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I am excited to share my review of Contemplative Living: An Invitation to a Deepening Journey by Sharon Grussendorff.
Sharon Grussendorff has a PhD in quantum computational physics. In 2003 she left her position as a university lecturer to engage in rural science teacher development and to found Solitude Retreat Centre, a beautiful space in nature for contemplative practice. Sharon leads Dove Fellowship, a contemplative community based in Pietermaritzburg, which focuses on spiritual development.
She has been practicing centering prayer and other contemplative practices for more than fifteen years, and is an experienced retreat facilitator. She has recently completed the two year training in the Living School for Action and Contemplation, with teachers Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault and James Finley.
“This book is an invitation to you to explore the freedom and joy that is possible when you allow yourself to float freely in the love of God – to let go of the side of the pool, to know the delicious release and freedom of joyfully entrusting yourself to the expansive holding of God. This involves letting go of your mind’s certainty, and with that your usual ways of knowing and connecting with God.”
Contemplative Living is nicely divided into 7 Parts:
Part 1 – The Invitation To A Deeper Journey
Part 2 – Inner Transformation
Part 3 – Becoming Still
Part 4 – Letting Go
Part 5 – The Invitation to Know Yourself Deeply
Part 6 – Transforming our Pain
Part 7 – Flowing outward
Let me highlight what I found most helpful! I particularly enjoyed the bite sized chapters and I think you will too!
“James Finley described the depth dimension of life in this way: imagine a time-line from your birth to your death – this represents the horizontal dimension of your chronological life, with all of the events that you experience along the way. At each moment on this time-line there is a depth dimension, which can only be accessed in the present moment.”
James Finley makes a wonderful point! Do I access the beauty that each moment contains. Do I skim the surface or do I dig below the surface to experience all the depth and beauty that this moment contains? For example, do I text or read emails while I eat lunch with a friend or do I give my full attention to the conversation that we have? When I take a walk, do I reflect on the past or worry about the future or do I utilize all of my five senses to enjoy and relish my surroundings?
Enwombed In God
“This is an amazing image for us to work with – that being enwombed in God means that God’s fluids run through our veins, God’s breath breathes in our lungs, our heartbeats are intimately matched with the rhythm of God’s heartbeat. This is the intimate reality of our union with God – there’s nothing we have to do to make this happen, it’s already occurring, we just need to realise it, experience it, and allow it to transform our sense of ourselves from separate autonomous beings who are doing it all ourselves, to beings that are held, nurtured and completely surrounded by God, intimately connected with God’s very being.”
I think we often forget this. We are enwombed in God! We are in complete union with God from the top of our heads to the bottom of our toes. We are enclosed in the love of God at all times. This is exciting! We are never apart from God. It is impossible. We live, move and have our being in God. God is within us and stays within us at all times, forever
“We are constantly building a story around stimuli and events, and then we believe this version that our minds have spun. One of the very important things that we have to learn is that our minds can not be trusted to give us an accurate picture of reality.”
What we see and hear is not always the full truth. It is our perception at that exact moment. I have often made a judgement or rendered an opinion only to realize that I did not have all of the facts. My judgement was unfair. My opinion was incomplete because I did not see all of the parts that were needed. I often tell myself to slow down. Do I have all of the facts? What did I miss? Do I have an accurate picture of reality?
“What I have realised is that God’s voice is never harsh or grating, and will never judge or condemn us.”
That is wonderful insight! I have noticed the same. God loves me. God is always present. God’s love for me is unconditional. God is very patient with me. God seems to gently nudge me. I hope you too can begin to see these gentle attitudes of the Divine.
“As Thomas Keating points out, this gives us an idea of why the world is in such a mess, because there are over 7 billion of us all reacting out of guilt, fear, craving, resisting, defending or the need to be liked or approved of.”
Each one of us is the unique manifestation of God. Once we begin to live from this realization we will no longer feel the need to be afraid, resist, defend or seek the approval of others. We will simply need to be who we are and let others do the same. Can you imagine if more and more people lived life with the self knowledge of who they are: the unique manifestation of God.
Mindful Tea/Coffee Drinking
- Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, exactly the way you like it. Find somewhere to sit where you are relaxed and comfortable.
- Drink your tea very slowly, and try to bring your attention to the small and the flavour of the tea.
- Drink each mouthful slowly, savouring it fully.
- Try not to think about the next mouthful, or the time when your tea is finished, or how you should drink all of your cups of tea this way. Just stay with this mouthful, and enjoy it.
I enjoy a good cup of French pressed coffee. I should slow down and try this exercise. Thank you Sharon for bringing this to my attention!
God’s Boundless Love
“Our wounds run deep, but the tender love of God is infinitely deeper, and the deeper we allow ourselves to venture into the tender places, the deeper our awareness of the boundless love of God grows.”
God is with us in our wounds. When my father passed away a few years my first centering prayer sit was most difficult. I sobbed and then ever so gently returned to my sacred word. I did this over and over and over again. And then there was peace. It made me realize that not only was God with me but that God seemed to replace my pain and grief with His boundless love
All-Pervasive Depth of God’s Love
“We need to let go of our attachment to the feelings of “love”, so that we can start to open to the more subtle but all-pervasive depth of the love of God, which underpins and infuses every moment of our lives.”
I particularly love this idea. I need to let go of the feelings of love. Why? Because when I do, I will open myself to the all pervasive depth of God’s love which underpins and infuses every moment. Wow! My perception or definition of God’s love and the real Divine Love are millions if not billions of miles apart. I want to experience this Love that permeates me and all of my surroundings.
“This is why engaging regularly in contemplative practices is so important. We have to allow God to have God’s way with us, through our on-going choice to let go of our own will, and to surrender and flow with the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives.”
I am very much work in progress! I will return to God each day for my twice per day centering prayer sits. I need them! More importantly, I need to surrender to God so I can flow with the movement of God’s Spirit in my life too!
I encourage you to check out this wonderful book!
Contemplative Practices: 5 Ways of Consenting to the Divine: Learn methods practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within, including Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, Christian Meditation, and the Jesus Prayer. The course is currently 75% off.
Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz
The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher Heuertz
Orthodox Crafts: Prayer ropes are used to help Eastern Orthodox Christians say the Jesus Prayer. In Russian they are called “chotki”, while in Greek they are called “komboskini”. Our wool prayer ropes are hand made from Cashmira black pure wool, counting from 33, 100 to even 300 knots. We consider that it’s very important not to step aside from the traditional method of prayer rope tying, as well as keeping their look and feel as close as possible to the old, Orthodox monastic models. Enjoy my post How I Use My Prayer Rope.
I am currently taking on clients for Centering Prayer One on One Coaching sessions. I am happy to setup weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sessions with you over the phone or skype to help you go deeper into your centering prayer practice and integrate it into your daily life. Contact me for more information. The rate is $50 – $75 per hour. The first session is 1/2 off.
Feel free to peruse my Resource Page. I frequently update it with new information.
I am currently reading Moving from Stress to Joy by Nicholas Amato.
The Power of the Jesus Prayer: Learn a method practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within.
Contemplative Perspectives: Frameworks for the Divine: For anyone who craves to deepen their contemplative process and more fully embody and integrate the the higher stages of the mystical path, Contemplative Perspectives offers an opportunity to travel through the various states of awakening and understand the territory. With the historic practice of The Jesus Prayer as a jumping off point, we explore the experiential aspects of the Purgation/Illumination/Union path of Christian Mysticism.
The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism: This is a combined course of both Contemplative Practices and Contempative Perspectives.
Christian Prayer Methods: Prayer is a core Christian practice, but for many, this means “saying prayers” or asking God for various favors. In this course, we will review a variety of methods of prayer that have been used for centuries in Christianity. Whether you’re a beginner who is just learning how to pray, or a more mature Christian who has been at it awhile, this course will offer specific guidance, encouragement and support for practicing several time-tested methods of prayer.
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. It is based on his book Simply Jesus. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
This course is a short course based on Prof. N.T. Wright’s latest book, Simply Good News. Tom Wright will guide you through the chapters of his book through videos that suggest what some of the main points are. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. You will be brought into their world in order to make more sense of what ‘good news’ means in our world.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home. I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work. I’m a proud affiliate.
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.
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.
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.)