As I’m beginning to research this topic, I’m learning that the term “contemplative practices” can encompass a number of activities, from meditation, to yoga — even to volunteering at the soup kitchen. Contemplative practices are any activity which provides you with communion/connection/awareness of the divine/that which is greater/God.
Everyone is different, and so our methods to the end goal of achieving connection with God is going to vary in effectiveness.
What’s going to work for you? That’s the important thing to discover.
This article is going to introduce you to some of the contemplative practices within the Christian tradition. Since most of you who read this blog (faith-unboxed.com) have been, or are currently, Christian — it seems that most of us will feel the most comfortable in this space.
Even just diving into this small part of the contemplative practices space and trying to convey what this practice is, the different approaches, and the benefits—seems overwhelming. So instead of trying to tie this subject up into a neatly wrapped package for you in one blog post, I’m going to give you a list of resources that will help you dive into this topic and go as deep as you’d like.
Who knows… you may already know that the contemplative practice that works best for you is simply being out in nature. Awesome!
But for those of you who may be searching for better ways to connect with God, and want to find the right fit for you — you may find what you’re looking for below.
Without further ado, here are some resources for Contemplative Practices that include helpful organizations, influential people, helpful apps, books, podcasts, and various meditation methods:
The Center for Action and Contemplation
Main Influencer Involved: Richard Rohr
The CAC is an organization that was formed by the influential Fr. Richard Rohr and is located in Albuquerque, NM. It provides daily mediations from Rohr, several online courses, a two year on-site and live-in program, hosts several events throughout the year, and much more.
Main influencer involved: Thomas Keating
Contemplative Outreach is a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities that teaches the practice of Centering Prayer and other contemplative practices through locally-hosted workshops; and provides training and resources to local chapters and volunteers. They also publish and distribute the wisdom teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating and other resources that support the contemplative life.
The Contemplative Society
Main influencer involved: Cynthia Bourgealt
The Contemplative Society offers a path for spiritual growth and transformation rooted in prayer, silence, mindful work, and in the 1500-year-old wisdom of our Benedictine contemplative heritage. The Society supports the work of Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault in her role of Principal Teacher and Advisor for The Contemplative Society and her vocation as a hermit and writer.
Thomas Merton (1915–1968)
An American Roman Catholic convert, writer, theologian and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. He wrote many influential books, and was a leader in the contemplative movement.
A Trappist monk and priest, known as one of the architects of Centering Prayer, a contemporary method of contemplative prayer, that emerged from St. Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, Massachusetts, in 1975. Along with being a founder of the Centering Prayer movement he is the founder of Contemplative Outreach.
Episcopal priest, writer, and a long-time advocate of the meditative practice of Centering Prayer. She has worked closely with fellow teachers and colleagues including Thomas Keating, Bruno Barnhart, and Richard Rohr.
General meditation apps that provide guided meditation sessions of various lengths and topics:
Calm includes guided meditations and Sleep Stories to help you reduce anxiety, lower stress and sleep better. Join the…
Meditation and Sleep Made Simple - Headspace
Live a healthier, happier, more well-rested life in just a few minutes a day with the Headspace app.
Oak - Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Guided meditation and breathing exercises. Learn mindful and loving-kindness meditation today. Available for iOS.
Insight Timer Meditation Timer
Home to more than 6,100,000 meditators, Insight Timer is rated as the top free meditation app on the Android and iOS…
Meditation apps that are influenced by the Christian tradition:
Centering Prayer Mobile App | Contemplative Outreach Ltd.
The Centering Prayer mobile app supports one's daily prayer practice. Beautiful, elegant and peaceful, the app includes…
This app includes an adjustable timer, as well as opening and closing prayer options that may be read before and after Centering Prayer. An assortment of sounds and backgrounds allow one to choose the type of environment for the prayer time. Brief instructions for learning Centering Prayer are also included.
by Richard Rohr
Book description from Amazon: This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”
How God Changes Your Brain
by Andrew Newberg
Book description from Amazon: God is great — for your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Based on new evidence culled from brain-scan studies, a wide-reaching survey of people’s religious and spiritual experiences, and the authors’ analyses of adult drawings of God, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg and therapist Mark Robert Waldman offer the following breakthrough discoveries:
• Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress, but just twelve minutes of meditation per day may slow down the aging process.
• Contemplating a loving God rather than a punitive God reduces anxiety and depression and increases feelings of security, compassion, and love.
• Fundamentalism, in and of itself, can be personally beneficial, but the prejudice generated by extreme beliefs can permanently damage your brain.
• Intense prayer and meditation permanently change numerous structures and functions in the brain, altering your values and the way you perceive reality.
Healing Our Violence Through The Journey Of Centering Prayer,
by Thomas Keating & Richard Rohr
Book description from Amazon: Two internationally known spiritual guides explore integrating our inner and outer journeys. They challenge us to confront our inner and social violence and bring it to healing and transformation in a sacred and ecumenical context.
In a spiritually stimulating weekend, Rohr and Keating each gave insights on awakening to God’s friendship, coming to know God and ourselves, growing in love through Centering Prayer, facing evil around us and our demons within us as well as opening our deep selves to divine therapy, which heals our wounds. They invite us to become who we already are.
These conferences will appeal to those beginning and those more seasoned in centering prayer. The deep wisdom of two spiritual masters is a sacred and transforming gift plunging us into the ocean of divinity that surrounds us.
Open Mind, Open Heart, by Thomas Keating
Book description from Amazon: This book is designed to initiate the reader into a deep, living relationship with God. Written by an acknowledged spiritual master, the book moves beyond “discursive meditation and particular acts to the intuitive level of contemplation.” Keating gives an overview of the history of contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition, and step-by-step guidance in the method of centering prayer. Special attention is paid to the role of the Sacred Word, Christian growth and transformation, and active prayer. The book ends with an explicit treatment of the contemplative dimension of the gospel. Open Mind, Open Heart will take readers into a world where God can do anything, into a realm of the greatest adventure — “Where one is open to the Infinite and hence to infinite possibilities.”
Brad Jersak — The Orthodox Way, The Nomad Podcast
In this podcast, Brad describes the difference between Eastern and Western meditative practices.
Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
NOTE: This description is from the Contemplative Outreach website.
> More information
A technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.
> More information
An ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. It includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.
> More information
This is a mystical tradition and movement that originated with the Desert Fathers and was central to their practice of prayer. Hesychasm for the Desert Fathers was primarily the practice of “interior silence and continual prayer”.
> A little bit more info from Richard Rohr’s website, cac.org
Help me make this better??
I KNOW I missed some really great resources — I’m just learning about this myself. So if you’ve had personal experience with a resource and know that it’s good, would you leave me a note in the comments? I’d love to add it to the list above. Let’s make this an amazing, comprehensive list that we can leave as a gift to those who come after us.
I hope this list helps you dive into this topic of contemplative prayer so that ultimately, your connection with God becomes deeper and more frequent.