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. If you are just joining us, we looked at set-aside time two weeks ago and virtues and character last week. You can find those blog posts on my home page. This week, I hope to give you some ideas for how to include short practices throughout your day to keep you centered in stressful situations.
The third element of a complete contemplative practice is the short practice.
Before I discovered yoga, I did not have a plan for how to recover my sense of peace during stressful situations. Now, I have several practices that I engage in throughout the day depending on my level of need.
First, I become aware of my breath. I begin to deepen my breath and feel the sensation of breath throughout my body. As I become aware of my breath and my body, I discover places that are holding tension and I work to soften as I breathe.
Second, I quiet my eyes. As I breathe, I bring my attention to all the tiny muscles around my eyes and begin to relax the muscles. This sends a signal to the brain that I am not in fight or flight mode, but have shifted to relax which allows the opportunity for openness of heart and mind and connection with others.
Third, I have a word to attach to that allows me to come back to my center. My word for this year is abundance. This word grounds me in feeling that there is an abundance of time, an abundance of love for me, an abundance of happiness for me, an abundance of work for me, etc. It is a world view rooted in my faith tradition.
Lastly, As I studyied centering prayer in the fall, I found a new practice that I have not tried yet. It is called the Welcoming Prayer. The basic idea is to become aware of thoughts, emotions, body sensations and welcome whatever is happening in the moment and then letting them go.
Jane K Ferguson describes the Welcoming Prayer in chapter 5 of Contemplative Practices in Action:
1- Focus, feel, and sink into the feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations, and commentaries in your body.
2- Welcome the divine indwelling in the feelings, emotions, thoughts, commentaries or sensations in your body by saying, “Welcome, welcome, welcome.”
3- Let go by repeating the following sentences:
I let go of my desire for security, approval and control.
I let go of my desire to change this situation or person.
4- Repeat the prayer as often as you need it.
What short practices do you have in your toolbelt to help you in stressful situations? If you don’t currently have one, try one of these and let me know what you experience!