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The Practice of Contemplation – Helps Along the Way.

Sister Doreen’s Reflections

One of the main purposes of all meditation practices is to take a brief vacation from ourselves!  I share some quotes and ideas that might be helps along the way in growing more deeply into centering / contemplative prayer.

“There are two contemplative practices of fundamental importance in the Christian tradition:  the practice of stillness – and – the practice of watchfulness or awareness.” (Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird)

O God of peace, who taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved,
In quietness and confidence shall be our strength,
By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence,
Where we may be still and know that you are God.” (BAS page 554)

“Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.” (Contemplative Outreach -Thomas Keating)

“Meditation is thinking about God, Centering Prayer is consenting /surrendering to God, Contemplative Prayer is resting in / loving God” (“The Difference…” article – Carlo Arico)

Simple Maps or Practices to Consider:

The whole dynamic of the practice of Lectio – the weaving of listening, hearing, responding, and resting becomes the very fabric of our life lived in relation with God in prayer. 

In your prayer time, a suggestion of several ways to practice:

1) -Sit relaxed and quiet.
-Be in faith and love to God who dwells in the centre of your being.
-Take up a love word and let it be gently present, supporting your being to God in faith-filled love.
– Whenever you become aware of anything, simply and gently return to God with the use of your love word.

More briefly, it could be put this way;
– We with God within, Use a word to stay, Use a word to return.

2) Or another way:
– Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action in your life.
– Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action in your life.
– When you become aware of anything, return ever-so-gently to God, using the sacred word.
– At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

3) Or
– Sit quietly, comfortably and relaxed – express your desire to be with God – move into the centre of yourself by imagining yourself descending a mountain or stairs – say a chosen word over and over till you are focused – in the stillness be aware of God’s presence and absorb God’s love – stillness and silence.  At the end of the time, give thanks and close with a prayer.

In our cluttered, distracted, and noisy life, the task of being really present is not easy.  But I believe that it is our high calling.  It is a spiritual practice. A mantra.  The gift of silence is worn away gradually in the face of the demands of daily life, so that when we meet or encounter contemplative prayer it may seem strange and inaccessible.  But with effort, spiritual practice, we can stop the outer noise.  Stopping the inner noise is another matter … I still go right on talking, worrying, arguing with myself, daydreaming …  I have needed to discover an on/off switch!  The faithful practice of centering prayer can do this.  Taking the rhythm described above, and doing this practice for 20 minutes or ½ hour – putting my teeth into attention, being willing to admit that wandering minds are normal, I have made a deal with myself.  If I catch myself thinking, I let the thought go and get back to my intention – loving God and letting God love me.  If the mind wanders and I let things go a thousand times in half an hour that is wonderful!  A thousand opportunities to return to God!  This is at the heart of centering prayer:  letting go.  A sacred word is the helpmate for letting go. Choose one that works for you.   Centering prayer may gift me with Contemplative prayer, simply resting in God – God looking at me and I looking at God – and that is enough.

And Jesus said: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place, and rest awhile (Mark 6:31)

“You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”
Your face, Lord, will I seek. (Psalm 27:11)