Is it possible to “fail” at contemplative prayer?

Anyone who has ever trained with weights knows that form is important. If you lift heavy weights without proper form, you run the risk of a significant injury.The other day I was working with a trainer, and we were doing a fairly basic shoulder press, and he noted that my back was bowing. He mentioned it to me, and I immediately began to overcompensate. He pointed that out to me, and I said "I'm worried about my form.""Your form is going to fail," he remarked. In other words, as I … [Read more...]

Building Contemplative Community Online: An Interview with Jeff Genung

A common complaint I hear from contemplatives — especially people new to contemplative practice — is a sense of isolation, of not having a contemplative community. "The leaders in my church just don't seem to resonate with me," one budding contemplative recently told me. "I feel like they are disinterested in following this journey that I am on." Contemplatives, even when actively engaged in their neighborhood church or faith community, often find that they don't know where to turn to meet others … [Read more...]

Exploring Monastic Spirituality (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzZEmhHdEjU&t=10sWhat is monastic spirituality? Is it just for monks and nuns? Or can it make a difference in the lives of others?This video shares with you a few insights that I have garnered from about a decade of studying with, praying alongside, and learning from a community of Trappist monks who live near my home in Georgia. The Trappists (Cistercians of the Strict Observance) live an ancient monastic life that is, in the words of their constitution, … [Read more...]

Ten Books for Learning the Basics of Christian Contemplation

A reader of this blog sent me an email recently that said in part:I have to confess I have not yet read any of your books. But I love your writing and would like to learn more about Christian spirituality. Can you recommend several of your books, and perhaps suggest the order to read them?  Anything else you'd recommend (books, online, etc) would be great too. I'm glad this reader asked for other recommendations besides just my books — but this is not the first time I've been asked "in what … [Read more...]

Talking to Christine Valters Paintner about the Wisdom of the Body

My friend and colleague Christine Valters Paintner has recently released a book called The Wisdom of the Body: A Contemplative Journey to Wholeness for Women. I think the question of how do we cultivate a more truly embodied spirituality — including an embodied contemplation — is very important for our time, so I think this book has the potential to be truly healing and affirming for many women.The publisher sent me an advance copy and even though I'm not a woman, I still read it and enjoyed … [Read more...]

A Closer Look at the Scrutinies: How an Ancient Rite Remains Relevant Today

On the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, Catholic Churches with aducts preparing to be baptized at the Easter Vigil will perform three successive rites called "the Scrutinies." These rites, with roots dating back to the early Church, are part of a larger process called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.If you're not familiar with these rites, they might feel like an unnecessary add-on to the Sunday Mass. But oneeds you understand the history and the theology behind the Scrutinies, … [Read more...]

Why Silence Matters (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgW0vuQnnYoSilence is the heart of the spiritual life, and especially of the Christian contemplative life. Fostering inner silence is a key to entering into the prayer of generous self-giving to the often-hidden but always present reality of the God who is here.Elsewhere I have written about how sacred scripture commends silence to us. In the video above I mention the words of noted spiritual author Thomas Keating, who in his book Invitation to Love said … [Read more...]