I am excited to share my Monk in the World Guest Post on Abbey of the Hearts. Christine is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a Benedictine oblate, and the author of 8 books on monastic spirituality and creativity, as well as a poet, photographer, spiritual director, pilgrim guide, and teacher.
Learn more about Christine at Abbey of the Arts. Feel free to visit many of Christine’s wonderful books.
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You can also view my Monk in the World Guest Post on Abbey of the Hearts.
God offers us both rich and diverse contemplative practices. Let me share two diverse contemplative experiences: Quaker Silence and Won Buddhist Temple Worship.
In March of 2014 I decided to experience a Quaker silent service. The church I attended traced its roots back to 1699. The meeting house I sat in was built in 1823. The service had no minister. I sat in silence with 100 others. We sat for one hour in a simple room. It had only benches, windows and wooden floors.
On three different occasions, three individuals broke the silence with a thought that Jesus wanted them to share with the community. (Quaker silence is filled with holy expectation. The Quakers anticipate and expect that Jesus will show up.) Then back to silence.
I heard the rain gently hit the windows. I listened to human sounds: coughing, sniffing, breathing. The wind blew outside despite the indoor silence. The wooden floors creaked. I heard my thoughts. Sometimes I had no thoughts, just the spaces between thoughts. The meeting room was a container filled with peace, love, community.
Of course God is in the noise too. It feels good to be silent. We need silence. It nourishes our souls. When we are silent we are naked before God. We empty our mind of its thoughts and emotions. We let God’s loving gaze shine directly upon us. I do this as part of my daily centering prayer sit but have never done so in solitude with a group this large.
At the end of the service we prayed for one another. We greeted each other and passed the peace. We are meant to have silence. Silence with our God. Silent in community is powerful! We need silent community! I enjoyed my Quaker experience. I must do it again.
Won Buddhist Temple Worship
In May of 2015, I visited the Won Buddhism of Philadelphia Center. It was an amazing experience. Before I entered the temple area, we removed our shoes. I like this idea. The first thing I do when I enter my home is take off my shoes. It makes me feel comfortable. It relaxes me.
At the Buddhist center I too felt at home. I was relaxed. We began the service with a five- minute chant. I have never chanted for five minutes straight. t seemed like it would be an eternity. It was not an eternity. Before I knew it we were done. It relaxed me and helped me get ready for my next experience.
From the chant we moved to a twenty five-minute silent meditation. I knew that this would not be difficult. I practice centering prayer for twenty minutes, twice per day. I close my eyes when I sit.
The silent meditation that I was asked to participate in was with my eyes open. We were asked to gaze with eyes partially closed while we looked down the bridge of our nose.
Similar to centering prayer, we were told to just let go of all thoughts and ignore any itches. Let them pass. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was easily able to meditate with my eyes open. The time passed quickly.
We moved from the silent meditation into a walking meditation. I had never done a walking meditation before. There were fifteen of us. We formed a circle that was approximately fifteen feet in diameter. We were instructed to walk slowly. Our walk was extremely slow.
The movement from when I placed my left heal down, rolled it until my toes finally touched the ground was three to five seconds before I performed the same action with my right foot.
It took some time to adjust to this very, very, very, slow pace. I needed to focus on how to maintain my balance. Within a few minutes I felt at ease and became very comfortable with this pace. I actually began to enjoy it.
Like the sacred word in centering prayer, each step I took during walking meditation was a sacred step that opened me to God. We only walked one full circle. I do not know how long it took. I can say that it was a wonderful experience.
I was at peace. I had entered the spaces between my thoughts. I was in the pure presence of God. I could have walked much longer. I will need to practice walking meditation again. If you haven’t tried it, I highly encourage it.
My Buddhist Temple experience taught me that contemplative prayer, the pure presence of God can be found in chanting, silent meditation, walking. God is everywhere.
God waits for us to meet Him in the practice that best suits us. I am certain that there are many other forms of contemplative prayer that I can practice to meet the pure presence of God.
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I just finished Presence and Process: A Path Toward Transformative Faith and Inclusive Community by Daniel P. Coleman and The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner. I am currently reading Intimacy with God: An Introduction To Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating.
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David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners.
I use a Prayer Rope after each Centering Prayer Sit.
Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today? On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. (Based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus.)
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.
Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus. Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
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