The Contemplative Prayer Support Thread



  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I am right now listening to this talk by Richard Rohr, and finding it very interesting and helpful, so I thought I'd share it here.
  • This is to say thanks to fineline for the link to that talk. It has taken up to today, to find the time to listen to but it was well worthwhile. I am finding it interesting to listen and hear those that know the contemplative tradition better than I, it sort of gives me the ability to see how it may be otherwise framed than how I practice. I do not want to swap a narrow orthodoxy for a narrow orthopraxis.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Glad it was helpful, Jengie. I was actually thinking of this thread today as I was walking in the woods, and about contemplative prayer, as I am finding it easier lately, and it is making a difference. I can't remember if someone here recommended Cynthia Bourgeault, or if I just happened to come across her when searching youtube videos on the topic, but I found very helpful her method of simply acknowledging all the thoughts that pop into your mind, and then letting them go - rather than trying to push them away, or get rid of them by focusing on a mantra. I find her way much easier than repeating a word.
  • fineline wrote: »
    can't remember if someone here recommended Cynthia Bourgeault, or if I just happened to come across her when searching youtube videos on the topic, but I found very helpful her method of simply acknowledging all the thoughts that pop into your mind, and then letting them go - rather than trying to push them away, or get rid of them by focusing on a mantra. I find her way much easier than repeating a word.
    I may be telling you, and others, something you know, but the "letting the thoughts go" is also very popular in mental health as a way of not allowing unhelpful thoughts overpower you. Or at least it's popular with the psychs I've seen. I found it helpful. I never thought to apply it to prayer.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I think I knew it in theory, at least with regard to meditating and relaxing and healing in general, but it always seemed a bit abstract and impossible. Cynthia Bourgeault's way of describing it, and physically illustrating it, somehow clicked with me. I found it helpful in church yesterday, to observe my thoughts and then give them to God, letting them go, and to keep doing that when they came back, without feeling frustrated that they hadn't actually disappeared! Particularly, there is a guy at church I find really annoying, and I tend to feel bad that I am having irritated thoughts about his annoyingness, but instead I just observed my thoughts and let them go, and it was quite a peaceful experience and helped me focus on God.
  • Bookmarked Rohr too and didn't get to it, glad to get a heads-up on this.

    fineline,there's a long read on 'forgetting' or 'letting go' of difficult thoughts and memories in meditation practice here in Diane Mehta's A Prescription for Forgetting.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Thanks, MaryLouise - I just read it and found it interesting. I don't think I was ever equating letting go with forgetting. More just removing something from the forefront of your thoughts for a while. I have difficulty switching my thoughts from one thing to another, and can easily get hyperfocused on one thing. I am not sure if contemplative prayer can make it easier to switch to different focuses and keep balance, or if it will become a focus in itself, and also I'm not sure whether that's a good thing.

    Also, interesting what she says about being in a permanent state of elation. I've never taken anti-depressants, so don't have that specific experience, but I've been finding something slightly similar in my recent attempts to improve my health by walking a lot and taking cold showers. It actually makes me feel quite elated, but also seems to kill creativity, and is a less nuanced way of experiencing life, just as the author of that article is describing. It's also quite exhausting.
  • That's the distinction I was wondering about, fineline. I think both letting go and forgetting are necessary at different times.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    A literal forgetting, MaryLouise? Completely forgetting something happened? My brain doesn’t seem to do that, and I’m not sure I’d want to, though I can process and frame a memory in such a way that the pain is reduced, and in quietly giving it to God, I acknowledge any pain but don’t hang onto it or focus on it - just observe it is there, and it will no doubt return now and then.
  • The process of conscious forgetting (sometimes referred to as motivated forgetting) is a complex and disputed one, fineline. It isn't unconscious repression of traumatic material, but a deliberate thought suppression of de-emphasising and reframing certain memories or the beliefs about those memories.

    One context in which individuals may wish to forget a childhood memory is when they were given false information as a child -- a parent who tells the child that the other parent is a monster, for instance. The adult knows that what s/he was told is a lie, but the memory of being told this and frightened into avoiding the 'monster' remains: the adult wants to be able to forget the memory because the content is false.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Ah, that is interesting, MaryLouise. I was given lots of false information, but it is now categorised in my head as false info, and given because the person was damaged/misinformed/bitter/etc. So reframed, I guess, but not forgotten - I can bring all sorts of things to memory if I choose, both good things and bad things, and neutral things too. My memory is very vivid.
  • I've been reading over this thread - it is motivating me to get praying regularly. Again.

    I know Christians and non-Christians who are into silent prayer and / or silent meditation - and I have read again about it on here, for instance where people have mentioned letting disturbing thoughts go by, and trying to remain in the silence. Co-incidentally a few days ago I stumbled across this article about Quietism, which was once quite controversial and perhaps even a heresy. I wonder if anyone here could say, from an orthodox (small o) Christian perspective, what the problem was / is there.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    I am going to have to write at length to engage with that one because there is no simple answer. Contemplative prayer techniques are tools and as such can be used either for good or bad. As a rule the more powerful a tool is the more benefit that can be combined and also the more damage it is capable of. John Cassian tells in his conferences of a monk who is very devout in eremetic practices but who fails at acceptance when a statement on the nature of God is issued by a local bishop. The worry therefore goes way back. Let me therefore suggest three related temptations associated with Contemplative Prayer
    • The type that is characterised in the article on Quietism which places the practice of Contemplative Prayer in itself as sufficient for salvation and the primary place of God's self revelation.
    • The tendency towards individualism and the idea that what is revealed to oneself through contemplative prayer is not subject to the discernment of the others and thus the denial of the Church as a communal body.
    • Pride, the belief that somehow through participating in Contemplative prayer you are a more spiritual Christian than those around you.

    This is why I write in my notes for the meditation group the following:
    Meditation is one practice that opens the possibility of an encounter with God. The two principle practices for Christians are the Sacraments and the Word . There have however also been other practices where God’s self revelation may be sought; including through creation (the World as the Theatre of God’s action), through other people (the Orthodox idea of everyone as an icon of Christ) and through personal devotion. One of the glories of the Christian church is that there are many different ways to engage with God through these practices. Christian Meditation is one of the practices that falls under personal devotion as such it helps some but not all Christians.

    For lay people, I do not have a view on monastics, they need to set their practice alongside the standard practices of a committed Christian including that of meeting regularly with other Christians both probably to practice Christian meditation but also to meet people whose relationship with God takes different forms as well as to participate in the sacrments and the proclamation of the Word. For those who are doing a more intense practice then spiritual direction is probably a good idea. Therefore I would say that in many ways the challenge with contemplative prayer practice is to discern the spirits that you encounter which is traditionally done with others.

    The other thing is to remember in as far as we can judge our status with respect to salvation it is in looking for the growth of fruit of the spirit in our lives and while contemplative prayer may be a fertiliser to plant that produces them, it is not the fruit itself. Equally I will say is for those who are drawn to these practices the attempt at suppression of them can be damaging as well. I read this morning that Saint Vince De Paul wrote that if you are at prayer and an act of charity presents itself, you should break off the prayer to do the act of charity. I think that is right. Prayer is a practice of faith, but charity is a practice of love and while both endure the greatest is love.

    My own experience, and maybe because I struggled to keep up the communal discipline, is that the practice can lead to orthodoxy as much as it can lead to heresy. However, I instinctively carry out contemplative prayer close to interactions to scripture* and at present my most mystical bent comes into play during the Eucharist. It is therefore a joy to find that practices and ideas that I have worked out from experience are reflected in the works of classical masters of spirituality. The silence has taught me well but I would not know that without now being in a situation where I am encouraged to explore the writings in the contemplative tradition.

    *Reformed instinct, where having the Bible close by is seen as having a lifeline back to orthodoxy.
  • Thanks for that substantial reply, JJ - it's very helpful. I'm ill at the moment and can't do you justice in terms of a decent reply - so if it's OK I'll get back to you when I'm over it.
  • That's fine. I am working through it for personal reasons and having chance to write it down was useful.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    Hope you feel better soon, M-in-M.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited September 2018
    Thanks to you both - Mark for raising the question and Jengie for that thoughtful, instructive and for me a little bit challenging reply. It's challenging in a call-to-action way. I'm still pottering along with my readings and doing OK.
  • I take some issue with Jengie's reply, because it gives the cenobitic tradition far too easy a ride. Except from the church's own perspective, I see nothing automatically better about a collective experience than an individual one, providing that one doesn't start using individual experience to construct a feeling of superiority. My observation is that text, sacrament and contemplation are the three poles of encounter with the divine, and people gravitate to one or another in different contexts and at different stages of life. The others are then there as balances and as means of testing each other. The institutionalist does not get a free ride, validated in their life in fear of their own shadow. They too must cast off from their comfortable berth in the many and find out the life that has been placed within them.
  • edited October 2018
    I see nothing automatically better about a collective experience than an individual one, providing that one doesn't start using individual experience to construct a feeling of superiority.

    I found JJ's slightly broader, three dimensions of possible harm helpful here, in the post just up-thread. This is important to me in part w.r.t. my own practice, but more as it feeds into a correspondence I have been carrying on with an old friend. This friend long ago left behind a Christian upbringing, but has been seeing real fruit (I wouldn't use that jargon / shorthand term with them, but you know what I mean) as a result of meditative practices derived from yoga.

    I believe in one God - and so wherever we discern the fruits of the Spirit, there He is. But JJs post helps to frame my hazy anxiety that left to my own devices, my ego is very capable of taking me off in the wrong direction. I really like the 'bible as lifeline' image too - bible reading sits in the middle of my regular (hmmm) practice. I can't row in with my friend with a 'what about the bible' plea - it wouldn't mean anything. But I do want to gently probe them as to whether they feel that getting comfy with their inner self is always a good thing - and if not, where is the centre towards which they want to move.
    (Still coughing and spluttering over the keyboard :smile: That's my excuse for a kludgy post.)
  • I was taught by a Charismatic minister of my acquaintance many years ago that when discerning spirits there are three things that need to be in agreement:
    • The Spirit speaking your heart
    • The Word of God
    • The wisdom of other Christians
    I tend to wait until all three align at least for major spiritual decisions. With smaller ones, I take two of the three and only a minority of decisions get put to discernment in the first place. As far as I can tell the practice of attempting to align the will to God's on a regular basis is far more conducive to good on the run decisions than going through the whole process of discernment on every single item. As a rule of thumb, I try to create good habits rather than scrutinize everything. I will admit I would do well to cultivate the habit of checking with my heart for more of them.

    I am not going to deal with the Word of God here, I think I would need a second post to deal with it and possibly a whole other thread but pray that does not get stuck into the dead horse of inerrancy. Let me just note that discerning the Word is complex process made even more so by my Reformed heritage and not simply a matter of reading the words off the page of the Bible and applying them prescriptively to the current situation.

    I, however, do need to address the other two. How do I judge whether it is the spirit speaking in my heart? The best way I have found is that recommended by J Brent Bill which asks is it compatible with
    • the Fruits of the Spirit
    • caring
    • a sense of harmony with God
    • generosity
    • persistence
    • rightness
    • surrender of our wills to God’s.
    So as I sift through my own thoughts on the topic I would look for indications of this. Yes I can be inspired and yes God can speak through me or in the depth of my being but I need to be cautious. I may be slightly unusual here, as my experience is others are too ready to take my word as inspired when I think it should be tested so that makes me extra cautious.

    By the wisdom of other Christians, as far as I am concerned, there are a huge range of ways of accessing it. This can include spiritual reading or podcasts, talking with a trusted fellow Christian, as well as the more traditional such speaking with a pastor, or meetings for clarity. In other words, the wisdom of other Christians is the wisdom of the community, not just the hierarchy.

    If it is major I will deliberately seek out a trusted fellow Christians to think the issue through with. I always have done this. Experience has taught me that I need to choose that Christian wisely and avoid one whose mind is already closed on the topic I am considering. It can take time to find such people but it is worth it. I must admit I have never been totally open about everything going on in my Christian life to one person, although most things are talked about with someone. Some of it is self-defence, some of it is not wanting to overburden another and some of it is just that I am not that consistent with what I recall.

    My attitude is that if the threefold principle is good enough for Charismatics then I would suggest it also good enough for Contemplatives. Mind you I think the worst at doing it are actually activist who see a good work and therefore immediately trying to do it without working whether it is actually a calling for them.

    However, I would never mistake discernment for contemplation. Everyone needs to be clear on the requirements of discernment. While I acknowledge the deep and profound gifts contemplative prayer brings there does appear to quite a large portion of Christians who genuinely find it difficult. It appears to me that there is a danger of spiritual pride in suggesting that contemplation gives a revelation of God that cannot be obtained in other ways. Surely just as much as God created us, God created them. Therefore as much as God desires a relationship with us God desires one with them as well. It would seem rather stupid for God not to have ways of reaching them that may well not be open to me. Indeed I would say this strengthens the discernment process of the community as all bring their different experiences of the love of God.
  • I'm not even considering telling people not to value the communal or the scriptural, but I am saying, and indeed shouting as loudly as a contemplative can, that the contemplative connection with God is of equal value, and requires no more validation than any other. In my experience, it gets treated as an embarassing irrelevance by an enragingly large cross section of ecclesiastical types.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    Firstly I am talking of discernment, not revelation. How do you test spirits in contemplation and isn't the testing spirits antagonistic to the whole process of contemplation? It seems to me a bit like trying a spread butter with a hammer.
  • In my experience, contemplation has as one of its central currents the testing of spirits, but then my experience of contemplation is far from being the entirely tranquil thing that it would appear it's supposed to be. My experience is that the direct consequence of stilling body and direct engagement with the sensory world is that memories, experiences and the spirits associated with both bubble vigorously to the surface, and the work of contemplation is achieved through this sometimes violent engagement. Tranquility is a surface appearance only. This won't be everyone's experience, of course, but neither will a lack of testing.
  • I'm setting time aside for contemplative prayer again, thanks to this thread which has continued to pop up and remind me. I tried to return to morning and evening silent prayer for 20 minutes, but there were too many distractions and it wasn't happening. I've found a prayer slot during the day now, and made a good start.

    I think that personal prayer is as important as communal prayer. Contemplative prayer is important for me personally, I'll try not to drift away again.
  • Best wishes, Raptor Eye.
  • Thank you Climacus. Have you found your new start?
  • First, apologise for the slowness of the response, I can not write a quick response to such an issue. I am cautious about what I write because I suspect that thunderbunk has much more practice than me and therefore I am in part reliant on what I have read who are much more experienced than me. This answer thus is tentative and partial.

    There are reasons why my journey will almost certainly be different from thunderbunk's. I was raised in an environment where strong emotion was understood as deadly*. I know why, but it is one thing to understand why an environment is as it is and another to not be affected by it. The result is that I tend to sublimate my emotions into physical symptoms. I have numerous psychosomatic symptoms but rarely express things in emotional ways. The result is that I am often calm during contemplative prayer but I know enough to view that as partly the product of me being relatively new and partly because of the sublimation process. It was noticeable that when I first tried Christian meditation my reports were bland as if nothing was happening but I also was having nightmares at night. This, of course, shapes my perspective of the process.

    One of my processes for keeping myself from actually swimming is the process of actually analysing and making sense of the thoughts and emotions as they arise. To use Thomas Keating's analogy; it is one of my techniques for getting on the boat and out of the sea of contemplation. Note this is a defence mechanism and for me a strongly ingrained one. I can analyse my own emotions to the nth degree as I feel that if I understand an emotion I am in control of it.

    However, when it comes to discernment I am much more desirous of calm and the creation of distance from the immediacy of the issue. Some of this is corrective. I know that strong emotion can be overwhelming and lead me not to attend to other things that might be there. Then as a creature rather than the creator, my view is always partial. I am well advised to listen to the views of others particularly those I would naturally easily ignore. This is often hindered if for some reason I am internally in turmoil. The turmoil creates a din a lot louder than the alternative voices that may well make me reflect in my discernment.

    Perhaps I need to give an analogy. If our spiritual path can be seen as a long trek, then contemplation is a time when we make a conscious effort to give ourselves to the path and to walk on it. At such times we may find ourselves walking through gentle woods but we can equally end up walking through rough bogs or climbing steep slopes. When we are doing this putting in the effort, and following the track where it leads is important. There is absolutely no point in objecting to the steepness of the incline because it is not a slow path through the meadows. Discernment is when we come to a point in the path where we need to decide whether the path turns left or right. While in contemplation moving along the path is important, now we are discerning we need to slow down and be careful in our judgements, consult with other on the path**. Most of the time actually the precise path does not matter but just occasionally getting it right is very important. It is at such times that we need to use discernment.

    *That sounds like hyperbole, it isn't though the assumption was muffled by a generational gap i.e. my grandparents were the holders of the opinion and my father raised in it so while he and my mother rejected it (their decision was that it was better to die having lived than to live surrounded in cotton wool), it still was very much part of his perspective. My nephew and niece may be able to get past it.

    **When I walked the Cleveland way, I twice got lost and could not discern the path. The first time because I took a detour to see a church and tried a shortcut to get back on the path, the second time because the map said there should be two paths and there were three! On both occasions I asked walkers who happened to be walking along paths I was on and they walked with me for about an hour and then when our paths diverged pointed me along a clear path that was my route. I don't know what it is but solitary walking seems to turn up these coincidences more than when walking with groups.

  • Sometimes I live up to my name (!) Thank you so much for that account, Jengie Jon. I'm sorry, I can't do it justice right now. I can't even describe how my contemplative journey has been over the last nine years - or at least not without a lot of notice - but I will try and reply adequately. I will just say now that I came to contemplative prayer out of a feeling of partial alienation from (for me) an overly traditional anglo-catholic church, in which public acts of spirituality were regarded by some, including the parish priest, as far less forgivable than public sexual acts. Only the sacraments licensed any kind of public spirituality, and then only if sufficient lace and incense were involved to purify the act. Contemplative prayer has given me a means of finding and expressing myself, at least to God, at (for the most part) the paradoxical price of silence or very selective speech to other people. This is partly breaking down now, but that is still very much a work in progress.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    There are some generous and rich contributions here, thank you.
    fineline wrote: »
    I am right now listening to this talk by Richard Rohr, and finding it very interesting and helpful, so I thought I'd share it here.

    I also want to thank fineline for this link, which I finally listened to yesterday and found excellent.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Glad you found it helpful, Nen. :smile: I was just thinking yesterday I want to watch some more of these sorts of talks - there are so many on YouTube, and it is such a blessing to have access to them.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited October 2018
    So much to think about in this thread and what better day than the Feast of St Teresa of Avila? Apologies for another long post.

    I’ve been thinking about the tension and liminal place of meeting between the contemplative and mystical traditions. We don’t in the 21st century have a shared language for this mystical inner experience as described by Gregory of Nyssa or Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross. When Bernard de Clairvaux at the end of the 12th century addresses the surge in ‘visionary’ experiences and prophetic-mystical understandings expressed by monastics, including many women mystics, he speaks of having to read in the book of life or experience (in libra experientiae) as well as the book of the Bible and he acknowledges that this is something ‘new’. Mystical and visionary experiences of Christ, ecstatic bliss-filled experiences of union with the Divine, are understood to be a gift but problematic. That suspicion and uncertainty about mystical experience has stayed with us.

    The monastic life has been characterized by a context understood to be stable, immersive and disciplined with regard to contemplative prayer. The mystic ‘path’ is often perceived as wordless or apophatic, outside of languaged discourse and activities, a via negativa that involves radical self-giving, sense deprivation as an inner darkness and abandonment, the withdrawal of familiar consolations from God. The stages sometimes called purgative, illuminatory and unitary are most often discerned in hindsight after a lifetime of focused daily prayer and silence.

    For those of us who aren’t monastics, much of this kind of deep immersion in contemplative prayer isn’t possible, and we need a different kind of language to look at what is a limit-situation in secular life. To read the mystics and their guides to the contemplative-mystical journey may be inspiring but that level of commitment and daily practice for decades isn’t possible for most of us and isn’t supported by a faith community all doing the same thing, dedicated to silent contemplative prayer.

    In Buddhism, you begin with the practice. Meditation is what comes first. And the language used to describe and guide meditators emerges from that shared practice. Those who develop a steady time-intensive sitting or zazen practice will experience as a matter of course certain kinds of awareness or phenomena: the experience of non-self, states of euphoria or bliss, expanded awareness of the ‘empty’ nature of reality, jhana or ‘entering the stream’ phenomena as altered consciousness. The phenomena or expanded awareness are not of interest or significance in themselves but they do indicate that there is movement and a process evolving, not linear but a deepening or gradual enlightenment.

    Within many Christian traditions of ‘understanding’ what happens on retreats or in contemplative prayer, the temptation to keep turning this kind of wordless liminal experience into a languaged or utilitarian activity that needs to be justified, tested for orthodoxy or ‘explained’ or ‘boundaried’ is counter to the mapless venturing into the unknown that for some of us is what happens when we move from discursive prayer or visualization exercises or ‘doing something’ to ‘sitting with empty hands’. A kind of prayer or intimacy with the Divine that embraces non-sense, paradox, Presence as Absence, the apophatic is not the kind of prayer that lends itself to rational justifications. It is perhaps more radical and dangerous in that it is about exploring ways to be with God without the consolations we may associate with God, without the conviction of ‘doing the right thing’ and without a readymade language to confine or ‘normalise’ what is happening/not-happening on the edge of the linguistic and venturing towards what cannot be said because it is beyond speech.

  • Putting this here because we've talked several times about centering prayer and Thomas Keating.

    Thomas Keating has died at the age of 95 and a tribute to his contemplative outreach and influence is found HERE.
  • Darn. Him and Eugene Peterson within a week. For those only acquainted with The Message, for the Peterson adict there was much, much more to him
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    I wanted to share a resource I came across, and am finding helpful. It's a two week free online audio course on prayer. It is not just contemplative prayer, but it includes it.
  • Thanks for that link, fineline. It reminded me of the Ignatian journey and the desire 'to find God in all things'.

  • Feeling uplifted by sitting down each evening with translations of John of the Cross' Living Flame of Love, ravishing beauty and promise in every line. For such an austere, ascetic Spanish mystic, he is the most sensuous of poets. I read John of the Cross each Advent, since it is his Feast Day on 14 December. This year the poetry touches me so deeply.
  • Prompted to reread some of Thomas Merton's journals by a New Yorker piece on him 50 years after his death.

    Perhaps the central question for him was: What contribution can the contemplative make to peacemaking, especially in a bellicose age?
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    edited December 2018
    I must hunt up some of Thomas Merton's later writing too. As his father came from Christchurch the Library might be more likely to have it than it would without the local connection. - My goodness -133 results,

    I met one of his cousins when I was working in Rotorua, a lovely man whose work saved one of NZ's most endangered birds.

    NZ is a village,
  • Huia, his father was an artist named Owen Merton, as I recall? I looked up samples of his art years ago. Happy to hear about the cousin!
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    Prompted to reread some of Thomas Merton's journals by a New Yorker piece on him 50 years after his death.

    Perhaps the central question for him was: What contribution can the contemplative make to peacemaking, especially in a bellicose age?

    This is a question I wonder about and struggle with. I have read a bit of Thomas Merton in the past. I think I might find it helpful to read more of his stuff.

  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    I might see if the Art Gallery here have any of Owen Merton's work. They, like the Library, have a collection by Christchurch people.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Something I consistently find when I attempt to do contemplative prayer is that I fall asleep. Do others experience this? I find I am doing the centring prayer, and fewer and fewer thoughts are popping into my head, and I am detached from worries, and the next thing I know I am waking up and realising I had an unintended nap. I am not sure if this is supposed to happen!
  • I am not sure it is 'supposed' to happen. That rather suggests it is the aim of centering prayer. Rather it does happen and there is nothing wrong with it happening. I think it is a mark of getting to a place where you are relaxed enough to go to sleep which otherwise anxiety is causing you to avoid. In that sense, I think it is a season in the spirit. At times you will find it happening and other times it will not happen. There is nothing wrong with either occurrence.
  • fineline, I wonder if the sleepiness might not indicate general exhaustion and need for more sleep? I've found the end of the year hard because I'm simply tired and not able to concentrate for long. For me, sleepiness is why I don't meditate or spend a long time in prayer in the evenings because I'm a lark, not an owl. Morning prayer works better because I am more alert before dawn. What you're doing does seem to be relaxing you, as Jengie Jon noted, and that isn't good or bad in itself but not the goal of contemplative prayer.

    At times, I've also found sleepiness to be connected to boredom, needing to pray differently (reflecting on a passage of Scripture) or for a shorter period of time. I've also paid attention to breathing and holding the focus because I don't want to fall asleep, I want to stay present. Sometimes sitting in a slightly uncomfortable position or having a lit candle as an object of focus helps me stay attentive.

    If there's no strong desire for prayer (another reason why I sometimes feel sleepy), I spend some time thinking and praying about that: I might be angry at or feel very distant from God, distrustful, preoccupied with other issues in my life, avoidant. It helps to try and stay curious and patient while working through the tendency to fall asleep and often it clears up after a few days.
  • Please forgive me if I muse aloud, but I would be very interested to know if this rings a bell with anyone. I think I use contemplative prayer in part to spiritualise emptiness and mess. By this I mean that I find my singleness hard to deal with, and also the associated responsiblity to deal entirely with my own living space. I seem to obsessively clear my internal space and clutter my physical space, neither of which feels healthy, but they seem to be responses to the same fundamental situation and stimulus. I've only just noticed this and have no idea at the moment what to do with the insight. Other than pray about it, of course...
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    Something I consistently find when I attempt to do contemplative prayer is that I fall asleep. Do others experience this?

    Have done in the past.
    Many years ago a friend studying for the priesthood asked her Spiritual Director about this and he replied very calmly that she "probably needed it". No explanation, no questions, no criticism, no surprise ... So if that's what a S.D. says there can't be a lot of problem with it - from the S.D. side, I mean

  • Once again, so much wisdom here from Fellow Shipmates, and from so many I deeply honor. So many of which reinforce for me that this is a personal relationship with the All Holy.

    I have over many years tried many different methods, patterns, visions. After a great deal of frustration I find simple watching the entry into contemplation that works me. Watching can mean observing my thought, my fears, my obsessions, my distractions (although blessed be they who have not distractions!). It can mean watching the sky as sun rises, listening to the bird song, watching how cranky (or not) I get with the morning Lessons at Morning prayer. In short, it is simply paying attention, to God (as if I could) and to myself (easier to observe but frail, prone to self serving).

    I recall an event several years ago. I was away for a solo vacation. I rose early, walked the beach. It was pre-dawn. I could see/feel the light to my right. To my left there was darkness -- physical, but it felt also a spiritual darkness, a void calling me to fall into it. It might have been too much Scotch the night before, and too much coffee before my walk. It might also have been a physical event – a minor stroke. But it felt to me the call to fall into the dark void, and to death. I forced myself to turn to where the sun would rise. That took some strength. And I stood still, very still. Tide was coming in, and as I felt wet on my toes, I backed away a little, repeatedly. After a time long passed I felt the warmth of sun on my body, water on my feet, and heard the small murmur of birds. I opened my eyes to see myself surrounded by a flock of Sanderlings – small, quiet, sand feeding birds, gathered around me. And I felt God there, in them, in the sun, in me if only I would say yes.

    I write this only to say “Be patient” -- the presence of God in contemplation is God’s gift. God is not stingy in the least, but we all too easily misinterpret God’s gift. Be still, wait with love and patience, and allow the strange and the odd to open the window to God’s abundant love, already there for you, but now in a way you can perceive.
  • I converted (reverted? I was Baptised) to Christianity from Buddhism by way of a life-changing experience at a Sufi shrine in Delhi where I became aware of the God of Abraham. For some time I prayed using the Dominican rosary..but eventually that felt too discursive and cluttered, and yet I wanted to retain some element of the sense of I switched to using an Anglican rosary..on the decade beads I use an 'arrow prayer' ( See The Cloud of Unknowing) linked to the breath. I find frequent recourse to Holy Communion absolutely essential to maintain this practice, As is a need to remind myself that I am opening to a relationship, not merely reciting a mantra.
  • Contemplative prayer seemed a whole lot easier on a crowded tram commute.
    Retirement has almost too much space now......
  • The joys of retirement mean that there is no longer a need to be still against the pressures of the day, and days can be unstructured which means that setting periods aside for prayer at definite times is unlikely to work. Settling for first thing, and/or last thing, might be enough.
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