Definitions from Our Perspective
WHAT IS OUR PERSPECTIVE?
We met in an ex-urban Minneapolis ELCA congregation in 2015.
We both grew up in churches and are life-long participants in faith formation.
We’re both white, cisgendered, hetero, partnered women.
Melissa mothers four children from elementary to high school. Emily has recently become the mom of a teenager.
Our lenses are inextricably linked to our life experiences growing up in predominantly Scandinavian, Lutheran, rural/small town, middle class, Upper Midwest households.
We love our families and at the same time recognize that our upbringing situates us in the middle of racist, sexist, gendered, other-ist systems that have been brutally unjust to those who do not fit molds like those that formed us.
Part of our work here is to help families grow together to be more aware, empathetic, just and welcoming.
WHAT IS CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER?
Contemplative Prayer is defined differently by different people; probably because every practitioner has their own, personal experience of the Divine within each practice.
But in a nutshell: contemplative prayer is any practice of resting in the Presence of God. Thomas Keating’s Centering Prayer played a major role in restoring Contemplative Practices to the minds and lives of contemporary Christians, but this is by no means the only form nor the only school of thought around Contemplative Practices.
There is no right or wrong “way” to “do” a contemplative practice: if the intent is to pay attention to God within, that’s a contemplative practice.
One of Emily’s United Theological Seminary colleagues, John Lee, sums it up this way: “Contemplative practices are present in many religious and spiritual traditions. The simplicity of these practices allows us to slow down and experience reality in a different way so we may re-enter the world with new possibilities… [M]any of these practices [facilitate] an encounter with non-duality which is fundamental to the key qualities of moral imagination, differentiation of self, emotional intelligence, and humility…”
Who doesn’t benefit in myriad ways when sitting in the Presence of their Creator?
We believe we all do: as individuals, as families and as communities. Silence filled by Divine Mystery is rich with blessing. We hope you and your family will experience these riches through these practices.
TERMS & DEFINITIONS
There are plenty of terms that we’ll use within these practices (like the term “practice”) that are new or used differently here than they are elsewhere. We’ll do our best to keep this to a minimum for the sake of younger participants, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Also, it can be really good to learn some of these words so kids and their families feel more confident and comfortable in what they are doing and in how to describe or define it to others, should that be of interest.
We’ll include updates to helpful websites and blogs that fill out these terms, as well.
We’ll do our best to be consistent, but we each bring our own perspectives and histories, so we’ll invariably reflect these differences by occasionally using terms incongruously.
PRACTICE:; the utilization of a tool or set of tools that when used consistently develop skill, awareness, knowledge and/or understanding; a repeated exercise used to get better at something, even something that seems simple; a habit
DISCIPLINE: an internal attitude of determination that leads to consistency in practice
CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER/PRACTICE: any of a number of ways of resting in the Divine Presence
MEDITATION: stilling the conscious mind; paying attention to the here and now
MINDFULNESS: paying attention to one’s thoughts, emotions and physical sensations
CHURCH: any faith community; the Body of Christ
FAITH: belief in that which is not seen or tangible
BELIEF: a thought-system to frame faith
LECTIONARY: set of biblical texts assigned for use in worship
LITTLE SELF/SMALL SELF: the ego; the part of our psyche developed for and essential to self-protection which enables fight/flight/freeze, but which, when left unchecked, distorts all reality into a binary system of “good” (i.e., “safe”) and “bad” (i.e., “unsafe”), rendering most humans smaller than God intends; in this blog, we will generally use lower case letters when spelling “little self” or “self”
TRUE SELF/CHRIST SELF: the Divine spark, image and imprint inherent to every human soul, usually subverted and captivated by the ego/small self; the Self God created us to be, sees us as distinguished in this blog with a capital “True Self” or “Self” or “Christ-Self” Include a discussion of the True Self (capital “S”) and the little self (little “s”) and the intent of contemplative practices to get us to live more carefully, consistently and thoroughly out of our True Self (the Christ-Self/God-at-my-center)1.
1. For a fuller description of the play between little/small self and True/Christ Self, see Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Shadow Work: Becoming Who You Are (September 9, 2019).