SOCP script archive

SOCP1 Presence Through Body Breath and Mind

WEEK ONE SCRIPT

Welcome to Shalem’s e-course, Presence through Body, Breath and Mind. I’m delighted to be on the journey with you in the weeks ahead. The intent of this course is to support you in your prayer life. The course material will give you “little somethings” to refresh your prayer practice or offer something new for you to consider. Take only what is right for you and let your most natural way of being with God guide your prayer time.

Through it all the most important aspect of the course is your own daily prayer practice. Here at Shalem, we have learned that some things help establish this practice: for example, a set-aside place is helpful. This could be a prayer corner or prayer chair, something different from the chair you sit in to watch television or work on your computer.

Especially important is a set aside time every day for turning/opening to God in an unambiguous silent time of prayer. We recommend 20 minutes a day. For some of you that may seem like a long time; for others, it may be way too short. Please don’t worry about the exact number of minutes. The important thing is a daily set-aside time.

Every week there will be new course material on this page. The material this week will help you get established in the course. As you move into the course, consider what is the right weekly rhythm for reviewing the materials and the right time for your daily prayer. Each week there will be reflection questions. After responding to the questions in your own journal, prayerfully consider whether to post some part, or all of your personal reflection on our course journal page, just be mindful of the journal guidelines as you do this.

There are several reasons posting your reflections might be helpful. First, it gives you an opportunity to witness to the wonderings and experiences that are part of your life in the Spirit. And second, often one person’s reflections are actually a source of encouragement and inspiration for others. It is a Mystery, the mystery of our interconnectedness and God’s grace. So I encourage you to be bold and to stretch into what may seem unfamiliar at first.

Having said that, let me add that – sometimes it is right to just hold in your heart what is showing itself to you in prayer. You may want to let your reflections deepen in prayer before choosing to express them, or not, to others. So your discernment about what is right for you in the moment is most important.

I do hope you will take the time to read the postings of the course members, remembering that there may be a word for you in someone else’s thoughts. If it feels right, you can choose to respond to what someone else has written. But there is no need to respond. You may want to just click the “thank you” button, expressing appreciation for the contribution of a fellow course member.

Now for the next few minutes, let us begin our course with prayer, for ourselves, each other and the world.

Wherever you are right now, begin by paying attention to your body. Sit in a relaxed way. You may want to close your eyes for the next few minutes.

Begin to notice your breath, not doing anything extra to it, just noticing….

Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap, relaxed and open, just as you want your spiritual heart to be open, open for God.

Touch into your prayer for yourself, the desire that has drawn you to this course, gently let that prayer for yourself deepen with every breath…..

Know that you can dedicate the fruits of your prayer for the well-being of someone else or some place in the world in need of God’s tenderness and mercy. If there is such a person or place that you are carrying in your heart, then offer a silent prayer of dedication and let it be carried gently on your breath….

Finally, let us pray for each other, may God’s Spirit united with our spirit, God’s breath alive in each of us, birth new life, new hope, fresh possibility in our lives and in the world.

May it be so.

Amen. Bell.

WEEK 2 SCRIPT

BELL: I love the sound of the bell because I imagine the ripples of its sound moving out to reach and include all of you. May the sound of the Bell draw all of us closer to each other and to the Living Presence of God..

Welcome to Shalem Institute’s School of Contemplative Prayer. I’m Carole Crumley, senior program director at Shalem and have the privilege of guiding this course.Thank you for joining our online spiritual community.

The name School of Contemplative Prayer raises 3 questions immediately.

The first question is: what is prayer?

Then, what do we mean when we say “contemplative prayer?”

Finally, what do we mean by a School of Contemplative Prayer?

Let’s explore that first question: What is prayer?

Perhaps, like me, you have had many different experiences of prayer.

About Prayer

I remember as a little girl in Sunday School- we were taught to pray in this way –We would stand in a circle and hold hands, then would go around the circle and everyone was to say one sentence, a “sentence prayer.” I think the intent was to keep it simple and non-threatening for children. However, this was an anxiety producing experience for me for two reasons. First, as an introvertsive child, I was shy about sharing with others my inner, most tender emotions and thoughts. And second, after I had carefully composed my sentence, inevitably the person right before me would say exactly what I had thought of. I would panic and frantically try to make up something else. Of course, I telt the presssure to do it right.

Somehow I knew that this was not an authentic way of praying for me.

Prayer in the worship services we attended on Sunday mornings was also mystifying. Adults would offer long prayers, full of words I didn’t understand. Maybe that was a saving thing for me. During that time, when the whole community was quietly turning to God, I would simply let the words being said, wash over me and just silently open, in my own child-like way, to that Holy Presence, without any need to say or do anything. This felt real, natural and authentic to me.

And that really is what prayer is all about, what is your real, natural and authentic way of turning to God. You may have many different images of God. When I use that word, I mean, that loving, liberating Presence in whose image we are made and who draws us to our true, free, creative nature in that image.

St. Teresa of Avila, 16 th century mystic, said that ” Prayer is the work of God in the soul.” God is working through us and drawing us to God’s own self. This is a paradox. Prayer is a gift for us from God, a gift waiting to be received. Malcolm Boyd said it like this: “I believe that God prays in us and through us, whether we are praying or not…So, any prayer on my part is a conscious response to what God is already doing in my life.”

There are many ways to pray. I have come to love the formal prayers in worship just as I love silently gazing on the beauty of creation. Both of these are prayer, true and authentic for me. Your ways of being present to God may be different from either of these. Because each of us is a unique expression of God’s love, the way that God works in each of us will be different from anyone else.

About Contemplative Prayer

Now let’s add the word contempaltive to the word prayer. Here are what some others have said about contemplative prayer.

Jerry May, “By contemplative, I mean attention to our direct, loving, receptive, trusting presence for God. This attention includes the desire to be present through and beyond our thoughts, images and feelings.”

Thomas Keating, well known Cisterian monk : “You may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. Contemplative prayer is the opening of the mind and heart–our whole being–to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. {We open our awareness to God who we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing.. closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union.”}. – Thomas Keating, Cistercian Monk

“… I first thought that praying entailed speaking. As my prayer became more attentive and silent I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent. I started to listen I then learnt that praying is hearing, not mearly being silent. This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to one’s self speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard.” – Soren Kierkegaard, Danish theologian

St. John of the Cross said that “God’s first language is silence.” So then, what we are listening for is not words so much as for a “still small voice,” mabe even a sense of wordless but real Presence, a loving, radiant, transforming Presence, that draws us to our true self in God, beneath any words. Jerry may: ” This intimate, immediate relationship is … our deepest human calling and home.”

REPEAT: “Contemplative prayer is the opening of the mind and heart–our whole being–to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions”

“Contemplative prayer is becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard.”

Opening mind and heart and Becoming silent, being silent …

That may be easy to say but harder to do.

About the School of Contemplative Prayer

So that’s why we thought a School of Contemplative Prayer may be helpful.

We live in a noisy world. In addition, our own minds are full of chatter – rehearsing events or conversations that happened in the past or racing into an imagined future. We are so consumed by our own agendas, with what we have to accomplish and DO that we don’t know how to just BE and be present with God We don’t really know how to let our minds be silent and to listen deeply for God’s will, God’s love to be done in our lives.

In the School of Contemplative Prayer, we are seeking to school our capacity to be silent enough to hear God’ still small voice; school the ears of the heart to listen deeply, school the spiritual eyes to see rightly, school our discernments as we sense God’s invitations for action, and school our responsiveness to these invitations. For the true goal of prayer is to love God with all of our hearts and minds and souls and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

For this “schooling,” we will be drawing on contemplative prayer practices. These practices may be new or familiar to you. But they are ancient within the life of Christian praying communities. We use the word “practice” because it implies a daily, set aside, unambiguous time to be present with God and because each practice offers a way of opening to God. We hope that at least one of these practices will be helpful to you.

In this class I hope you will discover what is your truest, most authentic way of being with God, or have confirmed what is already going on between you and God as your way of prayer. This is not about a right way or a wrong way to pray. What is most important is paying attention to our intent through whatever methods for praying and meditation we bring to bear…Methods are means and not ends, bridges and not the shore…Each has its own potential way of being used by God to bring us nearer to our awareness of divine presence.”

As Thomas Merton said, “it is the will to pray that is the essence of prayer, and the desire to find God. … If you have desired to know God and to love God,” you have already done all that is needed.

NOW

I invite you to listen to Dr. Gerald May, the late Jerry May, who for many years was staff at Shalem. His talk about contemplation, prayer and prayer practices is about 7 minutes long. After listening, please spend another twenty minutes or so in your own quiet reflection and prayerful journaling.

You may wish to copy or print the instructions and reflection question below so that you can close your computer during this reflection time. When you finish, if you feel called to share some of your thoughts, please review the Guidelines for Journaling. (click here) and then post your comments on the journaling page for class members.

I look forward to our next time together. Blessings.

PRAYING WITH THE BODY

SESSION 3

ON-LINE CONTEMPLATIVE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

AN INTRODUCTION TO MARLENE MAIER’S GUIDED RELAXATION EXERCISE

Welcome everyone!

We always begin with inviting the sound of the bell. As I mentioned before I love the sound of the bell. It invites my presence for God and connects me to all of you who are hearing this sound now.

Really, anything can represent the sound of the bell for us – the telephone bell, a bird’s song, a clock’s chime – anything could be that bell for us, calling us to pause for a moment, open our hearts to God’s presence and listening deeply.

Eventually, through our attentiveness, the bell may become internalized so that you sense an internal bell inviting your presence for God at various times during your day.

In the previous session, we were addressing where you are on your journey in prayer, remembering that what is simplest and most natural is best. In this session, we want to pay attention to our bodies as gift from God, an instrument from God with spiritual dimensions that can draw us closer to God.

Our Western religious tradition, especially among Protestants, has not paid much attention to the body’s positive place in spiritual practice, although Scripture supports this understanding.

I’ve always loved the passage in Second Samuel that describes David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. And the passage from First Corinthians, chapter 6 , “… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

Our next practice is one of stretching and releasing

Beginning our prayer time with one or more stretching positions has a way of loosening the mind’s control and drivenness and freeing us to be more directly present to God. In addition, stretching and releasing supports our capacity to remain present to God through our time in sitting meditation. . Sometimes all that is needed to quiet the mind and prepare the body for opening in prayer is a little body relaxation.

This relaxation exercise is 17 minutes long. And it is offered by Marlene Maier, a former long time Shalem staff member. I hope you will begin with this practice and let it lead you into a 20 minute period of silent presence for God.

In the future, you may want to return to this practice before any time of meditation or you can just choose two or three aspects of the practice that are particularly right for you and use them at any time on a daily basis as part of your prayer practice.

You will need room where you can stretch out. (mat, pillow, etc)

After your time of sitting meditation, there is a reflection question for you to prayerfully consider and journal about.

So have fun with this and glorify God, in your body.

BREATH PRAYER

SESSION 4

ON-LINE CONTEMPLATIVE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

AN INTRODUCTION TO TILDEN EDWARDS’ GUIDED MEDITATION: Breathing Open

Welcome back everyone!

In our previous sessions, we explored the meaning of contemplative prayer and the ways of prayer that are most natural for you in your relationship with God.

We also introduced a stretching and relaxation exercise. Sometimes this simple process of stretching and relaxing helps relax the surface tensions of our minds, creating a quieter, more open interior capacity as we listen in silence for God’s word for us in prayer. I hope that was your experience.

This relaxation exercise reminds me of the two great movements in the spiritual life : stretching into the more of God, by that I mean the more of God’s mercy, justice, truth, beauty and love that we yearn for. Then relaxing into the sufficiency of God’s justice, truth, beauty, love, and goodness for each moment of the day. In these two movements, we embrace both our deep God-given yearning and at the same time the enoughness of grace to live into this given moment.

Here at Shalem, we use several things to help draw us to a calm, centered quiet presence as we begin our meditation/prayer times. The sound of the bell can be an invitation to enter into stillness and deep awareness.

We also have a lighted candle as a focal point. The candle flame reminds us of the Light of Christ that gives us life and draws us to a deeper communion with God. St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic, called God a “living flame of Love.” The candle flame can draw us toward that divine Love that burns in our hearts and in our world.

The candle and bell are physical helpers of our presence for God. In this session we will focus on an interior helper,our breath”, letting it also quiet the mind and draw us deeper into the heart of God’s loving presence.

We might say that our breath is our most intimate connection with God.

Think about it.

Scripture says that God’s Spirit, God’s Breath moved over “the face of the deep” calling creation into being. Then God breathed into the first human being, giving life to Adam; God breathed into the dry bones in the valley of Ezekiel’s vision and they too came to life. Scripture also tells us that the Resurrected One, Jesus the Christ, breathed on his disciples, saying “receive the Holy Spirit.”

St. Paul said that the Spirit prays within us with sighs too deep for words. Even our sighs reveal God’s Spirit at work within us, whether we see it, feel it, even whether we believe it or not. Through our breath, God’s Spirit and our spirit are interconnected. Every breath reminds us that God is breathing new life into each one of us moment to moment; each sigh reminds us that God prays within us.

In addition, our breath connects us with every other living entity on the planet. The Breath of God is the life of all. The Psalmist says “Let everything that breathes, praise God.” Every breath can be praise, deepening our kinship with other living beings. And because we are breathing, we have this day to live and praise God.

I’ve said that our breath is an internal spiritual tool helper for quieting the mind and opening to God’s loving presence. It is so accessible, always available, more available than a bell or a candle. All we need to do is to notice our breath. Noticing our breath (with a desire for our deep being in God) is the most fundamental practice in the spiritual life.

Take a moment to do that now, just notice your breath. Is it rapid or slow? … Easy or constrained? … Shallow or deep? Consider how your breath might reflect or reinforce any tension in you? Is your mind racing? Are you feeling anxious or pressured? Frightened or tense?

The simplest way to release the tensions on the surface of our minds and bodies is to slow down the breath. This slower way of breathing creates room for the Holy Spirit to get through to us, through all of the anxieties and agendas of our days.

Wherever we are, we can simply begin by noticing our breath, practicing slowing the breath, letting our breath take us into a deeper, more open, attentive presence, so that we begin to realize again that we are filled with the (opening, expansive breath of God.

This next practice time, guided by Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s Founder and Senior Fellow, offers one way of opening to God through slowing the breath. Before this guided meditation time, you might begin with your own stretching and releasing exercise, preparing your body for this time of sitting. Then when you are ready, choose a place where you can sit comfortably for the next 20 minutes. Let your hands rest in an open, receptive way in your lap, letting this simple gesture reflect your desire to be open and receptive to God’s presence.

Add instructions for journaling…..

Until next time, keep breathing. Remember that we are alive in the breath of God.

BODY, BREATH AND MIND PRAYER

SESSION 5

ON-LINE CONTEMPLATIVE SCHOOL OF PRAYER

AN INTRODUCTION TO TILDEN EDWARDS’ MEDITATION: Body, Breath and Mind

Welcome back, dear ones.

This is our final session in this School of Contemplative Prayer, and in this reflection, we want to bring together body, breath and mind. Scripture tells us to turn to God’s gracious presence with all that we are, with our whole selves. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind. ” (Matt 22:37).

Our bodies, breath and minds grounded in our spiritual hearts reflect our whole selves that can be wide open, willing for God’s radiant wholeness, wanting what God wants for our lives and our world.

Our previous session focused on our breath, our internal helper for quieting the mind and opening to God’s loving Presence. We’ve heard the sound of the bell which can remind us to return attention to our breath, letting each breath take us into a deeper, more open presence for God.

I hope you have begun listening internally for the sound of the bell as well as being aware of other sounds–the wind, the birds, the cries of a baby, or an ambulance siren. These are all invitations to return to our breathing and openingto our “true selves” in God, to our prayer.

That really is what prayer is about – opening to God’s living presence in our midst.

In these sessions, we also focused on our bodies, that vessel/temple of God’s spirit. St. Paul talks about our bodies, and the beautiful way each part works together for the glory of God. There is a divine collaboration between our body parts. Paul also reminds us that it is “in God that we live and move and have our very being.” God’s Spirit is in our movements, in each breath. God is the ocean of love in which we swim, God is in our very way of being in the world.

Prayer is a way of being rather than something we do: our way of being open to God all the time.

In another passage, Scripture says “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). Our stillness, quiet, and deep listening, i.e., our contemplative prayer, disposes us to receive the gift of knowing God, not as an object but as the vast-intimate subject of our lives. It’s not a knowing that our thinking mind can receive. It’s the deeper intuitive knowing that comes when that mind is bathed in our open spiritual heart.

The gift of that intimate knowing is transformative of our lives. In that knowing we share something of the mind and heart of Christ–something of his consciousness.

Contemplative prayer takes us into our deep identity in God, and into the reconciling, transforming, healing, cleansing mind and heart of Christ.

This final meditation is guided by Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s founder and Senior Fellow.

This reflection and prayer time brings together body, breath and mind, inviting our whole selves to be wide open, willing for God’s radiant wholeness. It is in this wholeness that we can remain rooted and grounded in God’s love.

Let this guided prayer time lead you into your own silent listening for God’s word for you in prayer. Remember that God’s transforming grace can be at work in you in hidden ways, beyond your knowing. You need only to keep your desire for our own, and the world’s fullness in God, before you in your prayer. You can trust in God to work in you in God’s own way throughout your life.

After your sitting meditation and prayer, turn to the reflection question and your prayerful journaling.

Blessings on your journey in prayer.

WEEK 6

Dear Ones,

It has been a privilege to be part of this praying community with you these past few weeks. Thank you for joining in our pilot course. As we prepare to make the course available to a larger audience, your feedback is vital to our preparations. I thank you in advance for taking the time to offer your feedback through the attached form. We will be listening carefully to all that you have to say.

In this course we have offered some foundational teachings about contemplative prayer and some “little somethings”, that is, little prayer practices to assist you in your daily prayer life. Looking back, we remember that:

what is simplest and most natural in prayer is best;

stretching and releasing tensions in our bodies can help us prepare for a time of prayer;

our breath is an interior helper for deepening our prayer; our breath connects us in an intimate way with God’s breath;

our minds, along with our bodies and breath are bathed in that radiant, healing, liberating presence of God.

I hope you will take from these sessions what is right for you. Your own daily practice, your set aside time for being present to God, is the most important thing. Trust that God is at work in your life, perhaps in hidden ways, perhaps even beyond your knowing, seeing or believing.

I hope you will stay in touch with us and if there are other ways we can support your prayer life here at Shalem we would be honored to do that.

In the next moment turn to your breath, letting each breath express your desire/prayer for yourself and for the world.

Silence

This prayer from the Book of Ephesians expresses my prayer for you:

“I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (need NRSV translation)

End with silence, and ring the bell

Jeanne’s Notes on Week 1-6
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5

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SOCP2 Scripture Movement Gratitude and Prayer for Others

SOCP WEEK ONE SCRIPT

Welcome to Shalem’s e-course, Scripture, Movement, Gratitude & Prayer for Others. I’m delighted to be on the journey with you in the weeks ahead. The intent of this course is to support you in your prayer life. The course material will give you “little somethings” to refresh your prayer practice or offer something new for you to consider. Take only what is right for you and let your most natural way of being with God guide your prayer time.

The most important aspect of the course is your own daily prayer practice. Here at Shalem, we have learned that some things help establish this practice: for example, a set-aside place is helpful. This could be a prayer corner or prayer chair, something different from the chair you sit in to watch television or work on your computer.

Especially important is a set aside time every day for turning/opening to God in an unambiguous silent time of prayer. We recommend 20 minutes a day or whatever feels right for you. For some of you that may seem like a long time; for others, it may be way too short. Please don’t worry about the exact number of minutes. The important thing is a daily set-aside time.

Every week there will be new course material on this page. The material this week will help you get established in the course. You may want to spend some time in the 1st week becoming familiar with other course members and praying for them. As you move into the course, consider what is the right weekly rhythm for reviewing the materials and the right time for your daily prayer. Each week there will be reflection questions. After responding to the questions in your own journal, prayerfully consider whether to post some part, or all of your personal reflection on our course journal page, just be mindful of the journal guidelines as you do this.

There are several reasons posting your reflections might be helpful. First, it gives you an opportunity to witness to the wonderings and experiences that are part of your life in the Spirit. And second, often one person’s reflections are actually a source of encouragement and inspiration for others. It is a Mystery, the mystery of our interconnectedness and God’s grace. So I encourage you to be bold and to stretch into what may seem unfamiliar at first.

Having said that, let me add that – sometimes it is right to just hold in your heart what is showing itself to you in prayer. You may want to let your reflections deepen in prayer before choosing to express them, or not, to others. So your discernment about what is right for you in the moment is most important.

I do hope you will take the time to read the postings of the course members, remembering that there may be a word for you in someone else’s thoughts. If it feels right, you can choose to respond to what someone else has written. But there is no need to respond. You may want to just click the “thank you” button, expressing appreciation for the contribution of a fellow course member.

Now for the next few minutes, let us begin our course with prayer, for ourselves, each other and the world. You may also want to use this simple meditation during the first week.

Wherever you are right now, begin by paying attention to your body. Sit in a relaxed way. You may want to close your eyes for the next few minutes.

Begin to notice your breath, not doing anything extra to it, just noticing….

Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap, relaxed and open, just as you want your spiritual heart to be open, open for God.

Touch into your prayer for yourself, the desire that has drawn you to this course, gently let that prayer for yourself deepen with every breath…..

Know that you can dedicate the fruits of your prayer for the well-being of someone else or some place in the world in need of God’s tenderness and mercy. If there is such a person or place that you are carrying in your heart, then offer a silent prayer of dedication and let it be carried gently on your breath….

Let us pray for each other, may God’s Spirit united with our spirit, God’s breath alive in each of us, birth new life, new hope, fresh possibility in our lives and in the world.

May it be so.

Amen. Bell.

SOCP: Praying with scripture

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7AGHMdbZ-4jY1FaVjRaZU1qTG8/edit

Hello and Welcome! I am Patience Robbins and I am delighted to be joining you on this School of Contemplative Prayer Journey. Today we will be praying with scripture and allowing it to be an opening into God.

I love praying with scripture. Since my teenage years, I have enjoyed and appreciated the power and beauty of scripture. Certain parables, psalms, and other verses have spoken right to my heart and now live in me. As many of you, perhaps, I can recall some by memory, and experience a variety of feelings these words can evoke in me like peace, joy gratitude, and compassion. Today I would like to share with you this invitation to experience scripture as a living word.

In this way of being with scripture, we can experience it as a powerful word that enkindles and deepens intimacy with God. In a line from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, we read: Make your home in me, as I make my home in you. Other translations could be; Live in me as I live in you…. Or Remain in me as I remain in you. Or Abide in me as I abide in you.

Feel the intimacy that is invited – the Holy One, loving and living within us, closer than we could imagine, the indwelling of God. This is a relationship which is already present, given, offered and we have only to receive and respond and nurture that union.

Another line from Psalm 95,: If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart. Once again, this psalmist is issuing an invitation to listen, to soften and open our hearts to the voice of God, already present within.

In this verse from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, we read: Mary pondered all these words in her heart. Let us consider the word: ponder. Perhaps it could be savoring, leisurely lingering, living with, ruminating, resonating…. This is a particular way of being with the scripture. It is quite different than thinking things through, figuring out, analyzing or even understanding.

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24, we hear of 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus reflecting on their conversation with the risen Christ:

Weren’t our hearts burning inside us as this one talked to us on the road and explained the scripture to us?

Here the word is described as burning, like fire, it is a word that can challenge and transform. This word can change things, shake everything up, cause us to see with new eyes and hear with new ears.

Even familiar words or passages of scripture can speak again and again to us with a new depth and power. There is always more, for the Holy One is beyond our wildest imaginings, infinite and deep. Through scripture, the Beloved One can reveal more of this immense love, longing for us, boundless compassion and ongoing challenge.

In this session, we will have an opportunity to pray with scripture in a particular way called lectio divina, which is Latin for divine reading. It is a way of being with scripture that is slow, reverent, and spacious. It could be described as 4 movements on the circumference of a circle.

Lectio – reading (USE HAND MOTION IN CIRCLE)

Meditatio -reflecting

Oratio – responding

Contemplatio – resting. This is the intention of lectio divina – to move us into spaciousness, resting in God’s presence – just Being.

The Desert Mothers and Fathers have a saying that corresponds to these 4 movements: (USE GESTURES)

I take the word – reading

I chew the word – reflecting

I digest the word – responding

I become the word – being

Now please join me in praying these gestures. (Lead short body prayer, starting with head,mouth, heart and whole being.)

Let us review how we would practice lectio divina if we did this in order – knowing that it might unfold in a different pattern.

Step one: Read the passage and listen with the “ear of the heart”. What word or phrase stands out or speaks to you?

Step two: Read the passage again and reflect on the word or phrase that speaks to you or simply choose a word for your meditation. Notice what touches you through that word.

Step three: Read the passage again and see if any response is invited by the word or phrase , particularly any prayer that may rise in you.

Step Four; Read the passage a final time and rest in spaciousness. Let go of any words. Just BE.

You can extend this practice into your day, by taking the word or phrase with you. You could repeat it prayerfully through the day, allowing it to become part of you.

Once again, this is not a linear process. It could be that you would hear a passage of scripture and your heart would leap in response and move you into stillness, a spacious silence or a feeling of joy or gratitude.

As any contemplative practice, it is not about mastering the practice or getting it right, the practice nurtures an opening for God and a wide expansive willingness for the Beloved.

Now let us prepare to move into the practice. One option is for you to read the passage a few times, either silently or aloud. If you are with another person, you could each take turns reading the passage. Another option is to find different translations for each time you do this. The selected reading is: Psalm 139, verses 1- 5. If you prefer that I read it, you can continue with this tape.

I will read a passage from Psalm 139 four times. I will read it very slowly with silence in between each time. I invite you to prepare for this by being in a quiet uninterrupted space if possible. You could flow from the scripture reading into your 20 minutes of silence and then at the end, take some time to notice what word, phrase, or inspiration shows up for you. You may want to journal or draw your experience. Please remember there is no right way or expected outcome. Just allow yourself to Be present, open and willing for the Beloved One.

We will begin with some body prayer. I invite you to be aware of how you are sitting. Just notice and gently let yourself be. Very easily let your attention drop into your spiritual heart …. And gently breathe through the heart. Allow yourself to open, open to the life giving Spirit within. We’ll just take a minute together to breathe in and out.

O my Beloved, you have searched me and known me

You know when I sit and when I rise up;

You discern my innermost thoughts.

You find me on the journey and guide my steps;

You know my strengths and my weaknesses.

Even before words rise up in prayer,

You have already heard my heart call.

You encompass me with love wherever I go,

And your strength is my shield.

School of Contemplative Prayer: Praying while walking

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7AGHMdbZ-4jQktYd2FoV2hzTXM/edit

Hello and welcome back to the School of Contemplative Prayer. In this session, we will practice walking meditation and allow walking to be our opening for God.

When I was a child, my dad would often take me and my 2 brothers and sister for an outing on Saturdays. This fun that he proposed was a 3-4 mile roundtrip walk to a mountain that we would climb and see the view. What an adventure! Our reward was ice cream as we passed through town on our way home if we chose to go on this adventure. I was only 6 years old when I began these long walks and I realize how they fostered a love and delight in walking.

I imagine that many of you enjoy walking. We often consider it great exercise as we push ourselves to go fast, increase our heart rate and walk a certain distance. Or as I do, you may have a dog and enjoy walking the dog a few times a day, saying hi to all the other dog walkers and pets. Or perhaps you have a friend that we partner with and walk and talk and are fully engaged in the conversation. So what distinguishes a walking meditation? How do we engage walking as a prayer practice? As any prayer practice, it is the intention we bring to it. This intention is to be present, alert, attentive to the Holy One, step by step. Just walking – open, willing, moving with God and in God.

Scripture has something to say about this: We read in the book of Isaiah: Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord from Isaiah. And from Ephesians, If we live by the Spirit, let us walk by the Spirit. Invitations to live, walk, move in God.

This sounds so lovely and in a way, so simple, yet I know from experience how I tend to speed through life, with my focus on getting somewhere – some destination. I may be racing, thinking about all I have to do, ahead of myself in the day – not in the present moment. I sense we all know that experience – being ahead of ourselves and then tripping or bumping into something and then recognizing that we were just caught in our heads thinking or figuring out an issue or concern. Anything but being present in the moment. I have had the experience of setting on a prayer walk and begin thinking about something I am concerned about on my agenda for the day or in the future — and twenty minutes later, I come back to being aware of walking. Oh, how quickly that time goes and I miss the whole experience.

Besides rushing ahead, we may drag behind. We may not want to be in the present but are reviewing something from the past, wishing we could go back and do it again, or repeating conversations in our heads rather than being present.

Many of us could recount these experiences. I see it in myself and I hear it from others. Which is why this practice of walking meditation can be such a powerful experience to bring us back to the moment again and again, we can re claim our desire to be Present, open for God – step by step

As you engage this practice, I suggest you start very slowly, intentionally aware of each step. You may want to be attentive to your breath – the Divine Spirit flowing through you -. Inhale, step, exhale, step – gradually easing your breath with your movement.

You may choose to be attentive to your senses, another way of being present in the moment, open and aware.

Lets try that now. Please take a moment to stand and join me.

Step – look – what is around you see the blue sky

Step, smell, notice any fragrances in the air a fragrant blossom

Step, listen, hear the sounds

Step – taste – a drop of moisture

Step – feel – what do you touch – a wall, your other hand, a tree

Engaging the senses as we walk keeps us in the present moment, alert, open and attentive to the whole.

This practice nurtures an experience of being embodied and in union with the Holy One. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, In God we live and move and have our being.

Always, in every moment, step by step. We are at home in God as we walk.

So, you may want initially to try this in a room, so you can go slow and not be self conscious. You may want to practice this when you get up in the morning. I have discovered that when I bounce out of bed, running, I often miss a whole section of the day as I am already racing and ahead of myself. When by grace I see this, I can choose to go even slower than usual. Slow, one step at a time, open, present. No where to get, nothing to do but walk, breathe, BE.

You can try it walking to your car or to a metro or bus stop. What a practice it is to just BE in the present as you go to your car, rather than thinking of what to do, when I get to the next place, or planning your agenda for the day.

Another opportunity could be while walking from one room to another – open for God, allowing all just to be as it is. Walking, just walking.

Please remember this is not something to master or get right. It is another opportunity to allow. Allow yourself to be slow, present, open to God, one step at time. There is nothing to judge, just notice. God in you, through you, all around you. Come, let us walk in the light of our God.

We will begin this practice by offering this all to the Holy One, asking that you be aware and open, step by step.

Prayer of Gratitude

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7AGHMdbZ-4jYXF5REUtblB3cU0/edit

Hello and welcome back to the School of Contemplative Prayer. It is such a joy to be leading this session on the prayer of gratitude.

One of my favorite lines comes from St. Therese of Lisieux, a 19th century Carmelite nun in France, who wrote in her autobiography, The Story of a Soul: Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but only surrender and gratitude. When I read this many years ago, it touched me so deeply that I committed to this practice of gratitude in all of life. It is similar to St. Paul’s words in Thessalonians: Give thanks to God in all circumstances. What I have discovered is that this response of gratitude in all of life’s circumstances can be very challenging and also very transformative. Let me open that up for you by sharing some of the ways I get sidetracked and some of the ways I cultivate gratitude as a response in life.

When things are familiar and habitual, it is easy to take them for granted rather than be present, ever freshly seeing and appreciating what is. For example, how easy it is to miss the beauty and goodness, all around us. Something as common and simple as clean running water is truly a great gift, but because we are often racing through life and water is so commonplace, we no longer see it as the gift that it is. Just take a moment to recall the feel of water on your skin…. Or the freshness of bathing in it or the satisfaction of a cool drink of water. Just slowing down, being present to what is and experiencing it can invite a big thank you.

I find a practice that has nurtured this slowing down and being present in my life is to make a list every day of at least 5 things I am grateful for such as plenty of food, warm sun, companioning dog, cool breeze, deep connection with another… As I take time to intentionally recall and feel appreciation, I notice that I feel open and expansive and may even feel joy. Take a moment to do this now. Just notice one thing for which you are grateful. And then sink into your heart and feel grateful. Notice – open, expand, be present…

Sometimes I miss the opportunity to be grateful because I am so focused on what I have to Do or accomplish. I call this tunnel vision – only seeing what I have to do and getting lost in the doingness. This can feel very constricted and narrow. But if I pause, and open and ask what am I grateful for in this experience, often times my awareness at that moment shifts. I may notice that I am grateful to have this work or this opportunity to serve and then I may feel joy, peace and really delight in what is there before me to do. This changes my whole way of being around my work.

Another area of my life in which I have been practicing gratitude is when I notice that I am judging or criticizing something. This could be a situation that I just don’t like, even events in the world situation that are very distressing to me. I sink into negativity and inner statements like: this isn’t right, this shouldn’t look this way , I can’t stand this, what is their problem? (Any of these sound familiar)and other reactions that keep me so locked into my judgments that I have no room for gratitude. These are great opportunities to practice the prayer of gratitude. I take a wider lens, look around, come into the moment, and notice something – anything – to be grateful for. Perhaps the birds singing outside or a good friend or a cherished pet or a beautiful place, and allow my being to just open to the profound goodness and beauty of life. Out of this place of gratitude, my perception often shifts and I may be able see things in a way that is wider, bigger, fuller and life giving.

I am reminded of another one of my favorite lines around this prayer of gratitude from a deceased Indian Jesuit priest, Anthony de Mello. There is no sweeter prayer than a grateful heart. Sweetness and gratitude, another way of describing how gratitude can enrich our experience of life and open us to beauty and abundance. I really like that he expresses that it is a quality of the heart and does not even have to be in words. A grateful heart!

For the most part, I know that it is easier to be grateful when things are pleasant or go the way I want or anticipate. But the prayer of gratitude is a practice to cultivate in good or easy times, so that it is a habit when we have trouble or face a challenge. I can often feel grateful when I am walking at the beach but it may not be my response when I am in conflict with another person or when I am with my mother who has Ahzheimer’s Disease or when I feel overwhelmed with too much to do. But that is when it can be most transformative for it allows me to recognize that all of life is gift and in the great mystery of our God, there is a wide variety and range of experiences as we live life to the full.

In closing, as we intentionally practice the prayer of gratitude in any situation by getting in touch with a feeling of gratitude and as we open all the events of our lives to God, we deepen our trust in the goodness of the Creator and to the deep truth that we are loved and that all is well. Life is good and with the psalmist, we can pray: “I thank you, O God, for the wonder of my being”.

I invite you now into the prayer of gratitude. Take a moment to be aware of how you are sitting, allowing yourself just to be. Now gently let your hands open and then your arms so that they are held wide open. Take a few breaths, opening your trust to God. Join with me as I pray: I thank you, God, for the wonder of my being. You may want to repeat that a few times.

Gently return your hands to your lap letting them be open and let your attention sink into your spiritual heart and just breathe. Remain in silence for about 10 minutes. As anything comes to you, say “thank you, God” in words or feeling and release it. Do not try for anything to come. Just be present in open appreciation of God in all that does come.

School of Contemplative Prayer

Praying for Others: Intercessory Prayer

Welcome to this session. As we journey through this prayer practice of intercessory prayer, lets take a moment to review the other sessions. With lectio divina, also known as sacred reading, we allowed scripture to become a living word and reveal more of the Divine within and around us.

We practiced walking meditation, a way of noticing and experiencing that we are always at home in God, as we walk and move, we can deepen the awareness of being in God all the time, everywhere.

In another session, we engaged the prayer of gratitude. We practiced cultivating a grateful heart, noticing the beauty and giftedness of life in all kinds of circumstances and thanking a gracious and loving Giver.

Today we move into intercessory prayer, joining God’s prayer for ourselves, others and all creation. I imagine that many of you are familiar with the prayer of petition, which is slightly different– bringing concerns, needs, troubles to God for healing and love and compassionate assistance. It might be the friend with cancer, a neighbor who lost a job, the child who is struggling at school. Very often, these concerns are in our awareness and we might ask God to take care of them in some way: make her better, give him a job, help my child do well. We may tell God what we want and what we believe is best and ask God to make that happen.

Intercessory prayer also begins with noticing what touches our heart, and awakens our care and concern but then we move into opening this all to God, listening, available for God’s prayer and desire and longing for others and our world. As we enter into this prayer, we become a participant in God’s caring love. This prayer is not what we might want or think best but rather what God is inviting or suggesting or praying in us.

This prayer comes out of that deep indwelling presence that we mentioned in the session on lectio divina as we prayed with the scripture verse: Abide in me as I abide in you. We are already in God, and of God. We are joining and entering into the prayer that is in the heart of God. God’s prayer, love and desire for persons, situations and the world can become our prayer as well.

Because this prayer is rooted in listening for God’s prayer in us, it requires that we be open and available, so that we can hear and join God’s prayer and desire for the world and ourselves. We read in Psalm 46: Be still and know that I am God. This is an invitation to stillness, a stance of attention and alertness that we can know God as the One who holds us all together – who is our source and our connection, the Love that binds us. In the stillness we can hear God’s prayer for the other and the deep truth that we are all interconnected. We are one and because of this interconnection, we can feel within the suffering or pain of another.

Lets take a moment to practice this now. – a stance that is open and listening. I invite you to stand if possible and just open your hands – now stretch them forward and then open them wide. Sink into your spiritual heart… feel open, present, compassionate, attentive…

Just take a moment and let these feeling flow through you. What do you notice? Thank you!

This prayer can happen any time or any place, as the Spirit is always praying within and through us. This practice is a way to listen intentionally and enter into this prayer.

We will invite people or situations into our awareness and then ask questions like: God, what is your prayer for this person. God, what would you like my prayer to be? There will be silence to listen and an opportunity in this prayer to notice – to pay attention to what God’s prayer would be for the person or situation that comes to your heart.

As we ask and listen, we do not force or try to make something happen. We gently wait on God. There is nothing to get right or to figure out here. Perhaps it might be that you join God’s caring love and compassion for that person or situation and there are no words. Gently, ever so tenderly, we are trusting that God has already begun the prayer and loving care inside and we are noticing and joining that prayer. Sometimes you may receive a phrase, an image – simply sit with what comes and be faithful to your intention to be at home in God’s heart on behalf of the other. If the questions feel too wordy, just remain open and attentive, willing to be present for God.

Week 6

Dear Ones,

It has been a privilege to be part of this praying community with you these past few weeks. Thank you for joining in this course and for your participation. It is a great joy that our community encompasses 7 countries and gives us a sense of a global interconnection.

As we prepare to make the course available to another group, your feedback is helpful to our preparations. I thank you in advance for taking the time to offer your feedback through the attached form. We will be listening carefully to all that you have to say.

In this course we have offered some foundational teachings about contemplative prayer and a variety of prayer practices to assist and support you in your daily prayer life. Looking back, we remember that:

Scripture can be a Living Word that inspires, encourages, challenges and transforms us

Moving with presence and intention can deepen the experience of being in God all the time, everywhere.

The prayer of gratitude nurtures our trust in God as a gracious and loving Giver and can change our perception of reality.

Joining God’s prayer for ourselves, others and all creation expands our hearts for God’s love and compassion

Even as we learn new prayer forms and appreciate them, we know that what is simplest and most natural in prayer is best. The forms may stir us or remind us of our deep and sometimes hidden desire for God, the Beloved.

May you take from these sessions what feels right for you. Your own daily practice, your set aside time for being open and available to God, is the most important thing. Trust that God is at work in your life, perhaps in hidden ways, perhaps even beyond your knowing, seeing or believing.

I hope you will stay in touch with us and if there are other ways we can support your prayer life here at Shalem we would be honored to do that.

In the next few minutes, let us take some time for prayer together:

Allow yourself to be aware of how you are sitting. Very gently let your attention sink into your spiritual heart and take a few breaths – in and out, in and out. Let yourself feel still and calm.

Take a moment to review your time in this course, …. For what are you grateful as you gently look back over the weeks?… For what are you not so grateful? …. If something comes, hold it gently and with compassion – just notice and let it be….. What is the prayer in your heart at this time?….. What might be God’s prayer for you? Is there anything in particular you are invited to continue or remember?

Let us once again hold each other in love and compassion and peace and let that prayer of love and peace ripple out to hold the whole planet.

In God we live and move and have our being.

End with silence, and ring the bell