Contemplative Spirituality: Some Images to Ponder – Some Resources to Consider

Contemplation
 A  gift; “a loving presence to what is”
 Immediate – in the here and now
 Open awareness – not focused on one thing
 Grounds us in the real world

Spirit
 Life-force
 Breath of life
 Wellspring of meaning
 Source of our deepest desires, passions
 Energy of love itself
 Manifested in our love

Contemplative Living
 Developing a contemplative attitude
 A radical trust in God’s presence and mercy
 Where we “live, move, and have our being” in God (Acts 17:28)
 Co-participation with God
 Honoring the Divine mystery
 Counter-culture
 To sustain this attitude and radical trust, one needs lots of support.

Spiritual Paths
Way of Truth – Knowing and understanding
Way of Beauty – Feelings, devotion
Way of Goodness – Actions, service and justice
These are all attributes of God.  At any given time, we are likely attracted to one path more than the others, but all are important in one’s spiritual journey.

The Potter at Work
St. Irenaeus, from the 2nd century wrote:
It is not you who shape God;
It is God who shapes you.

If then you are the work of God,
await the hand of the Artist
who does all things in due season.

Offer the Potter your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form in which
the Artist has fashioned you.

Let your clay be moist,
Lest you grow hard and lose
The imprint of the Potter’s fingers.

Images of Contemplative Prayer
 Body, mind and spirit – like a cake which has different ingredients, but when combined one cannot distinguish them; they are all intertwined.
 In prayer times, be open to a word or image that comes to you as a holy word or sign.
 William Blake said, “We’re put on earth a little while to bear the beams of love.”
 Meister Eckhart, Christian mystic: “Silence is a privileged entry into the light of God and eternal life.”
 Hildegard of Bingen, Christian mystic: “I am a feather on the breath of God.”
 Web-site to read about these and other Christian mystics: http://anamchara.com/mystics/
 Prayer for leaders of contemplative prayer: “Dear God, help me stay out of the way for what you, God, want to communicate.”
 Discernment: Sorting out and distinguishing God’s voice from all the other voices.
 Think of a time in your life where God was really present and you felt truly yourself.  Tell a brief story describing this time and what it now means to you or how it has formed you.
 Ann Dean, Director of the Leadership Initiative for the Personal Spiritual Deepening Program at Shalem Institute, has said that praying in contemplative forms is a doorway into silence in which God’s voice can speak.  She teaches that all we want is an alignment with that source of life to deepen our relationship with that source, but to also transform community.  “God is looking for a corporate body to live and work in the world and give the world what it needs – shalom and justice.” [Quote from Rev. Dean in April, 2010 workshop, Marriottsville, MD]  When we are in silence with the “Beloved,” we can ask, “What is my desire?  What is my essential longing?  Keep that intent before you and notice what is opening for you.  Do you feel what is God’s desire for you?  Where is the resistence now for you?”  Rev. Dean stresses that the practices for contemplative awareness are for the purpose of “simple, open presence.”
 Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s founder and Senior Fellow, says that in contemplative prayer we are yearning for more than we know, and it draws us to something we can’t even name; something that we can’t know until we experience it.  The longing in a corporate sense is a yearning for the Kingdom of God that hasn’t come into being.  The yearning itself is a mark of divine presence. 
A second mark of divine presence is that “the Kingdom of God is within – the grace of this moment, the enoughness of this moment, when there is an appreciation of what’s given in the moment.”  He calls this “a mutual indwelling or communion.” 
 The great poet, Rilke, says, “You must give birth to your images…The future must enter you long before it happens…Just wait for the hour of birth, the moment of new clarity.” (paraphrased)
 Richard Rohr, theologian, says, “If you’re not interested in the plant world, the animal world, the physical world, then you haven’t met the Great Christ yet; your Christ is too small.”
 Thomas Berry, a naturalist, says, “The natural world is not a collection of objects; it is a communion of subjects…the disasters taking place on the planet today are because we no longer recognize the natural world as a sacred reality.”

Resources [Authors and book titles]
1. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart
2. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence
3. Gerald May, The Awakened Heart; Will & Spirit; The Dark Night of the Soul; The Wisdom of the Wilderness: Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature
4. Phillip Newell, Sounds of the Eternal; Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation; Listening to the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
5. Parker Palmer,  The Undivided Life
6. Gloria Durka, Praying with Julian of Norwich
7. James W. Skehan, SJ, Praying with Teilhard de Chardin
8. Elizabeth O’Connor, Search for Silence
9. Judy Cannato, Radical Amazement
10. Eugene Peterson,  The Message (contemporary paraphrases of biblical texts)
11. Dean Nelson, God Hides in Plain Sight
12. John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us
13. Rilke, Hours
14. Thomas Ryan, Prayer of the Heart & Body (also DVD)
15. Thomas Merton, When the Trees Say Nothing [and many other books…]
16. Mary Oliver, Thirst; Why I Wake Early: New Poems
17. Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
18. Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir; The Sabbath Poems
19. Brian Swimme, Hidden Heart of the Cosmos
20. Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ; Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet; Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth
21. Marshall D. Johnson, Psalms Through the Year: Spiritual Exercises for Every Day