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School of Contemplation

BioSpiritual Focusing

By Further Up and Further In, School of Contemplation No Comments

Biospiritual focusing is a practice that has some similarities to the Welcoming Prayer in that it encourages noticing and embracing emotions and bodily sensations. An element that Biospiritual Focusing adds, however, and which not all body-centred practices emphasize, is focusing on emotions or sensations in the body not only to let them be, and in order to “be with them” compassionately – which are also very important elements! – but also, through that compassionate presence, to listen to the unheard story that the body is trying to tell us. It could therefore be called a WISDOM body practice, as it…

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brother and sister feeding birds

Loving Kindness

By Further Up and Further In, School of Contemplation No Comments

One of the simplest and most helpful forms of meditation that many have learned from Tibetan Buddhism is the practice of metta or “loving kindness meditation.” In this type of meditation, one practices a slow, mindful recitation (inward or spoken) of traditional wishes or intentions of goodwill toward self and others. One example of such statements (from Jack Kornfield) is: May you be filled with lovingkindness. May you be safe from inner and outer dangers. May you be well in body and mind. May you be at ease and happy. Traditionally, one starts with expressing these intentions toward oneself (May I…), and then…

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silhouette of man walking

Breathing in the Hard Stuff

By Further Up and Further In, School of Contemplation No Comments

As we explore deepening in our understanding of contemplative practices, we turn to the East to see what we might learn from tonglen meditation (and particularly from Pema Chodron’s, Start Where You Are). While it has some similarities to the “welcoming prayer” that we have given a fair amount of attention to, this practice has some unique emphases that seem important. Nearly everyone who has dabbled in contemplation has at some point practiced a breathing exercise in which you “breathe in peace (or love or stillness)” and “breathe out anxiety (or whatever might have been troubling one).” This seems natural…

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burro with saddle

Contemplating with a Wise Fool

By Further Up and Further In, School of Contemplation No Comments

In the Sufi tradition, Mullah (teacher) Nasruddin was a 13th century master who liked to teach through parables with a character named for himself who was prone to doing, apparently, foolish things. He believed that humour opened up contemplatives ways to see oneself and one’s actions and assumptions from a new point of view. With the help of Anthony de Mello’s book, Song of the Bird, we looked at some of these Nasruddin tales and we laughed even more than usual. (We are not the most somber contemplatives…) Here is one example: Everyone became alarmed when they saw Mullah Nasruddin,…

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book cover

Further Up and Further In

By Further Up and Further In, School of Contemplation No Comments

For the first time, we are entering the third term in our cycle for the School of Contemplation. The theme for this term is “Further Up and Further In” – and we want to use this time to enter more deeply in our understanding and practice of contemplation. To start us off, we did a lectio divina exercise focusing on the “Prayer of St. Brendan”: Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You. Christ of the mysteries, I trust You to be stronger than each…

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knocker on door

Consent

By Languages of Contemplation, School of Contemplation No Comments

We often practice “centering prayer” as part of the School of Contemplation. At the heart of this practice is the language of “consent.” Since this concept is so central and stands for so much, it often takes a while to deepen in understanding of what it means. Consent has to do with making oneself available to the experience of being loved and accepted by God. The chart below describes some of the aspects of this consent; one might see how consent refers to a response or stance that is both “simple” and yet very full. In the practice of centering prayer,…

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bench by lake

Nature Contemplation

By Languages of Contemplation, School of Contemplation No Comments

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. Rom. 1:20 Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. – Rumi This week, Donna Dunsmore led us on a contemplative walk. Before we left, she shared these thoughts: • Over the centuries Christian monastic practice in both the East and West has accorded contemplation of nature an important role in spiritual growth. • monastic tradition has stressed natural contemplation as the second…

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Flexio Divina, Natura Divina & Visio Divina

By Contemplative Rhythms and Improvisations, School of Contemplation No Comments

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at innovations on the practice of Lectio Divina. This began with Rachael reminding us of the place of lectio as part of the four-fold contemplative pattern: lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio. In this pattern, lectio is the particular time for receiving a “word from God” from some source. Literally, it refers to “reading” but it could refer not only to written text but to input from a wide variety of sources, which we explored with some of our innovations. So we practiced “flexio divina” by reminding each other that we can practice this type of reading not only with…

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choir loft in Florence Cathedral

Improvising on Taize – Humming

By Contemplative Rhythms and Improvisations, School of Contemplation No Comments

Last week, Rachael refreshed our memories about Taize and their emphasis on singing chants together. She shared this quote: “At Taizé,” wrote Olivier Clement, “people from different and sometimes opposing denominations, cultures, races, and languages pray and work together. Yes, it is really possible; Christ destroys every separating wall.” Regarding the attraction of the young, Olivier Clement explained the “Taizé phenomenon”, saying: “Young people today are tired of talk and tired of scoffing: they want authenticity. It is no use talking to them about communion if we cannot show them a place where communion is being worked out – ‘come…

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hand holding stone at Montserrat

Focusing Prayer – Improvising on Welcoming Prayer

By Contemplative Rhythms and Improvisations, School of Contemplation No Comments

In previous weeks, we explored “welcoming prayer” in depth, including the way in which it can deepen our attention on what is happening in our bodies and senses. This week, Rachael introduced us to “focusing prayer,” which gives a similar attention on one’s senses. Focusing prayer is a practice that learned from Eugene Gendlin’s research on the importance of “focusing” attention and respect on what is happening in the body of therapy clients during sessions. His research noted that therapeutic gains were more significant and persistent when clients noticed a “felt shift” in their bodies. Catholic priests and psychologists,  Peter Campbell…

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