Let's let this thread be for purposes of discussing how one's lifestyle relates to contemplative practice, and vice versa. Pretty much anything can be considered in this context.
I will begin by saying that some 25 or so years ago, contemplative practice had become a necessity to me, and this has created its fair share of hardships through the years--mostly for my family.
What happened way back then was that my psycho-physiological equilibrium seems to have re-set itself to a state of contemplative consciousness whose maintenance required a modicum of silence, solitude and prayer each day. When this could not happen (or when I cut corners), I felt cranky, shallow, and headachey--like some kind of band of pressure was literally squeezing my brain. My mind would race from one thing to another and I enjoyed very little of what went on in life. Who wants to feel like that, right? Anyone would pray if *that* was the alternative.
I recognize, here, some of the classic signs of withdrawal from an addictive involvement, but it's always seemed to me that contemplative practice was a kind of "positive addiction." I don't mind acknowledging a "fix" dynamic at work in my morning meditation time, but my blood pressure yesterday tested at 110 over 65 when I took my annual physical. My doctor was amazed, especially when I told her that I do very little aerobically.
So what is required for my life to work optimally is three prayer periods a day: 45 minutes first thing in the morning; 20 minutes before suppoer, and a few minutes at bed time. Ideally, there are times of silence and solitude during the day when I can pursue my work without pressure; those conditions are met better on some days than others. I can watch TV, drink alcohol, and eat stimulating foods only in small amounts. Reading is also a struggle; I can't do a whole lot without my mind just closing off after awhile.
I don't mind any of this, for the present moment holds sufficient interest and energy to provide plenty of enjoyment in life. But it's not easy to keep this lifestyle when visiting family, for example, or when they visit us. I've just come to tell them when I need my quiet time, and they've just come to accept it. When I'm done, I don't isolate, but I'm usually grateful when the change of schedule is over.
There's something about contemplative practice which seems to thrive on a regular schedule. I'm sure that has influenced monastic life.
But that's enough from me for now. How does it go for you all?
What happened way back then was that my psycho-physiological equilibrium seems to have re-set itself to a state of contemplative consciousness whose maintenance required a modicum of silence, solitude and prayer each day. When this could not happen (or when I cut corners), I felt cranky, shallow, and headachey--like some kind of band of pressure was literally squeezing my brain. My mind would race from one thing to another and I enjoyed very little of what went on in life. Who wants to feel like that, right? Anyone would pray if *that* was the alternative
I relate to that completely. I've made comments before in the forums about living a "simple" life and for me, that is very much a part of what you've described here. It's almost like "I" cease to exist when I don't have the solitude and prayer time...and some "other" yucky person takes my place. It's an amazing transformation..one I don't like either.
Like you, my family knows when I head off to the bedroom by myself, it's "me" time. I usually read scripture or some spiritual writing and pray. During warm parts of the year I wander around outside taking in nature and meditating...that kind of thing.
In many ways, my life has always been "contemplative", but it has become much more important in these last 10 years or so than it was before. It is, I believe, where God wants me in my day to day communion with Him.
I am still on the journey of discovering my ideal balance for contemplative living. Several years ago I had what I thought was the perfect balance. I got up early, had about an hour of prayer, taught school, then had about a half hour of prayer transitioning from being a teacher to being a wife and mother. I have a little office at home and I can shut the door and my family knew that half hour after school with that door closed was very special for me and would not interrupt needlessly. That life style suited me.
Something must have been wrong because my body started to fall apart, however ,and my health was adversely affected. I had dizzy spells,intense headaches, was physically exhausted much of the time. My sense of spiritual connectedness and peace never left me but it became harder and harder to get through the day physically. Each day, as I got up , I never knew if I'd make it through the day without those attacks of debilitating dizziness, headaches or whatever. I would be ok during prayer times, and then get up and be violently sick, or mildly sick, or every once in while..ok.
Finally, I gave up and made an appointment for a complete physical. This was radical for me because , at the time, I didn't even really have a personal physician. We are a naturalist, chiropractic based family and there had never been anything that right living and vitamins and adjustments couldn't take care of. There were myriad things wrong with me, but the most significant was an almost non-funtioning thyroid. I've been through several medications and finally found one that seems to work.
I had given up my early morning prayer trying to find my body's natural rhythm. I thought maybe I was just not a morning person and that schedule was too taxing. With my morning prayer gone i was not so exhausted, but I felt like my anchor was gone. I really drifted spiritually. I tried other forms of prayer.. Liturgy of the HOurs. I liked the schedule of prayers and the Hours a basesd on psalms which I love, but I still was spiritually unsatisfied. I did more spiritual reading. I didn't seem to catch my interest like I needed. I also had a sense of being betrayed. I had done what I needed spiritually, why didn't it work physically? It just didn't make sense. I still don't understand that part.
I am back to being physically healthy. It took a while to trust my new sense of energy. What I wanted was my morning prayer hour. finally this month I took the plunge. I get up early , do mild exercise and head to the chapel. It is for only a half hour, then to school. Most days I feel like singing! It feels so good! I'm anchored and safe and there isn't anything I can't handle. My energy increases because i'm just happy to have my morning prayer time. I don't pray the Hours anymore, I don't read much. (I don't even spend much time on the computer. Which is why I'm not too active on these boards.) I pray the Rosary, but my way. Sometimes I quit saying the Hail Marys and jsut sit with the mystery for a while.
Sorry for the length, but I didn't know how to condense it and make sense. I've learned that my contemplative lifestyle demands prayer time on a schedule, and apparently it is morning prayer time. Being a fairly laid back individual, I find that odd....that one area of my life would be so unyielding. I never stopped praying, but without morning prayer, it was different and unfulfilled. I'm still learning about what I need. It seems to me that when the contemplative life is serious, it is running you more than you controlling it. That, too, Phil, seems addictive. What is all this saying?
it has been a LONG time since I have posted here or much of anywhere, but in reading mka, I found a commonality [if there is such a word].
have been on that 'search' for a number of years of how contemplative prayer fits or how I am to make it fit---or??
Yet I know without a doubt that I MUST have a schedule or I bounce all over the place and the Lord just wonders-----will she ever get with it? [tried the icons but messed up!]
In my late years of life on this side of the veil I have come to be aware of my many weaknessses and am so glad that He has revealed them. Sanity is a weakness....I just struggle daily with depression but that too is okay as it seems to keep me hanging onto His hand!
Have been through the gamut but like mka and Phil.....tis the morning! The morning time!! From the time I get up until lunch time is time with Him.....in silence, lectio, breviary. I used to just do it the best I can after I woke up but I was waking later and later. so am setting the alarm, which I said I would never do in my retirement, and the discipline 'seems' to be working. Then in late pm another hour of prayer after exercise. MUST HAVE the silence! My neighborhood is basically quiet but it can have its moments and its days but a friends suggestion has been a lifesaver! Foam ear plugs! Greatest thing since white bread! and aids in the silence/meditation/contemplation.
Like some of you, I am not sure I am working the disicpline or it is working me. nevertheless it is the time in silence with Him and the using of the Jesus Prayer--then and throughout the day--that seems to say: this is it!
I love the Breviary......the discipline is worked around the hours. They allow my mind to stay focused and with my mind, it needs all the help it can get.
One thing I have noticed lately is the lack of the ability to express my heart like I would desire. maybe the silence and solitude are partly responsible as I am basically a solitary. Not quite hermitish, but close this is not something I have necessarily sought; it has been given. My role seems to be to accept or reject and right now, acceptance is it.
there is a Love that comes from sitting......just sitting in silence with Him. and it keeps this ole legalistic styled soul from going amuk. at the same time, I do believe our dear sweet Lord has given me this silence/solitude/daily regimen as a means to calm and give perimeters my legalism rather than give in to it.
it is good to see phil and johnboy. I know I have been a handful but I am blunt and straightforward--so I pray you will bear with me.
Thanks for the depthful, personal sharing, Anne.
Just to say a big Thank You for everyone at this site. I am retired and seventy, and I am ashamed to say I am still assailed by tensions and worldly worries. This discussion guides me to grow towards tranquility and silence and growth in love and volunteering in God's service. Thank you all, God bless you!.
Sounds like you're still a member of the human race, sakthi.
Welcome to the forum!
Thank you all for sharing your stories. This is something I have been working at for years.. trying to get "balance" in my life and getting all my things done (those worldly things) and also living my contemplative lifestyle.
Like Anne, I spend most of the morning in prayer and spiritual reading. However I find it hard to get up early enough to get everything in. I do "Centering Prayer" for at least 20 min., do breathing for at least 15 minutes, read my Bible, do other spiritual reading to "get in the mood" to pray. Still there are other things I don't get in sometimes such as intercessory prayer, yoga exercises, lectio, etc.
During the rest of the day I need to get a walk in, have another session of Centering Prayer and Breathwork. I also drink a lot of water (yes, even that takes time) "sniff" essential oils :-) and other health things. It takes nearly my whole day to do everything I need to do! If I "cut corners" as Phil said, I don't feel as well, don't feel centered, as I am the "anxious" type, and also highly sensitive, meaning I need a quiet, healthy lifestyle.
Anyway, besides all these things, I have a husband to cook for, wash etc., two cats to keep happy (I love my kitties) 2 acres of yard to keep looking nice. I am extremely grateful for our lovely little house and yard, and all the creatures we have. The other day I saw a mother deer with THREE little fawn!)
Our house is small, but we have too much STUFF. I am constantly looking for ways to cut down. Clutter makes me nervous and is unhealthy.
Well, sorry I am rambling. I guess I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who needs a lot of quiet time and a simple life. I do seem to actually get ill when I slip up too much. Any insights or comments, or support, anyone? My "complaint" is that I have too much to do. And I haven't even mentioned everything.
P.S. Confession: I do spend too much time on the internet. I'm thinking about fasting from the internet, except for maybe my email.
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