In the book, Contemplative Practices in Action, Doug Oman asks the questions, “Do I enjoy the spiritual support of an integral contemplative practice? If not, can I expand my practice in ways that are personally appropriate and consistent with my tradition and beliefs?”
Oman looked at 10 different contemplative practices found in non-religious traditions and religious traditions and discovered commonalities between the practices. He says these common elements “share a coherent resemblance.” According to Oman, an integral contemplative practice consists of four elements: Set-aside time, virtues and character strengths, short practices that can be used throughout the day for centering during stressful situations, and a spiritual model. Over the next few weeks, we will consider each one of these individually. First, let’s explore the element of set-aside time.
1- Set-aside time: In my tradition, we used to call this our “quiet time.” For me this brings up memories of everyone proudly declaring that they have a regular “quiet time,” but their life showed no evidence of transforming into being more Christ-like towards themselves or others. If you are like me, then maybe this feels old-school and agreeing with more fundamentalist Christianity. Consider with me this idea from Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit,
“Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions.”
I am seeking more freedom in my life. Freedom from suffering. Freedom from pleasing others and my inner mean spirited critic. I confess, though, that discipline is something that I am good at, so this first element resonates with me!
I like the idea of reclaiming the discipline of set-aside time. Maybe these new words resonate with you. Maybe you need to call this special time something else to inspire you. Don’t let the words get you stuck. Become curious about how you feel about the discipline of setting aside time to practice.
Do you have a time set-aside each day for your practice? If not, what challenges prohibit you from finding a special time each day?
One way to find a set-aside time that works for you is to take a month to experiment with times. Pick a time during the day that you feel would be most successful, then keep that time for a week. Record how you feel, what you found challenging, and what worked for you about that time. The second week pick another time and keep it for a week recording your findings. Repeat for another 2 weeks. At the end of the month, you will have recorded 4 experiments to help you become aware of what time works best for you and you will know why!