Contemplative prayer, windows to my soul longings
Acknowledgments Tamara, my friend and wife, thank you for your support and encouragement. She often observe that I always work on this booklet and that it seems like it would never get done. My family and friends, thank you, you all been carrying this book project in prayers for a long time and we are getting closer to finishing it. Tamara is right, it feels like this project will never get done, maybe it shouldn‟t, maybe it is like telling an Orange tree to get done producing but it won‟t. This booklet will soon get published-God willing. This season, we‟ll harvest what we can and pray that many souls could taste and see the goodness of God through the contemplative prayer practices offered in this booklet. I am hoping that out from this booklet you can learn ways of collecting seeds and growing your soul garden. I also want to thank my YWAM/King‟s Kids Los Angeles community and Larry Acosta from UYWI, and the defunct Youth Specialties Soul Care Board friends, Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Helen DeVos through the DeVos Foundation for the grant I recently receive to move this project along. Thank you DeVos Foundation for your generosity and believing that equipping urban youth work is not just donating sports and computer equipments; it is investing in the urban youth workers through soul care retreat that creates longevity in the field, a fruit that will last. Thank you DVULI Lastly, urban youth workers, thank you for trusting us and for opening up your heart to us soul care guides and spiritual directors. Sharing your weariness, frustrations, disappointments, questions and soul-nurturing retreat ideas to helps us find ways to cultivate and fertilize your soul garden. Please continue to pray for this book project, this is like a community garden, a liturgy-a work of the people. Peace and grace Your Soul Care Gardener Archie Honrado Credits on art and images used are written below the images and art. I apologize for not including a page on the list of credits and copyright permission. I am working on getting copyright permissions before this booklet goes on official publication. Please pray for an editor and publisher to help put this soul care guide on the hands of youth workers and other pilgrims. 2
Centering Prayer Breath Prayer
Embrace of God:
The art of Lectio Divina Spiritual Discipline of Solitude
Spiritual Discipline of Silence
Pray with Icons
Lectio on Images
Soul Care Retreat Ideas
Prayer of Examen
To see and use and download the booklet online visit: www.issuu.com/interiorsoulcare/docs/lectioonimages/ To donate towards the completion of this book, visit: www.soulcaretrellis.com
My Interior Space Introduction:
“ For in him we live and move and have our being” - Acts 17:28
Contemplation into my interior space is gazing into the invisible parts of my true self
to visibility. Visits into the depths of my soul opens the door of grace to fully live in my human and divine form, following the ways to becoming like Jesus.
This booklet offers some of the ways of contemplation. These contemplative practices
of prayer of examen, centering prayer and lectio divina , breath prayer and praying
with images and icons are gifts from earlier Christian times in an updated form. Apophatic prayer (prayer that does not utilize reason, memory, imagination, feelings or will) are introduced here as well as cataphatic (prayer that does utilize reason, imagination, feelings and will)
This booklet has two parts– apophatic and cataphatic prayer– The first part are sim-
ple prayer practices like centering prayer and breath prayer, and the second part, prayers using Images and metaphors.
Reflection using images are designed to cultivate the spiritual discipline of contem-
plation as a means of grace to becoming like Jesus. Approach the images gently, soul-
fully, reverentially in a lectio divina manner. Images accompany us in our journey, opening windows to our soul, glimpses of our Christ-like self here on earth and in eternity. It is a window of our soul’s longings and yearning for God.
The contemplative practices called for in this guide are similar to disciplines art
viewers or nature lovers use to fully appreciate their time of visits, gazing and engage-
ments. Furthermore, these disciplines– meditation, contemplation and prayer guides us into the inner most chamber of our being where we create our dwelling in union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Dwell in the indwelling presence of the Trinity Archie Honrado www.soulcaretrellis.com Email:email@example.com
Contemplative practices - These spiritual disciplines are some of the means of grace to pursue and live our life in the likeness of Christ. These discipline
might be new to you, but it could carry a semblance of practices you currently use.
Contemplative Prayer We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. In the Christian tradition Contemplative Prayer is considered to be the pure gift of God. It is the opening of mind and heart â€“ our whole being â€“ to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Through grace we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing - closer than consciousness itself. - Thomas Keating Here are some of the practices relevant to our time. 1. Breath Prayer (apophatic prayer) 2. Centering Prayer (apophatic prayer)
3. Praying with icons/images (cataphatic prayer) 4. Lectio Divina (cataphatic prayer) 5. Silence 6. Solitude
Soul Care Retreat Ideas 1. Mini-retreat during the day (all through out the day) 2. Sabbath day of rest ( weekly) 3. Periodic soul care retreat (monthly, quarterly, annual) 4. Sabbatical 5. Spiritual Direction
CENTERING PRAYER THE PRAYER OF CONSENT BY THOMAS KEATING ―Be still and know that I am God.‖ Psalm 46:10 Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of Contemplative Prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It is an attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated form. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on them. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him. Theological Background The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to Contemplative Prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. It tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love. The Root of Centering Prayer Listening to the word of God in Scripture (Lectio Divina) is a traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and He were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on His word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust, and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing. Gregory the Great (6th century) in summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition expressed it as “resting in God.” This was the classical meaning of Contemplative Prayer in the Christian tradition for the first sixteen centuries. Wisdom Saying of Jesus Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount : ―...But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you‖ MT 6:6 It is also inspired by writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. Centering Prayer Guidelines I. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence andaction within. (Open Mind, Open Heart, Thomas Keating) 1. The sacred word expresses our intention to consent to God‟s presence and action within. 2. The sacred word is chosen during a brief period of prayer to the Holy Spirit. Use a word of one or two syllables, such as: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen. Other possibilities include: Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust. 6
II. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. 1. “Sitting comfortably” means relatively comfortably so as not to encourage sleep during the time of prayer. 2. Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight. 3. We close our eyes as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us. 4. We introduce the sacred word inwardly as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton. 5. Should we fall asleep upon awakening we continue the prayer. III. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. 1. “Thoughts” is an umbrella term for every perception, including body senstations, sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences. 2. Thoughts are an inevitable, integral and normal part of Centering Prayer. 3. By “returning ever-so-gently to the sacred word” a minimum of effort is indicated. This is the only activity we initiate during the time of Centering Prayer. 4. During the course of Centering Prayer, the sacred word may become vague or disappear. IV. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. 1. The additional 2 minutes enables us to bring the atmosphere of silence into everyday life. 2. If this prayer is done in a group, the leader may slowly recite a prayer such as the Lord‟s Prayer, while the others listen. What Centering Prayer Is and Is Not a. It is not a technique but a way of cultivating a deeper relationship with God. b. It is not a relaxation exercise but it may be quite refreshing. c. It is not a form of self-hypnosis but a way to quiet the mind while maintaining its alertness. d. It is not a charismatic gift but a path of transformation. e. It is not a para-psychological experience but an exercise of faith, hope and selfless love. f. It is not limited to the “felt” presence of God but is rather a deepening of faith in God‟s abiding presence. g. It is not reflective or spontaneous prayer, but simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. THE PRAYER OF CONSENT BY THOMAS KEATING ―Be still and know that I am God.‖ Psalm 46:10 Visit our website at www.contemplativeoutreach.org 7
Breath Prayer Arriving at our Base camp, I asked our Niko camp participants after putting down their backpacks, to pick up dirt with their hands where they were seated in a circle around the fire ring. They already think I was a bit weird at the beginning of our trip and the dirt exercise cemented my reputation. After telling them that they just picked up “clean dirt,” I told the story of God creating man- “ The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2: 7 NIV) After the short story, I led them to my made-up version of breath prayer to help them feel settled in the wilderness and hopefully, they will continue to practice the simple breath prayer when they go back to the city. As I have listened and watched youth and youth workers, I found contemplative prayers to be one of the most relevant spiritual disciplines for our youth today. What should a young followers of Jesus look like today? I juxtaposed technologies of our time with some of the ancient contemplative prayer practices-that seemed archaic a couple of decades ago- and I pictured a 21st century Dorothy Day, Simone Weil, St, Augustine, a St. Francis, A St. Theresa of Avila with “smart phones and tablets. ” I just thought that maybe simple prayer practices could make a difference like what punctuations does to a sentence, creating space to what could be an otherwise unreadable and chaotic paragraph. Yes, we need more apophatic prayers for our 4G technology generation that needs an „archaic‟ and organic way of distilling information into knowledge and wisdom. So, here‟s my made up version of Breath Prayer
Follow a comfortable position to sit in. Take a few deep breathe Imagine God forming you out from the dirt of the ground and breathing into your nostrils the breathe of life. Take a deep breath and as you inhale, remember the breath of life that God breathed into your life and as you exhale, say a prayer, thanking God for your life and giving your life back to God. Repeat a few times until you feel its time to be guided by the Holy Spirit to your next step whatever that might be.
Breath Prayer In Jewish and Christian thought, breath is closely related to Spirit. The Hebrew word ruach means “breath,” “spirit,” or “wind,” and we first encounter it in the Bible as the “wind from God swept over the face of the waters” as the earth was being formed (Genesis 1:2). This multifaceted word points to breath as both a life-sustaining action for humans and a God-infused action in creation. A breath prayer is one that moves in and out on the wind of your breath, as the Spirit of God intermingles with your own spirit. It reminds us of the time the resurrected Jesus breathed on his disciples, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22) This is a wordless and imageless prayer that involves more being than doing. You are simply observing and following your breath. As you breathe, your body, mind, and spirit are enlivened by God‟s Spirit. Intention To follow breath as it leads to God. The Exercise Follow a comfortable position to sit in for at least twenty minutes. Make sure you will not be distracted by telephones or interruptions during this time. If you think you are likely to lose track of time, set a timer or alarm clock to chime when your prayer time is up Express to God your longing to experience God in this prayer. Then, let go of expectations and simply breathe. Exhale slowly, allowing each breath to find its own rhythm. Breathe through your nose unless there is some reason you cannot do so. Focus your attention either on your inhalation or exhalation. Feel the breath moving across your nostrils and entering lungs. If your attention wanders, bring it back to your breath. Seek relaxed yet focus awareness. When your time in prayer has come to a close, express your gratitude to God for the breath of life. Tip: As with centering prayer, the steps here are simple, but the practice of them is not always easy. It may take some time before you find this prayer soothing. Over time, your ability to focus on your breath will most like increase. But even when you are struggling, know that God– who is Spirit– is with you in the breath of the prayer. Teresa A. Blythe 50 Ways To Pray– Practices from Many Traditions and Times Abingdon Press, Nashville 9
Breath Prayer This is one of his suggestion on how to prepare for your retreat by Brother Ramon: Breathing Prayer This step concerns a simple breathing exercise to bring your respiration into a slightly slower and deeper mode than usual, leading to the breathing of a prayerful longing in God. First, don‟t change your breathing but note its rate and rhythm. Now gently begin to breathe from the diaphragm instead of from the top of your chest (belly-breathing), and with deepening, slow it down slightly. Your tummy will rise as you begin such breathing, and as the top of your longs fill it will lower slightly. After a minute or so of such easy, relaxed breathing find your own level – that is, a level that suits you without strain or effort. The aim here is to let go all stress and be completely relaxed– no push or effort but simple, easy, passive resting in God. Now you can begin breathing the prayer– first verbally and then mentally as you move into its rhythm. Again there are a variety of prayers, including The Jesus Prayer. The prayer offered here is twofold and is breathed within the triune mystery of God. You need not be concerned with the theology of all this (though it is very powerful), but simply breathe the prayer in loving receptivity, expecting the indwelling of God‟s Holy Spirit to become the basis and ethos of your prayer. The prayer runs: In You, my Lord, I live and move and have my being. In me, my Lord, You live and move and have Your being. As you breathe this repetitive prayer you will enter into its rhythm and yield yourself to the loving mystery of God. Stay there for as long as you want (five minutes is not too short nor thirty minutes too long) Taken from “ Heaven on Earth, A Personal Retreat Programme‖ Brother Ramon Marshall Pickering, An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina By Father Luke Dysinger, OSB Lectio - reading/listening THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God's word for us, God's voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God's creation which is the Scriptures. THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh'ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” - listen - to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God's word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio - reading. THE READING or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day.
Meditatio - meditation ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word - that is, memorize it - and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina - meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.
Oratio - prayer THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio - prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.
Contemplatio - contemplation FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition - contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.
The Practice of Lectio Divina CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God's hands, not yours. PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments. THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence. NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God. THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart. FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God's embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity. SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one's lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.
The author considers this article to be in the Public Domain. This article may therefore be downloaded, reproduced and distributed without special permission from the author. It was first published in the Spring, 1990 (vol.1, no.1) edition of Valyermo Benedictine. It has subsequently been reprinted as (1) “Appendix 2” in The Art and Vocation of Caring for People in Pain by Karl A. Schultz (Paulist Press, 1993), pp. 98-110; and in (2) An Invitation to Centering Prayer with and Introduction to Lectio Divina, by Basil Pennington and Luke Dysinger (Liguori/Triumph, 2001)
The Spiritual Discipline of Solitude
A Cavernous Strange Place Archie Honrado
Have you ever wonder why some people are afraid or embarrassed to hear their own voice amplified when they are given a microphone to speak? Solitude in my Mp3? I now enter a cavernous strange place– my place? Perhaps, I can meet with me, together me and me can be with God alone.
Let’s hear Richard J. Foster talk about solitude: “In solitude, we are freed from our bondage to people and our inner compulsions, and we are freed to love God and know compassion for others. The less we are mesmerized by human voices, the more we are able to hear the divine Voice. The less we are bound by other’s expectations, the more we are open to God’s expectations. In solitude, we die not only to others but also to ourselves. To be sure, at first we thought solitude was a way to recharge our batteries in order to enter life’s many competitions with new vigor and strength. In time, however, we found that solitude did not give us power to win the rat race; on the contrary, it taught us to ignore the struggle altogether. Slowly, we found ourselves letting go of our inner compulsions to win and our frantic effort to attain. In the stillness, our false, busy selves were unmasked and seen for the imposters they were. We can love God because we do not have to love the world. Through our solitude, an open inner space has been created through which God finds us. In solitude, we experience a second (and third, and fourth and fifth. . .) conversion. In a deeper more profound way, we turn from the idols of the marketplace to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We enter the terrifying silences to listen to God, to experience communion. . . What we must clearly understand and underscore is that our real task on retreat is to create a space in our lives where God can reach us. Once that space has been created we wait quietly, expectantly. From this point on, the works belong to God.” ‐ Richard J. Foster “Celebration of the Discipline” Mini-Retreat Idea: Make time to be alone, unplugged, no books, just you. Start with either sitting or walking for 1/2 hr. and slowly bring it to from one day to a week of solitude or a daily or weekly practice.
Spiritual Discipline– What is it? It is practices or exercise unto godliness. These are only activities undertaken to make us capable of receiving more of his life and power without harm to ourselves or others. “A discipline for the spiritual life is, when the dust of history is blown away, nothing but an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and his kingdom.” ‐ Richard J. Foster The Spiritual Discipline of Silence, “ How few of us live with quiet, inner confidence, and yet know many of us desire it. But such inward quiet is a great grace we can receive as we practice not talking, And when we have it, we may be able to help others who need it. After we know that confidence, we may, when others come fishing for reassurance and approval, send them to fish in deeper waters for their own quiet”. - Dallas Willard “Silence is frightening because it strips us like nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life. It reminds us of death, which cut us off from this world and leave only us and God. And in that quiet, what if there turns out to be very little to “just us and God”? Think what it says about the inward emptiness of our lives if we must always turn on the tape player or radio to make sure something is happening around us. Hearing is said to be the last of our senses to go at death. Sound always strikes deeply and disturbingly into our souls. So, for the sake of our souls, we must seek times to leave our television, radio, tape players, and telephones turned off. We should close off street noises as much as possible. We should try to find how quiet we can make our world by making whatever arrangements are necessary. Such practice (silence) also helps us to listen and to observe, to pay attention to people. How rarely are we ever truly listened to, and how deep is our need to be heard. I wonder how much wrath is human life is a result of not being heard. God gave us two ears and one mouth, it’s been said, so that we might listen twice as much as we talk, but even that proportion is far too high on the side of talking.” - Henri J. Nouwen • What arrangements are you ready to make for silence ? • A little word of encourage for first time ‘silencers’: Don’t be discouraged if your first time is beset by a whirlwind of thoughts racing through your mind. When you can’t focus, do a breathing exercises just listening to heart beat until you are relax and comfortable and just let the Holy Spirit whisper into the ear of your heart.
Praying with Icons by Archie Honrado Pray with Icons? This seemingly obscure Eastern Orthodox Christian prayer practice is making its way into our prayer life. It seems to me that we are having some sort of spiritual renaissance– the unearthing of some of the ancient Christian prayer practices, many of which are kept alive by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. This fascinating movement lends itself to an image of a precious gift that has been lying somewhere around the house unopened for a long time. This is like during the Renaissance period where they rediscovered buried gifts from the past, spurring a revival of the many classic learning styles from ancient Rome and Greece - that had been preserved by the church, yet largely reserved for the educated clergy alone. This movement reopened an ancient door ushering in the modern period. We should ask: what have we unearthed and where is it taking us? The use of sacred and secular art, icons and images to aid us in prayer has come. I am not talking about hanging sacred icons in the sanctuary with worshippers lined-up to kiss and touch the images. We could however learn from our Orthodox Christian cousins, to pray with icons, not to the icons and not just Eastern Orthodox icons, but icons commissioned by God through artists from our own church and faith community. There have been numerous Sunday worship services where I longed to see and gaze at the Lord through art and icons; we couldn‟t because the service was mostly listening and no seeing. This made me want to run to my prayer closet, hide from the “iconoclasts”. Similarly, there are occasions that instead of having another session of counseling, therapy or talking prayer meeting, we should be engaging with the Holy Spirit through sit and gaze—at the beauty of God‟s holiness. Additionally, gazing attentively at our life in the present moment, we become our own iconographer of the image of Christ incarnated in and through us. Looking at your own tradition, what is its view of prayer using art, icons or images? I was nurtured well by my missionary community listening to preaching and teaching but I have been guided by the Holy Spirit in having sensed, awed and adored Jesus gazing at paintings in the Cathedrals and art museums in Europe and at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I was exposed early to listening and seeing. My Catholic family heritageimmersed in Catholic icons– and my mother‟s Protestant heritage soaked me in the Word of God. I was a comfortable and enriched gazing (contemplating images) as well as listening through the meditative reading of the printed Word of God. Praying with and through art and icons– praying with your heart and eyes open Here are some ways I have practiced praying with art or icons. Gaze through your heart not your mind. When drawn to analyze the image, allow your heart only to “ see” Gaze with complete attention, pray with the icon. What are they praying for or about? Our invisible God became flesh (visible and incarnate) and live with and among us. Avoid rushing for a life application or a moral message. Gaze patiently When you gaze, kiss with the lips of your heart– adore and worship God– the beauty and love that you see. When praying with a “ secular image”, look beyond the “art in it” ( like styles, colors, symbols), or intended meaning of it– gaze the visible toward the invisible. 15
PRAYER OF EXAMEN In the 16th century, Ignatius of Loyola wrote The Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises begin by recommending that everyone be taught the Daily Examination of Conscience also known as the Prayer of Examen. He understood that one of the ways God speaks to us is through what he calls consolation and desolation, which consist of our deepest feelings, yearnings, and influences of the spiritual realm. This prayer consists of asking ourselves two questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Reflecting on these questions help us identify moments of consolation and desolation, which lead us to a better awareness of God in the midst of our daily life. One suggestion on How to do the Prayer of Examen: End the day by taking a few moments to quiet down and become aware of God‟s loving presence. (I suggest lighting a candle to serve as a reminder of your intentions to allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate your day). Remember that God actually accompanies us on our journey whether we are aware of this or not. Ask God to help you reflect back on your day and to bring to your memory what God desires to reveal to you in your day. Ask yourself for what moment today am I most grateful? And for what moment today am I least grateful? (There are many ways to ask this same question. Use the way that is most helpful to you.) When did I feel the most alive today? When did I feel life drained out of me? When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today? As you become aware of the first question (known as consolation) let the feeling bath over you again and offer back to God a prayer of gratitude for showing love to you in this way. As you become aware of the second question (desolation), try to name the emotion you are feeling and ask God if there is something for you to notice in this. (Perhaps you notice an area of sin that God is gently convicting you of, a wounded place that needs God‟s healing touch, a distraction or discouragement that is keeping you from hearing God‟s voice, etc.) Respond to these noticings with a prayer back to God. If nothing is revealed in the desolation, simply offer the experience up to God without dwelling on it. This whole process usually takes 10-20 minutes.
Lectio on the breath of life Be still, Listen to your breathing, Listen to the breath of life God breathe into existence 17
I am the vine You are the branches
Soul care retreat
Stop the non-stop
Attraction to distraction Multi-tasking, Busyness
Anywhere, anytime internet connectivity Sabbath Rest Sacred Space
Weary Burned Out? Spiritually Dry
Any of the words above resonating in you right now, perhaps, a dissonance, a reminder or a mild rebuke to get you to attend to the needs of your soul.– your longing and yearning for GodObserving daily retreats (quite time or devotional time) or periodic spiritual retreat nourishes your soul and opens your heart, mind, body and soul to the Lord, But, we can neglect these soul care practices- caught up with ministries, work, relationships, spiritually tired or bored with the prayer devotional life. Perhaps, a new season of growth. Step back (retreat) to refresh your soul, rekindle your prayer practice in finding God’s movement in your Being. “ For in Him, we move and have our being.”
The Contemplative Activist “Contemplation and Action” Read this excerpt and examine your paradox. Less afraid of fear and less afraid of life“The idea is that as we develop spiritual and reflective practices within the context of our personal lives and the pursuit of social change, we create a more solid and secure foundation for a new world. We build lives with greater expressions of love, more authentic relationships, and a deeper articulation of truth. We become less afraid of fear and less afraid of life. When we turn inward, we find stillness and chaos resting together. We find craving and contraction and the seeds of liberation from both. We can ignore what we find or we can embrace it- all of it. Reflection and spiritual practice will help ensure that our actions as human beings yield benefits to a sphere far beyond the horizon we can easily see. We are all seekers. In the midst of an ever-complex, ever-quickening universe, we crave the pause in which we remember what matter most. Through ongoing, deliberate experiences with our inner life, we cultivate stillness, open our hearts, nurture our personal expressions of faith, and deepen our capacity just to be. Rather than an escape, refuge is a return to the real. Turning inward allows us to develop our power from within, the power that makes real change possible.” -Claudia Horwitz on her book; “The Spiritual Activist” Penguin Compass
Are you afraid of finding stillness and chaos resting together? Less afraid of fear and less afraid of life, are you? What paradox have you been wrestling lately, or are you? What reflective practices do you currently have? Examine your soul care practices, are you in need of fresh ways of nurturing your soul? Have you considered seeing a Spiritual Director? How open are you in giving yourself permission to try other spiritual discipline 19
Image 004- “Composition” Jackson Pollock Imago lectio on Chaos Pollock painted a turbulent abstraction. He developed the “drip painting “ technique that created an unorderly and chaotic image, drawing from the unconscious. What would a Pollock‟s bold technique parallel be like in drawing your unconscious out to a chaotic but ordered and artful and soulful living life.
Image 006– “ Carnival of Harlequin” Joan Miro
Lectio on Abstract
As a youth pastor to several junior high boys, I have seen the boys see order in chaos and concrete in the abstract by guiding them to gaze at Miro‟s surrealistic image and other abstract paintings. Before I even started teaching them to gaze, I taught them centering prayer and breathe prayer. They would find their own space on the floor, lie in silence for 10-15 minutes and then I would play my powerpoint slide show of different abstract and surrealistic paintings. I looped the powerpoint in a „lectio divina‟ manner and then I asked each one to speak. Not only did they ‟see the picture‟, the art helped them see the connection of the art in their lives. They talked about their stress-filled school and family life but are happy to feel that things can be normal and can be placed in order. Have you ever reflected and prayed with and through art?
“Circles in Circles‖ By Wassily Kandinsky
“Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a divinecenter, a speaking voice, to which we may continually return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives. . . Life is meant to be lived from a center, a divine center.” -Thomas R. Kelly, from his book “ A Testament of Devotion” Lectio on Sacred Familiarity What is your favorite devotional practices? Prayer practices speaks of your “inner sanctuary of your soul”, how‟s yours? What a robust spiritual life? Are there circles in circles in your divine center? Are you in love with one particular spiritual discipline? If so, is that soul nurturing?
Imago lectio on life Archie Honrado
Juxtapose your soul, ministry with the paragraph, how does it look like? What soul care practices nourishes you? Where can soulful spaces be in your daily living?
Contemplate darkness, contemplate mystery
Imago lectio on my trellis
Trellis supports the growth of a vine. The vine‟s health and growth, exposure and protection from the sun are largely dependent on where it is planted and how trellises are installed. What supports your spiritual growth? What is my soul care trellis?
Imago lectio on my soul Dwelling in my interior space,
flourishing in the outside world, yielding fruits that lasts. What silhouette image do I see from inside my soul? What image do I see inside my soul? What soul-nurturing resource am I instinctively drawn to but I’m afraid to give myself permission to even try because of my set tradition? This photograph was taken from our living room. It was a Southern California coastal winter day light. The call of the silhouetted tree arrested my attention. I snapped the photo and sat down to reflect. This was my art museum during the winter weeks, I was quieted by the drama of such irresistible image. It brought me to my place of waiting without fret
Cultivating Depths .Sometimes all that we yearn for beauty, courage, love, hope, faith-lies hidden. God seems to be absent from our lives. We are unable to truly see the people with whom we live. The goodness and worth of our own lives elude us. At times like this we may feel called to take a step back and look at the mystery of life anew. That’s what the word retreat means- to go back. -Macrina Wiederkehr from her book . The Song of the Seed.
Create, Plan a 30-day At-Home spiritual renewal retreat, or you can contact me. I can help you create your at-home retreat and guide throughout the entire time. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Here are a few books I recommend for resource in creating your own retreat. Some of it is from the Jewish and Catholic traditions.
Going on Retreat: a beginner’s guide to the Christian retreat experience. By Margaret Silf, Loyola Press.
Renewing Your Soul: a guided retreat for the Sabbath and Other Days of Rest. By David A. Cooper, Harper Collins 40
Alienated from Myself or At Home With Myself “ If I am not at home with myself I won't feel at home anywhere else. It is such a delight to come home to myself, to become my own friend. I experienced this kind of homecoming once when I was living alone. Under the guise of ministering to others I had become alienated from myself. In my everyday maddening ministerial rush I suddenly discovered myself eating on the run-grabbing a sandwich and eating it while standing up or going out the door. The violence of this great irreverence to myself suddenly occurred to me. I was not at home with myself. It took a while to slow down, but I was finally able to make a decision to spend time with myself. I began to experience the joy of being with me. I put flower on the table, lit a candle, turned on soft music, ate slowly. I learned the joy of simply being with myself without rushing. It was like taking myself out to dinner. It was a kind of coming home to myself. When you can lovingly be present to yourself, your presence to others takes on a deeper quality also.” Excerpt from Macrina Weiderkehr “ A Tree Full of Angels” Harper Collins Publishing WHY RETREAT? why do you need one?
Mini-Retreat idea: Go on a date with yourself, at home. Trinity” Like any other date, think about what you will wear, eat and imagine how you Rublev would decorate and prepare your own restaurant at home. Shop and get the things you need before the day of your date. Do not forget to unplug your connectivity to everyone and everything else besides what you need for your date. After your date before going to bed, reflect on how your date went. Journal, call someone, blog about your date. Be lovingly present to yourself “
My Sanctuary “Can you hear me now?” Smart phones or WiFi intrudes and invades our personal space (by choice of course). With anywhere connectivity you can work anytime and anywhere (including bus, train and airplane and some camp grounds) Have you allowed your technology to blur your boundaries (allowing work or soul-less web surfing and browsing) to fill in your sacred space designed for cultivating soul depth and soul care during intentional ‘sabbath’ time of rest? To give yourself permission to work anywhere, to go online anywhere and anytime is to desecrate your sacred space, it can be an irreverential treatment of yourself, wouldn’t you say so? If you plan to go on intentional soul care retreat and you want to use your technology, plan carefully what you would need to guide you. Otherwise, I’ll recommend periodic unplugged soul care retreats. 42
Image 018- “Hyde Park, London” J.A Hampton
Life in 3D Decompress, Defragment, Debrief Jumping from one activity, event, or ministry to the next without ‘decompression stops’ can lead to burn-out, and soullessness. When done over time, we’ll surely miss-out on the deeper meanings that can be found in our activities and actions. An illustration can be drawn out from a deep-water diving practice called “decompression stops”. Decompression stops are stops divers should make when returning to the surface to let the nitrogen in their blood dissolve safely out of their bodies. The practice prevents a diver from contracting decompression disease that can lead to death, confusion or memory loss, double vision, tunnel vision, unexplained extreme fatigue, just to name a few. Imagine how this illustrates our need to decompress from the intense pressures of ministry and life. Just like a computer hard drive needed to be “defrag’, how do you defrag your life? How do you debrief your work, ministry, relationships?