The Relevance of a Contemplative Practice Today

What is the relevance of a contemplative practice today? What fruits have you noticed in your life and what do you understand by the purification process?

With the rapid evolution of technology, the living and doing of our life is in constant opposition, creating stress, anxiety and tension. We are living in a fast –paced age. Everything that we do, feel, and think has an effect in our relationship with God, with others and even with the creation. Therefore contemplative practices can be very helpful to lead one into the search, the quest and the deep longing to be with God, the creator of our being.

Contemplative Prayer is growing in friendship with God and in no way opposed to action as one accepts to be guided and led by God. It facilitates and deepens one’s relationship with Him; inviting the indwelling Presence into everything one does. It gives one the eyes to see and the ears to hear God’s call to share his divine life. “The dark side of our personality is a lot darker than we think.” (The Spiritual Journey – Tape Transcription, pg. 18 РContemplative Outreach UK) The long loving look on God transforms one’s life; gradually lead one from ones self-centeredness to God-centeredness.

Through self-centeredness one creates a world of worries, we are full of desires and dreams for ourselves; we are filled with fantasies those which do not help us live in the present moment. Being and living in the present moment; with mind and body open, receptive and free from biases, prejudgments; free from thoughts and images that takes us away from a direct contact with  God , the Higher power and be transformed by him.
Our love of self is one of the greatest barriers to be live in the love of God. Quietening our mind, body and whole of our being, we humbly recognize that we are nobody; it is his grace and love sustains our existence. We are there for Him alone.  ‚ÄúIt is being with God and resting in him beyond concepts‚Ķ‚Äù (The Spiritual Journey ‚Äì Tape Transcription, pg. 6 – Contemplative Outreach UK) that moves one to deeper relationship with God. This state of calm centeredness is an aid to exploration of meaning, purpose and value. They also help to develop greater empathy and communication skills, improve focus and attention, reduce stress and enhance creativity, supporting a loving and compassionate approach to life.

My contact with the Contemplative Prayer
My direct contact with the contemplative approach to prayer was since 2002. As a team of seven members we decided to do a contemplative retreat. I was not quite sure what that meant; I went along with the team. I was in a transitional period then, moving from Mexico, a very alive country and its people to a sober place, Netherlands. Coldness was experienced ad intra and ad-extra. I was just beginning with the language studies. I noticed then, I was becoming quiet externally, not knowing to speak the language, but internally going through a huge turmoil. Fighting, negating and bargaining with God and also with my higher superiors. I started asking: Why I was brought to this place? What was the meaning of all this?; and lot of other questions were surfacing in me.

We set out for the retreat in South Germany, a 10 day retreat which was guided by a Dominican priest. Complete silence, no reading of books, no Bible or images were used. That threatened me; I was more furious than ever. I am here without speaking for several months and now to remain again in silence for another ten days; what a stupid idea, I thought.

Retreat began and as the days went by I noticed how quiet I was now becoming; I experienced silence and calmness even internally. I was astounded, how I was invaded by this form of prayer. Soon I came to the realization that this is what I was always longing for. Since then I have continued practicing and my annual retreats are geared towards it.

Contemplative prayer and its impact on my life.

Since then, contemplative prayer became part and parcel of my life. Missing once, I felt that I was missing something in life. My prayer time was a precious moment for me and I took that time lovingly. It made me more conscious of the presence of God in my doing and being. There was deep peace and calmness even in the midst of difficulties and turmoil. The quality time for prayer became a priority in my life.

After a few years of daily practice and doing my annual retreats, I noticed that I started gaining confidence in myself. I was always feeling inferior to others and complained that God had not given me sufficient talents to work with assignment which were given by the superiors at this time of my life. They were too high and I was not prepared for it. Constant negative attitudes towards myself and others; resentment and anger was hampering my personal and spiritual growth. There was no happiness and joy in what I was doing. With the regular practice I noticed that I was less complaining and I started to explore all the possibilities to give my best in the given circumstances. I noticed that I was more calm and serene, before important responsibilities and tasks. I felt much comfortable with myself; accepting my strengths and weaknesses; and joy and happiness flooded in my life.

Stress in life started to minimize, my concentration improved, my approach to life took a new turn; I had a positive outlook towards life. My communication skills improved and I started noticing that I was paying full attention to persons who came to share with me; and give empathy and loving attention to their lives problems.  

“The purpose of the spiritual journey is that we may be transformed by God.” (Smith Elizabeth and Chalmers Joseph, A Deeper Love: An Introduction to Centering Prayer, The Continuum International Publishing group Ltd, 1999, Ch.7, p. 75). I felt that through this prayer; in the silence and stillness, the relationship with God started growing; I experienced deep healing of my childhood wounds; healing of wounds of the persons past and present; experienced healing from God and others. Here, it is notable to say that my relationship with my mother improved a lot. I always felt from her the rejection for my person and she literally tried to put me down in different ways. This childhood experience always was transferred to others from whom I felt rejected; to those who did not accept me and person that I am. The contemplative prayers has played an important part in straightening the relationship with my mother and other significant people in my life and extend my forgiveness for the treatment they gave me consciously or unconsciously; and also receive from them their forgiveness for me. This is an ongoing process in every one’s life.

Contemplative prayer and the purification process.

Purification is God’s healing process which liberates the True Self to emerge into consciousness. Often I felt that prayer has been a freeing experience for me. Consenting to God and his action within me, has initiated a purifying process, often unaware. “Centering prayer is the purifying action of God in our lives. We may never become aware of what God is doing.” (Smith Elizabeth and Chalmers Joseph, A Deeper Love: An Introduction to Centering Prayer, The Continuum International Publishing group Ltd, 1999, Ch.5, p. 58) Yet, in this process of purification, I must say I am still on the way… still grappling with it. Those moments have been not so easy. I have felt dry and loss of interest to be faithful to my prayer time and engaged in other activities rather than siting for prayer and quiet time.

In every process of healing, I have been quiet aware that this is not my work, but the presence of God who lives in me does the work. He is the ultimate actor and I need to wait for his time, when he wills, he will give me the grace to overcome. That keeps me in peace and I deeply believe that despite of the shortcoming and failures, God loves and accepts me unconditionally. ‚ÄúAll change is slow and we are in constant process. When we stay in the process God gives his grace in greater measures.‚Äù (The Spiritual Journey ‚Äì Tape Transcription, pg. 57 Contemplative Outreach, UK)  It is an on-going process; and only in letting go of all my self- defenses can I totally surrender myself to him.

I truly believe that the fruits of the prayer are to be found in our encounters with people in everyday situation. As it is said by Bourgeault, “The ‘therapy’ does not happen just on the “couch” – i.e., in the sanctuary of the prayer period itself, or in the “safe space” of a retreat format; the real crucible of transformation occurs when prayer encounters daily life.” (Bourgeault, Cynthia, Entering prayer and inner awakening, Cowley Publications, 2004 – Part IV page 109)
1.    Bourgeault, Cynthia, Entering prayer and inner awakening, Cowley Publications, 2004
2.    Smith Elizabeth and Chalmers Joseph, A Deeper Love: An Introduction to Centering Prayer, The Continuum International Publishing group Ltd, 1999
3.    The Spiritual Journey ‚Äì Tape Transcription  – Contemplative Outreach UK  

Sr. Emmie Vas SSpS
Zustersstraat 20
5935 BX, Steyl

26 May, 2014