Category Archives: Contemplation

The Contemplative Harvest


For over a decade I have sought to establish a life as a contemplative in a very busy world. The first inclination for anyone who strives to live a contemplative life is to withdraw. My study of the desert mothers and fathers reveals that the overwhelming majority of them were hermits. Does that mean that we have to become hermits to be contemplatives? Is it possible for us to become hermits? Is it really necessary to become hermits? Most importantly, is it right to become a hermit? How then can we become contemplatives in the world in which we live? Let unpack those ideas.

Do we have to become hermits to be contemplatives? The initial evidence would certainly point us in that direction. Not only the desert monastics, but Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross and many other well-known contemplatives were hermits. Many of the modern contemplatives we study like Richard Rhorr, Thomas Merton and others have spent extended periods of time each year living as hermits. Almost to a person, these contemplatives would say that being a hermit is not a prerequisite for being a contemplative. Being a contemplative involves developing a lifestyle that allows us to be quiet and alone wherever we may find ourselves. The outer noise does not negate the inner silence. We can develop a contemplative state of mind regardless of our circumstances.

I would also venture to say that it is impossible for the overwhelming majority of people who read these words to even consider being a hermit. For most of us, it is impossible to spend 40 days living in the solitude of a hermitage. We have responsibilities and obligations that are very important that we must keep. God would not want us to abandon our families, jobs, and churches to live an isolated lifestyle. For many of us that would consider life as a hermit, it would not be a calling but an escape or maybe even an abandonment of our responsibilities. I cannot see any real evidence that God says that the only truly set apart contemplatives are living in a hermitage somewhere at the edge of the world. As a matter of fact, such a life would be the wrong thing for most of us to pursue.

I like the concept presented by Eckhart that contemplation is that soil that brings forth the harvest. As Christians, we are told by Jesus that we are the light of the world and we know that without light there is no life. Our Lord further tells us we are the salt of the earth and our presence both preserves and flavors the world. The harvest of the contemplative is to make a difference.

Let me make a few suggestions that might allow us to be contemplatives and people of action.

My contemplation journey has been greatly influenced by some key elements. They are:

  • Reading

My slow, attentive, mindful reading helped me make a profound connection with the words of the Desert Monks, Merton, Julian of Norwich and others. This mindful reading allows me to hear and cherish each word.

  • Writing

Several years ago I began to write my thoughts on this blog and other places. Since then, writing has become a practice that relaxes me and enables me to express those feeling that God has presented to me.

  • Solitude

I found solitude to be an essential prerequisite to any contemplative period. Time alone in silence, even in a not so quiet place, became a respite for me away from the busy life I am leading. Solitude for me is being able to shut out the noise that surrounds me and be at one with myself. I found it relaxing, calming, and most of all, healing.

  • Detoxing from the media

One thing I find necessary is that I must take some time each week when I don’t keep up with the 24/7 news. It may be a morning or evening when I read or write with no interference. These media fasts allow me to be more positive and responsive to the needs around me.

  • Retreats

To deepen the contemplative process I make it a practice to go on retreat at least once a year. This is a good opportunity to get away from everything and spend some time in surroundings that are more conducive to opening up richer thought processes. Even when it is just a long walk in the park, I have managed to mentally reach a better place.

  • Meditation practice

A time of pure silent meditation is a very important practice for the contemplative. The practice of Contemplative Prayer is a deep well of spiritual refreshment.

  • Work

The monks of the desert advocated the concept of work and prayer. I have found that physical labor and practicing creative arts are avenues to the contemplative life. Whether I am working on a woodcraft project or restoring a rusted old tool, I am in communication with God. My work practices are some of my richest times of contemplation.

Contemplation can reap a rich harvest that creeps up slowly, unannounced and unexpected and brings such blessed peace.



Lord help me to plant the seeds of contemplation that will bring the abundant spiritual harvest.



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Contemplative Prayer

I was directed to these 6 tips on Contemplative prayer by a fellow blogger. They were written by Carol Crumley who is Senior Program Director for Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. St. Benedict, a sixth century spiritual leader, advised his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart,” that is, to listen deeply, noticing the many ways God spoke to them in their daily activities as well as through scripture and worship. I share these 6 tips with you.

6 Tips on Contemplative Prayer

1. Establish a daily set-aside time when you can honor your desire to open to God. We recommend 20 minutes of silent prayer time daily. For some that might seem like a long time. For others, it may be way too short. The exact number of minutes is not that important. Start with what is right for you. The important thing is doing it daily.

Thomas-Merton-4.4.162. Create a set-aside place, a space that honors your intent, where you can sit comfortably and uninterrupted for your prayer time. This might be a prayer corner or even a prayer chair. If a chair, just make sure it is different from the one you sit in to watch television, work on your computer or take a nap. A different chair will help you be more alert and attentive in your prayerful listening. You might also place a candle or flower or image in your prayer space, something that helps draw your focus to God’s presence.

3. Begin with stretching and releasing any physical tensions. We carry the tensions of the day or night in our bodies. Notice the places in your body that are tight or constricted. Stretch into those places, hold for a moment or two, and then relax the tension. Sometimes a gentle body-stretching practice is all that is needed to quiet the mind and prepare the body for opening in prayer.

4. Notice your breath. Your breath is a spiritual tool that you always have with you. It is your most intimate connection with God. Sense your breath as a living instrument of God’s spirit, ever cleansing and inspiring. At any time or place, you can notice your breath. Is it rapid or slow? Shallow or deep? Just noticing and slowing your breath can quiet the mind and draw you deeper into the heart of God. It is the most fundamental practice in the spiritual life.

5. Open to God’s living presence, keeping your desire for your own and the world’s fullness in God before you in prayer. No words are needed. Simple, quiet openness and availability are enough. Trust that God’s healing, transforming power is at work whether you know it, you believe it, or not.

6. Find support for your spiritual life. Support can come in many forms. Listen to music that stirs your soul. Go to a museum and feast your eyes on great art. Walk in nature. Read some of the great classics by contemplative authors. Study the lives of the saints. Find a spiritual director who listens with you to the movement of the Spirit in your life. Attend worship services that nourish your spiritual heart. Seek out others who share a similar desire and join with them for dedicated times of prayer.

We live in a noisy, busy world. Quiet, silent prayer is counter to our culture and yet it offers the missing spiritual resource our souls need. Contemplative prayer is not just for ourselves alone. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that, “To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift you can offer to the universe.”

Contemplative Prayer is a way of being rather than something that we do, a way of being open to God all the time. As you return to your busy day, remember, there are no right ways or wrong ways to pray. You can trust whatever is simplest and feels most natural for you.


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Everyday Contemplatives

There is a contemplative

in every one of us

nearly extinguished by the noise of the day

but still holding on in the hope of relief.

A contemplative craves quiet solitude,

longs for the enjoyment of God’s Now,

aching to touch the sacred silence that makes us whole.

Irvin J. Boudreaux

A Contemplative Pledge
In the early 21st century a monastery without walls, a monastery of the heart, a lay, ecumenical contemplative community is being born. We contemplatives are simply seekers of oneness with God. We remember what Jesus said,

“May all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.”

As brothers and sisters of this oneness we are gathering in a time when religion is going crazy, again, defining itself by who it judges as unworthy. In such a time we create an open table to invite all spiritual seekers to come into the shelter of an inclusive community, a home for all of us sinners and saints, a refuge for Americans who are wearied by a frantic culture and an overly busy church. In such a time of distress, we will teach each other how to find our inner sanctuary and we will learn to serve the world from that True Home together. We commit ourselves to the mission of creating contemplative communities who practice the presence of God for personal transformation and radical engagement with the world.

—– School for Contemplative Living

Few of you that read these words have a monastic cell, but all of us have to grab the time that fate allows to draw near to the heart of God. I share these words there is a small contribution to those who seek the contemplative life.

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The Great Turning

Contemplation is no fantasy, make-believe, or daydream, but the flowering of patience and steady perseverance. There is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of true prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness. Our hope lies in the fact that meditation is going to change the society that we live in, just as it has changed us. It is that kind of long-term thinking that God seems to be involved in and kindly invites us into the same patient process.

I know the situation in the world can seem quite dark today. The negative forces are very strong, and the progressive development of consciousness and love sometimes feels very weak. But the Great Turning is indeed happening, as people like Joanna Macy, David Korten, Byron Katie, and Thomas Berry believe and describe.

In his Letter to the Romans, Paul has a marvelous line: “Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (5:20). In so many places, there are signs of the Holy Spirit working at all levels of society, almost in tandem with the emergence of unbelievable violence, fear, and hatred all over the world.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung from Getty Images

It seems to me that true progress, or the hope that we have, is not naively optimistic, a straight line, or without regression. Spiritual progress, ironically, develops through tragedy and through falling. As C. G. Jung said, “Where we stumble and fall is where we find pure gold,” the gold of the Gospels, the hidden gold of our own souls, and then the beautiful soul of the whole creation.

——Richard Rhor

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A Prayer — July 30, 2014

Lord, I know you are merciful. I’ve been taught that you provide grace and mercy in spite of my behavior and in spite of my sins. You are a good God that comes to those that need You, no matter what.

And Lord, I need you now in my life more than ever. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that my sins are not hidden from you. I know that, at times, I sin knowing it’s a sin. I’m human, Lord, and while that’s no excuse, I know you love me despite my human nature.

Lord, I need you today to provide for me. I need your grace in my life to provide strength, because I am weak. I face temptations every day, and I wish I could say that I always walk away. I cannot do it alone any more. I just can’t. I need you to give me the strength and provide me with the guidance to overcome these desires to sin.

I need you to give me direction in darker times when I wonder if I can even face the next day. You can move the mountains that block my way in life. You can give to me what I need in my life.

Please, Lord, I ask of you to come into my life and offer your grace. I am open to it and ready to accept it. Allow my heart to always be focused on You and make my desire to live for You.

Lord, I know from the scripture that your grace is bestowed no matter what, so I just ask for it today. I may not always be perfect, but I strive to be better. Lord, help me be better. Help me see the clear, narrow path in front of me so I can walk in your ways and in your glory.

In your name, Amen.

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Thursday Prayer 5

General view on the Basilica of St. Clare, Ass...

Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi


May you reflect the glory of the Lord. Place your heart in the divine substance through contemplation. Transform your being into the image that we reflect, the Godhead Itself. Then, you will feel what love is. Then, you will feel the sweetness that is revealed to us through the Spirit, what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, the love that God has for His lovers.

-—Clare of Assisi

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True/False Self

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.merton bw

This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God—because Truth, Light—knows nothing about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.

My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love— outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish most about ourselves—the ones we are born and raised with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to maintaining and expanding this false self, this shadow, is what is called a life of sin.

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life around which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, feeling loved, in order to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.

To be a saint means to be my true self. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I truly am and of discovering my true self, my essence or core.

Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied.

With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like.

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.

But we cannot make these choices with impunity.

Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.

If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.

—– From Thomas Merton 

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Into The Silence Part 10

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Renewal of Soul

“A man who teaches without doing what he teaches is like a spring which cleanses and gives drink to everyone, but it is not Retreat Pictureable to purify itself.”

 —-Abba Poeman

This thought may require some deep introspection. The idea that I would like to draw from this is the concept of our inability to purify ourselves. Purification, refinement, absolution are all needed to continue in the Christian life. There is a tendency in all of us to stop at a particular point and act as if we have arrived. Such an attitude is soul- endangering.

Undoubtedly, the most important aspect of the Christian walk is renewal. Renewal is ongoing conversion of the soul that leads to deeper understanding of sin and service. If we work and preach to others and never take time for the renewal of our souls we, just as the spring, will ultimately dry up. We must all take time to do a retreat or seek a director that will guide to the next step.

  • Are you teaching without doing?
  • Are you neglecting the renewal of your soul?


Filed under Advent, Contemplation, Desert Fathers

Why Am I Worthy?

celtic • cross

Abba Peter said, ‘We must not be puffed up when the Lord does something through our meditation, but we must rather thank Him for making us worthy to be called by Him.’ He used to say it is good to think about each virtue in this way.

—–Abba Peter of the Desert

Clearly, the wise Abba articulates to us that all virtues come from our relationship with the Almighty. This point of view eludes so many people today, because we live as though virtues are man-made. How many times have you heard the expression, “I am a self-made man?” Granted, there are many people who have worked and studied diligently to accomplish their goals. In the midst of such thinking we are called to look higher and outside of ourselves for the source of our success. By taking this approach we do not limit our potential, but it explodes because God is the center of our lives.

 What would the world really be like if God were always the core of our plans? Perhaps we would find it easier to forgive, to say I’m sorry, to turn the other cheek, to give credit to others, and to suddenly discover that the Spirit of God truly dwells with man. This sort of acknowledgement would make for a much kinder and gentler world. Our world would be free of vicious competition and jealousy, because it would no longer be about our ability but about God’s gift expressed through us.

You are worthy because the worthy God is living in you.

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