Advice for a Beginner

A reader posted these questions to my blog this morning: As a novice to Contemplative Prayer I guess I should take the introduction pace . Any suggestions ? Also, Carl, do you consider Henri Nouwen a mystic? I'll answer your second question first. I certainly have the sense of Henri Nouwen as a contemplative, based on what I know of him and his work. As you may have surmised if you've poked around this blog very much, though, I tend to be reticent about applying the word "mystic" to people … [Read more...]

More Thoughts for a Small Contemplative Community

First of all, I'm really pleased at all the wonderful ideas and expressions of support for the idea I blogged about yesterday. I don't think I have it in me to start a network of contemplative groups throughout metro Atlanta, though! Besides, Contemplative Outreach has already done that. I'd rather start small and see where the Spirit takes us from there.Here's just another thought or two that came to me yesterday, after I made the initial post.While I'm really interested in having a group … [Read more...]

Thirty-Three Years

Thirty-three years ago yesterday I had a profound experience of God's presence in the midst of a Eucharist. I won't go into all the details of that life-changing evening here; if you have The Aspiring Mystic, you can read all about it in chapter one; otherwise, you can find it elsewhere on my website by following this link: A Contemporary Mystical Experience?As I strive to finish editing my book, I've thought a lot about that evening over the past few days. I was only 16 then; I'm 49 now, so … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Contemplation is life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. … Contemplation is also the response to a call: a call from Him Who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being; for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to a … [Read more...]

Recollection and the Prayer of Quiet

In her classic work Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, Evelyn Underhill devotes two chapters to the subject of "introversion," in which she explores three essential mystical practices: recollection, the prayer of quiet, and contemplation. Recollection, she points out, is a technical mystical term, not to be confused with ordinary remembrance; rather she defines mystical recollection as "the deliberate consideration of and dwelling upon some one aspect of … [Read more...]

Contemplation and the Veteran’s Journey

I've been a civilian all my life. But my father was a veteran of three wars, and I've watched as people just a few years older than me served and died in Viet Nam, and now those not too much younger than me are serving and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.Whatever your political — or spiritual — persuasion might be, I hope you'll agree with me that the physical, mental and emotional trauma suffered by those who serve in harm's way is not only a significant social and psychological issue, but a cru … [Read more...]

The ENDS of Prayer

Recently a monk shared this with me. His is a markedly apophatic approach to spirituality, so this may not speak to everyone. But for the monk and I suppose anyone else who shares his approach to prayer, this little mnemonic is a tool to assist in remembering the contours of deep contemplation.It involves remembering the "ENDS" of prayer, in this way: Emptiness Nothingness Darkness Silence Of course, entering into the emptiness, nothingness, darkness and silence of contemplation is not to … [Read more...]


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