Creative Conversation Begins with Contemplative Compassion

Listening with compassion is a path to authentic relationship. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A friend of mine, who is the executive director of a progressive Christian ministry, told me the story of meeting an activist who identifies as spiritual but not religious. At first, this person wasn't even interested in talking to my friend.He saw a Christian as someone hopelessly irrelevant, part of the problem rather than the solution.Fortunately, my progressive Christian friend was able to communicate one essential detail. "I'm not here to convert you or to argue with you. I'm here … [Read more...]

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

St. Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts. Monasteries are often excellent places to find guidance in Christian contemplation.

A reader of my blog wrote the following message to me: I have been meditating for about a year now. I have been working with a meditation teacher who has been helpful, but, even though we are of the same Christian faith, he leans too far into the Yogi tradition for my comfort level. My experience with Centering Prayer has been very positive and what I have read and heard about the Christian Contemplative Path resonates with me. To really deepen my practice, do I need a spiritual teacher? If so, … [Read more...]

When Contemplation Feels Like Dying

The Sunset. A Metaphor for Dying, and So Beautiful. (Florida Gulf Coast, April 2015)

"For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).How exactly does this "spiritual dying" fit in with the practice of contemplative spirituality? One reader of this blog is curious about this. In response to my post from a few weeks back (Why is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word), I received the following message on Facebook: Thank you for your thoughts on mysticism's more dubious meanings, my learned friend. I'm afraid I've been shallow in my understanding, based as … [Read more...]

What To Do When Your Prayer Doesn’t Get ‘In The Zone’

Front Gate, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers GA

A reader named Kevin wrote the following comment to me on Facebook, in response to my recent post Why Is "Mysticism" a Dirty Word. Thanks Carl, interesting points. I was wondering if I could pick your brain on something...when I meditate/contemplate on my breath (I have a semi regular habit) I only seem to get "in the zone" of a peaceful meditative state about 1 session in 10. The rest of the time not much happens. Is this normal? Am I expecting too much? I'm getting a bit … [Read more...]

What Good is Religion? A Contemplative Perspective

Religion gives us far more than just beautiful buildings (Holy Spirit Abbey photographed by Haven Sweet; used with permission of the photographer)

Bloggers on Patheos have been asked to reflect on the question "What Good is Religion?" this month. I figured it might be worth pondering from a contemplative perspective.When I was a young man I was fond of saying that religion brought out the best in people and it brought out the worst in people. For the best, I'd cite Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Dorothy Day as exemplars. Nowadays I might add Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis to the list. For the worst, I'd mention Jim Jones (of the People's … [Read more...]

“Empty yourself completely and sit waiting”

Front Gate, Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers GA

I sometimes get asked if contemplative prayer is "really Christian." When someone asks that question, it's usually because they have noticed the similarity between practices like centering prayer and eastern disciplines such as zazen or transcendental meditation. The fact that many practitioners of centering prayer or other silent prayer forms tend to be interested in interfaith dialogue is sometimes worrisome to others, who do not have a sense of being called to interfaith dialogue and who only … [Read more...]

Concerning Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Xenophobia

Contemplative spirituality is a spirituality in which, in the words of Richard Rohr, "everything belongs." It's a spirituality of inclusion, rather than exclusion. It seeks to build bridges rather than walls. To me, this is part of the towering beauty of contemplation. But we live in a world where not everyone sees things the same way, and contemplation, like anything else, has its critics. Generally speaking, my experience shows that the critics of Christian contemplation reject it for two … [Read more...]


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