Monk in the World Guest Post: Rich Lewis

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 ArtsFeel 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.

Quaker Silence

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.

Go Further

J Brent Bill, Holy Silence

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A Journey of Discernment with the teachings of Mary Margaret Funk and other contemplative voices by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Margaret Funk: This e-course explores the contemplative approach to discerning the small and large decisions in life, which comes from cultivating a life practice of unceasing prayer (whatever types of prayer that may encompass for you). Discernment means sorting our thoughts and following the impulse of grace given by the Holy Spirit. As Sr. Meg writes, “Since we are not our thoughts, we can observe them rising and follow the ones that are from God.” This is a way of coming more awake and discovering the spark of divinity burning in our hearts.

Poetry and Prayer from the Celtic Tradition by Carl McColman: The traditional Celtic people of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales wove prayers, blessings, poems, and songs into every aspect of their daily lives — using the power of language to blend a rich spirituality of presence and wisdom into the very fabric of their being. Many of these poetic invocations and charming poems were collected by folklorist Alexander Carmichael over 100 years ago and preserved in the book Carmina Gadelica — the “Charms of the Gaels.”

Celtic Spirituality At the Edge of Mystery by Carl McColman: Consider it a pilgrimage into one of the best examples of everyday spirituality. Celtic wisdom and poetry ​encourages us to recognize the holy all around us, honors and protects the sacred earth, gives inspiration to free our creative voice, and presents a holistic path that links the quest for holiness with ​an ​embodied​​ sense of Divine love.

Sounds True has titles by teachers and authors such as Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr, David Frenette, Parker PalmerEckhart  Tolle , Michael Singer , Jon Kabat-Zinn , Marianne Williamson to name a few.

Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

Prayer-Bracelet: Authentic Orthodox prayer ropes and bracelets are handmade by monks in the Orthodox monastaries reciting a prayer for every knot they tie. Peruse their prayer ropes and bracelets that are all handmade, provided by several orthodox churches around the globe.

How might your life change if you were steeped more deeply in the wisdom of the Christian Mystics? Drawing on the best available writing on the topic of Christian Mysticism both ancient and modern, Contemplative Light is offering a special course on the Christian Mystics Sacred Lives: An Introduction To The Christian Mystics.

The Divine Transformation: Essentials of Christian Mysticism – Welcome to a comprehensive introductory through intermediate level course on both practice and perspectives of these timeless teachings from the Christian Mystical and Contemplative traditions! Whether you are a long-time practitioner looking to solidify your understanding and framework for practice or a beginner interested in immersing yourself in this teaching, this course can serve as a rich resource.

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.

Writing as a Spiritual Practice: This course helps you to access the rich spiritual stories that lie deeply within you. Words are powerful. The words that you write can be used to:

  • help you understand yourself better – and therefore divine God’s purpose in your life
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  • share your testimonies of how God has worked in your life

How to Write a Devotional: Plus How to Get Them Published – If you read devotionals, you already know how they can be a true blessing. A devotional can uplift you when you’re feeling discouraged, sad or lonely. It can allow you to feel a keen sense of fellowship with another Christian, even if the two of you never actually meet. And, if you are feeling called to write devotionals, know that you have a unique opportunity to bless others and make a genuine difference in their lives. This course takes you step by step through the process, and then guides you towards publishing, if that is your goal.

Drawing from the wisdom of monastic life, modern psychology and best practices in personal productivity, the Monk Manual provides a daily system that will help you find clarity, purpose, wisdom, and peace in the moments that make up your life.

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