Contemplation and meditation

Contemplative ministries in our parish include:

  • Contemplative Evening Prayer: Saturdays 5-5.30pm
  • Christian Meditation: Mondays 7pm
  • Bookclub
  • Quiet morning: occasional – see calendar for details

For more information contact Carol Streatfield 3378 3587

IntroductionMeditation methodsMindfulness methodsContemplation methods

As people, particularly of Western societies, we identify very strongly with our individual personalities and identities. Our thoughts, ideas, feelings, wishes, memories, plans, beliefs and hopes are who we say we are – they define us. And in some ways, and to a certain extent, that is correct. It would be very difficult to walk around in this world without all of those things. The problem that this understanding of who we are creates is that, because it is only part of the reality, it prevents us from experiencing the fullness of reality – our greater selves; God’s fullness within God’s creation. Perhaps an illustration will help.

Imagine oneself as an ocean: on the surface of the ocean things change. Some days the ocean is calm and breezy, some days it is languid, other days storms rage and the waves crash upon all and sundry. However, no matter how agitated or becalmed the surface of the ocean is, the depths are calm, peaceful, with deeper rolling movements. The human self is like the ocean: at our depths, where we are aware of our connection with that greater inner reality that Christians call God, we are calm, peaceful and full of vital energy and potential.

Meditation, mindfulness and contemplation help us to open ourselves to become aware of that deeper connection with God. This is not in an unworldly or other-worldly way, but right here is our everyday, mundane and yet potentially exciting, daily life. Being one with “the Altogether” leads to harmony and a feeling of fulfilment and direction not otherwise experienced.

Meditation / Mindfulness / Contemplation:

The main purpose of contemplative meditation is to train the mind. Our minds are very distracted and it is difficult to focus for long on one issue. By attempting, and learning how, to focus our minds on one point we learn how to be in control of our wayward thoughts, and we learn just how wayward and self-creating our minds are. While our lives will serve us good and bad, it is how we interpret and accommodate these events and circumstances that will determine our level of happiness. Our minds are responsible for how we deal with life events. The more control we have over our interpretations and obsessions, the happier we will be.

Sometimes in the contemplative literature the words ‘meditation’ and ‘contemplation’ are used differently from the way they are usually used today. ‘Meditation’ sometimes refers to sustained rational analysis of an issue; a kind of mulling over an issue. Sometimes ‘contemplation’ is used for this process. Today the word ‘meditation’ is used to denote silent, active focusing on a single point, while ‘contemplation’ is used to refer to a point of total stillness and silence that is reached sometimes during meditation or deep prayer; a point which seems to be beyond the active control of the person and through which a sense of deep peace and expansion may be felt.

Quiet Mornings: Several times a year Quiet Mornings for reflection on a particular theme are held in the peaceful grounds of Holy Spirit Church. Three hours of sitting, wandering, thinking, praying, and being presented with new ways of looking at old issues, is a wonderful way to grow.

Mantra:. Sit down. Sit still and upright. Close your eyes lightly. Sit relaxed but alert. Silently, interiorly, begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase “Ma-ra-na-tha.” Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently, but continuously. Do not think or imagine anything—spiritual or otherwise. Thoughts and images will likely come, but let them pass. Just keep returning your attention—with humility and simplicity—to saying your word in faith, from the beginning to the end of your meditation.

If the word maranatha is too strange, any word, such as peace or love or whatever sits well in the depths of your being, may be used. The word will fall into rhythm with one’s breathing after a while. If the word is seated just below one’s navel, or at one’s diaphragm, it will draw the prayer down throughout the whole person instead of leaving it up in one’s head.

Walking:… Stand with back straight, eyes looking at the floor a little ahead, hands held loosely in front. Walk slowly, placing the feet carefully. Be aware of raising each foot: the foot bending, the knee bending, the thigh raising the foot, the foot being placed on the floor, the forward movement of the body. Move in a balanced, harmony. Become totally absorbed in the movement.

Jesus Prayer:… Sit or walk reciting steadily and continuously, all or part of:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Breathing:… If you prefer not to use a mantra, focussing one’s attention on the breath will assist in turning inwards, into one’s inner space. Focus your mind on the breath either at the nostrils, where the air is felt coming in and going out, or at the diaphragm or abdomen, where it can be felt filling or emptying the lungs.

Candle:… If you focus more easily visually, take a candle or stone and focus your attention on it. As your attention wanders, return it to the candle. Meditating with one’s eyes open helps to prevent day dreaming or quiet snoozing.

With all forms of meditation, when the thoughts and images and plans come to mind, don’t fight them but rather take one’s attention away from them and place it back on the meditation object. Just allow them to pass by without becoming attached to them.

Awareness:…Allow yourself to become deeply aware of what you are doing. When you walk become aware of the movement of your feet, legs, body, arms; how you are carrying your head; the sights, smells, about you; listen carefully to all the sounds; feel your breathing.

Look carefully at a flower or cloud or stone. Allow yourself to reach out to it. Be open to its fullness.

Practising the Presence of God:…Take a particular activity, such as washing the dishes, and concentrate on each aspect of it: the appearance of the bubbles, the smell, the feel of the movements; wash the dishes to wash them, not just to get the activity over and done with. If this is done regularly, one soon becomes aware of one’s presence in all of one’s daily life, in the beauty of the day, the people and the activities.

Celtic prayers:… Celtic Christians developed prayers for every moment of their waking lives: prayers for rising and going to bed; for washing, and lighting the fire; for entering a house, or welcoming someone into one’s own; for working and shopping and playing. This praying through one’s daily activities, and thanking God and sharing everything with God, ensures that one lives one’s life in God’s presence.

When one has been meditating for a while, and at times of deep prayer, a person may experience a sense of powerful stillness and silence that seems not to come from them but which holds them fast. Sitting in this ‘prayer of quiet’ is contemplation.

Sometimes the following activities can lead to deep contemplation:

Holding issue in Christ’s presence:…If you have a particular issue that you are concerned about rather than try to analyse it just sit in meditation for a few minutes and when you are settled, without thinking about it, hold the issue in your mind in the silence. You will see it slowly change and reveal aspects that you did not realize were present. Often a solution, or way of dealing with it, will appear.

Lectio Divina:…Meditate upon a verse …. Look up a verse in a Bible. Read it slowly. Ruminate upon it. Listen to it. Allow it to enter your being. Don’t necessarily think about it, but allow it to speak to you.

Reflection – method:
At any time, while performing some restful task such as embroidery, knitting, fishing, allow your mind gently to play with an idea. Don’t try to analyse it or ‘fix it’, just allow it to take you where it wants to take you.