is God saying to you? Write down feelings and questions that surface.
  3. When in a public place, take time to meditate on people, see them as God sees them, hurting, loving, joyful. Delight in them as He does. Take some time to pray for them.
  4. Without getting too bogged down, meditate on current events. Look at the world through God’s eyes. Is He prompting you to pray in a new way?
These are just a few ideas to help you get started in your meditation time. The main goal of Meditation is to gaze deeply on God, His work and His Words. Anytime you can do that it will be wonderful!

What are your favorite things to use for meditation?

You may be in a place of reflection on past transgressions and needed desire to change. One of my favorite things is to meditate with choral music, specifically Gregorian. Here is one of the most beautiful of all: Miserere Mei Deus written in the 1600’s by Gregorio Allegri. I suggest reading Psalm 51, on which this song is based, before meditating on this exquisite music. You will be transformed! https://youtu.be/3s45XOnYOIw 


Resources:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

01.09.13

Being Still: Reflections on an Ancient Mystical Tradition (Paulist Press, 2003)

Being Still: Reflections on an Ancient Mystical Tradition

by

Jean-Yves Leloup

 

 

 

If you read a lot of books in a specific category over time you run across the names of certain books by certain authors regularly. Jean-Yves Leloup’s Being Still is a case in point. I’ve been seeing this name referenced in many books I’ve read over the last few years. Finally, I was able to purchase it! I’m not finished reading it yet, but I wanted to go ahead and share it with you because it fits with our topic of Stillness this week.

Being Still by Jean-Yves Leloup is rich with church history, monastic tradition and truths that apply the contemplative path to our hurried lives today. This isn’t a fast read. Rather it’s one you will want to take slowly and soak in. Though it isn’t designed to be a devotional, I am using it in that way. If you are at all interested in monastic ways, I highly recommend Being Still: Reflections on an Ancient Mystical Tradition by Jean-Yves Leloup.

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.

Book Review

New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

 

New Seeds of Contemplation

by

Thomas Merton

 

A 20th Century Christian mystic, Thomas Merton is far and away one of my favorite authors. Although I haven’t read all his books yet, New Seeds of Contemplation is in my mind his greatest work. Without a doubt a modern spiritual classic.

The depth of Merton’s spiritual understanding is difficult to grasp. His words are soothing as a pool of cool water. I want to swim in them for hours.

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.” ~ Thomas Merton

In New Seeds of Contemplation Merton takes us to deeper levels in our spiritual walk, teaching us about faith and humility, thoughtfully helping us to find our true identity in Christ. If you are on a serious spiritual growth path, seeking a clearer understanding of your relationship to God, this is the book for you. 

My feeble words fail when trying to describe the magnificence of Thomas Merton’s writing. Poetic, transcending, life-changing, mesmerizing, core-cutting, astounding, incredibly perfect, a true gift from God. It leaves me almost breathless… Always wanting more. 

The highest of recommendations from my bookshelf. READ THIS BOOK!

 

09.24.14