Remaining Calm

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef I recently came across these words from Thich Nhat Hanh, which he wrote nearly thirty years ago: “Many of us worry about the situation of the world. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is […]

Being Contemplative in the Digital Age: 6 Tips to Nourish Your Prayer Practice

Prayer is often thought of as speaking to God but prayer doesn’t have to be about speaking. It can be about silence and listening. This practice from the Christian contemplative tradition can serve to help calm the storm of stimuli that is part of living in the digital age.

St. Benedict, a sixth century spiritual leader, advised his monks to “listen with the ear of the heart,” that is, to listen deeply, noticing the many ways God spoke to them in their daily activities as well as through scripture and worship.

There are many ways to pray, many ways to open to God’s living presence and nurture an awareness of the sacred in daily life. Whether you are just beginning on a spiritual path or seeking to deepen your spiritual practice, here are some ways to begin or begin again.

Sit.

I was praying and filled to the brim with so many ideas, desires, and hopes. I was looking for a new direction, a calling, next steps, and a road map clarifying the journey ahead. In my earnest prayer, I asked, “Lord, what shall I do next?” I sensed a small whisper of an answer. I heard this:

“ Sit.”

Surely, I must have missed something. Sit? Was this it? I was hoping for something with at least two syllables, something grander, maybe even life changing! I thought perhaps I must have misheard, so I prayed again and again and then again on another day. The answer was always the same, a gentle loving nudge to do nothing else but “Sit.”

Just a Minute

During a turbulent period, my regular practice of spending time in silence fell apart. I turned to a local meditation teacher, seeking guidance to re-establish my practice. His advice blew me away.

Open and Available [audio guided meditation]

Today’s post is an audio guided meditation by Patience Robbins. Feel free to tune in on your iPhone or mobile device, and find a quiet place to listen.

Pause, Wash, Rinse and Drain

Today’s post is by Christine Berghoef. Growing up in an old farm house with limited kitchen upgrades, I used to question my mom and dad’s sanity in their choice to not install a dishwasher. Between my parents, me, and my three growing brothers who seemed to put down several meals between meals throughout any given […]

Soul Assignment

Today’s post is by Susan Rowland. This is a transcript of her audio testimony highlighting her experience in Shalem’s Transforming Community: Leading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program. You may also listen to her tell her story by clicking on the video above.

My experience with the Shalem program “Leading Contemplative Prayer groups and Retreats” was unique in so many ways. At the residencies, we were among a circle of talented people, gathered with the intention of deepening their life and leadership in contemplative practice. The breadth and expression of faith was so rich. Small groups provided a safe opportunity to try out different prayer practices in an open, experiential, supportive space. I will be forever grateful for the emphasis on simple explanations of prayer practices so that the Spirit is “free to move about the cabin” of the gathering.

What made that possible was the Shalem program leadership, modeling something so beautiful and authentic in all that they offered. I have been to programs where they teach by telling you what to do. At Shalem, the leaders revealed their personal passion to us through each teaching. Their words and presence were alive – resonating and bouncing off all of our hearts– together, we laughed, we walked, we played with art, we talked a lot over meals. They truly entered into the community with us.

Six Ways to Experience Contemplation Online

How does one maintain and deepen a contemplative stance in such a frenzied, virtual world? One obvious solution is to unplug. Put the phone away. Turn the computer off. Go for a walk. Keep the radio off on the commute to work. Don’t leave a window open with Facebook always tempting you to glance at the latest cat video or Star Trek meme. Even now you’re tempted (don’t do it!).

We all need to unplug from time to time. But I’ve also found that the Internet can be a place to deepen my prayer life and connection to God.

Here are six suggestions.

Running Water Is a Holy Thing

Today’s post is by Bryan Berghoef.

As everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever. ~Herman Melville

Drip, drip drip… Drip, drip, drip…

Getting water is something many of us don’t normally think about. It’s something many of us take for granted. We turn on the tap, and there it is. For a lot of us, this water has been treated already and is drinkable. Perhaps we’ll run it through a Brita pitcher or some other filter, but we don’t have to wait long, or at all, to get a tall, cool glass of refreshing water.

Our recent move from Washington, DC to a rural setting in Michigan has led to a number of changes, including how we get our water.

Instead of municipal city water coming out of the tap ready to go, with its treatment of chlorine and fluoride, we depend on well water. Well water can notoriously come with the lovely scent of rotten eggs, due to the presence of hydrogen sulfide and other minerals. To counteract this, our home has a water softener in the basement. A water softener replaces some of the hard minerals through a cycling process involving sodium ions. After this the water has a higher sodium content and a “silky” feel which isn’t bad, but it’s not that great for drinking.

So our water goes through a second process: an under the counter filtration system that runs the water through several filters and comes out through a special drinking tap.

Practicing Contemplation on the Road

Today’s post is by Leah Rampy

My hands are locked on the steering wheel as I sit in the mass of vehicles inching down I-395 during morning rush hour. I look straight ahead, my eyes locked on the truck just ahead of me. I carefully avoid eye contact with the driver of the car to my right. I pretend not to see her blinker, not even to be aware that she’s there trying to move her car in front of mine. Drat! My peripheral vision is too good; I can see her now beside me, just as I saw her pull out a dozen cars back into the diminishing right hand lane, moving up to the front of the line, trying to bypass all the rest of us who are waiting “patiently” to make our way to work. I am indignant that she does not follow the rules.

There’s something about righteous indignation that feels so good, so superior— at least for a minute. And then it all comes crashing down. What am I doing?!? I started with a spacious morning, I set my intention to bless those along the way, I really want to be gracious to others I meet, and I’m on my way to Shalem for heaven’s sake! Yet here I am again, hijacked by my amygdala, under the control of my ego, or maybe just caught up in an old habit. How distressing!

I suppose in some ways it’s a blip on the radar. And yet I feel sad. Why is it so difficult for me to live consistently from the spiritual heart? In this moment, I feel that others have figured out the key. They pray enough; they hold silence longer, they don’t fail so often in their intent.