Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred (Simon and Schuster)

Although I am still reading it, I wanted to share this wonder-filled book by Mark Nepo. With life affirming stories and lovely poems, Mark encourages us as we travel our human journey to not loose touch with the most sacred things in life. Beautifully suited for individual meditations or small group study. I highly recommend Seven Thousand Ways to Listen: Staying Close to What is Sacred by Mark Nepo!

 

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.

Consequences

Counting the cost of pleasures.

 

Death’s station is at the entrance of pleasure. ~ The Rule of Benedict

It may sound radical to say that pleasures lead to death. But think about it. What are your favorite guilty pleasures? Food? Sex? Alcohol? Sleeping? Shopping?

Is it possible, that if you continued in your pleasurable habit unrestrained, that a death could be a result? Remember, the death we are talking about here isn’t always a physical death. But it could be.

In the quote above, Saint Benedict reminds us that all pleasure has consequences. Some are emotional, some are physical, some are spiritual and most are a combination of all three. We would do well to look ahead and consider the potential consequences of this particular pleasure we are about to indulge ourselves in. Sin is fun for a season but when the season ends there will be a bill to pay. What will you be paying with? Health problems, high debt, relationship issues… Is the cost worth it?

There is a way that appears to be right,
    but in the end it leads to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12

 

Image credit: dizanna / 123RF Stock Photo

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive is one of the best contemporary, non religious books I’ve read in years! There is a wealth of health-full, life-full information here. I listened to the audio version on Audible.com which was read by Agape Stassinopoulos, Arianna’s sister. It was beautifully written, produced, and narrated. I highly recommend Thrive by Arianna Huffington!

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.