We were specifically asked to look at the practices at the Contemplative Outreach Website and then give our impressions of the practices and if we would consider using them regularly in our own spiritual life or using them in our ministry setting.
I think this is an interesting thought as I have used the Contemplative Outreach Website in the past for teaching in my current ministry setting. We have done retreats and gatherings about spiritual practices and used finger labyrinths, and pocket rosaries, and have specifically had multiple sessions on centering prayer.
I believe centering prayer is foreboding at first when you think about sitting in silence for so long, but is a freeing and liberating experience once you do it. I think all of the practices at the Contemplative Outreach Website our good practices to be used in a college ministry setting or for personal faith growth.
The practice from the website I am most unfamiliar with is The Active Prayer Practice. From what I read it is like a mantra that is repeated over and over throughout the day to ground you and keep you focused on God. You say this simple phrase in rhythm to your heart beat at moments throughout your day until it is a part of your subconscious. This is something I have never done, but think could be an interesting thing to do. Doing this would instill key phrases into our psyche. The first example is the one I find most compelling to try:
O Lord, come to my assistance.
Lord, increase my faith.
To me this would help settle in me that I can always count on the Lord and my faith isn’t mine to control. This could be helpful and calming during times of heightened anxiety and could help sustain when bouts of depression come along. And this would be easy enough to do during the day. Maybe I could change the lock screen on my phone to have a picture of the saying, so every time I look at my phone I would see it and say it to myself. I could also set the desktop of my computer to have the saying I was using. So then every time I see my computer desktop I would be reminded of the prayer.
I find these practices to be good practices however after also reading Joy Unspeakable I want to explore ways of contemplation that do not fit the norm of western religion of silence or meditative activities that are contemplative. I loved the discussion in the book about birthing practices in other places that had the children present so when the newborn cried the other children would also cry in response so the newborn child knew that they were not alone in this world. We are never alone as we are always in relationship with God, but how profound is that that children cry to answer the scream of the newborn!
I also loved the discussion of drumming in Joy Unspeakable and how the music was a way of God communicating with us and has a sacred quality. As a musician, this resonated with me and I can understand how when you are playing and into what you are doing it is like you are not doing it but hearing and participating along with the music in a dance that is sacred and life-giving. Music is a language that connects people in ways we do not comprehend because it is a way we join in the dance of the Trinity and in the relationship that is God and connects us to God.
Contemplative practices are anyway we connect in a deep way with our creator and need not be limited to methods we are taught are contemplative or others think are contemplative. What helps us join God is what we need to seek as contemplative practices in our lives.