Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creativity as Spiritual Practice

I have spent a considerable amount of time this semester learning to play hymns on the piano. Because there is much intentionality around this, it has developed into a spiritual practice of sorts. I have not **loved** the 1982 hymnal and am not a big lover of the organ. As a way to heighten my appreciation and improve my own musicality, there are about six hymns that have meant a lot to me. Wondrous Love, Joyful, Joyful, Simple Gifts, Be Thou My Vision, Fount of All Holiness, and Amazing Grace are the hymns I've played the most. Something 'clicks' during my practice time -- my spirit being lifted but nothing overtly emotional. What is the difference between 'work' and spiritual itentionality -- is this prayerful to practice even if I don't feel anything. I have felt like I've been wandering in the desert--keep on hoping one of these practices: music making, Tai Chi will open the spiritual door.

As I pay more attention to music, I have gone to a few Spanish Eucharists in the past month or so. I think it means much for the music ...I really did not embrace some of the guitar music-- it just was not very inspiring and the singing just very mediocre. It reminds me of Neil Alexander's essay on excellence in liturgy "people appreciate quality." Part of me is so opposed to choirs where one must rehearse but on the other hand I really appreciate excellence in liturgy. What matters most is that this music is of this community for this community.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yet another experiment..

I have to admit I've tried some new things this Lent and also conserved some of my traditions.
I did Tai-Chi although I've missed a few classes. But I definitely need to make this a regular part of my spiritual practice. At the end of my last class the teacher showed us a form called "push hands" where you follow the energyflow of your partner in a circle and then you lead-- it is supposedly a martial art. I closed my eyes as we moved down the square dance style line. My teacher commented that I really got "into it" as I closed my eyes. My mind is always whirling in how I can expand and deepen Christian spiritual practice by borrowing from other traditions. I would love to incorporate this into a meditative chapel as a was of spiritual bonding among participants and community building.

Well, it's back to Thomas Merton and Tony Jones.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spiritual Direction

I left my spiritual director behind in Virginia. I was surprised when I got to EDS that the school did not supply us with spiritual directors (VTS offers this to its seminarians) and does not maintain a relationship with SSJE -- apparently there is a wait list. Ahh, guess being a seminarian a few blocks away does not give priority.

I spent 1 hour 30 minutes communiting on the 'T' out to Boston College. I did not realize I was going to a convent. It was nice though to connect with someone in a spiritual direction capacity. I admitted my frustration with centering prayer (i don't think it's the practice for me) and my visit to the Zen Center (another visit is in order!). I said my prayer life was as dry as the desert and how profoundly frustrating that is. What would I tell teenagers about prayer and purpose in praying when it is dry, dull, seems one sided and lackluster. To pray should be to feel God's presence. The absence in prayer can be downright depressing. The SD said it could be a period of faitfulness. But why is that necessary? Two years! It is the same story - I prayed, acted on the felt response (joy),did what G*d wanted, and we'll leave it at that.

I think, though, spiritual direction is a discipline that is highly recommended to those who want to "go deep" in their prayer life.

A different practice

I appreciate Tony Jones's book but I'm more interested in spending my energy on incorporating a practice that works for me.

It's dark, lights out, candle flaming, prayer filled poetry.....and traditional adoration, thanksgiving and intercession. Flamenco or taize in the background.

I have also found tai chi can be invigorating.

I had a long conversation last week about some of the problems with Christianity -- that it is a disembodied religion. We need to borrow from Native American and shamanic traditions. Anglicans are supposed to be embracers of incarnational theology. That means our bodies are central to our lives of worship and prayer....I'll blog on what my new spiritual director says about this!

Centering praye is very,very slow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rule of Life Updae-- making slow progress.

I continue to use my version of the daily office-- a highly contemporary one by Thomas Merton. I like to pray early at dawn or late at night with the lights off and by candle light. In the office there is a pause for "Silence" so that is when I have slipped into the Jesus Prayer or Centering Prayer. the other day when I was doing Tai Chi exercises I tried to do it to the Jesus Prayer and I had some acoustical African music in the background. That was better to some degree - I'm not making much connection through centering prayer. I find it is very hard to empty the mind and center. I last maybe 5 minutes. I am going to actually try Zen Meditation to see if that will improve my concentration. Or maybe centering prayer is just not for me. I went to a Quaker service over the summer and no one was moved to speak. It was total silence for an hour-- not that this was bad but it did not do much for me spiritually.

So my efforts for the next couple of weeks will be to continue to integrate some fort of prayer or meditation with my Tai Chi and try to get some training in Buddhist meditation. I think Salesian prayer practices with the mind and imagination actively engaged might be a better fit for me. I'll try that at the end of the two weeks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Soul Shaping via Centering Prayer

When the UPS guy delivered this package, I was quite impressed by this little book on spiritual practices packaged like a manual for your new car. I thought that was quite clever packaging!
The contents, however, were a bit more complex {(not to say how an alternator functions is not complex) listing ancient spiritual practices (like fasting, centering prayer, Jesus prayer, Ignatian examen, labyrinth, pilgrimage etc) along with not only a “how to” but a “why for” (i.e. theology). Tony Jones admonishes that youth workers should not “schedule” time to learn centering prayer but must first try on the practices themselves.
I’ve been trying to get back into a regular practice of prayer. I wrote a Rule of Life two years ago centered on the Native American medicine wheel. I need to revisit that Rule of Life since I did abandon it somewhat.
What I have been doing the past few weeks is integrating a highly contemporary modified daily office by Thomas Merton. There is an established pattern of prayer, psalmody and scriptural reflection (scripture adapted by Merton) with robust imagery and vivid contemporary language. The only drawback it is “He, Him, His” so I change some of it to “She, Her, and Hers” just to have balance. There are four offices around Dawn, Day, Evening, and Dusk. In each office there is a pause for silence—this is where I inserted centering prayer last night and this morning. I used the word “Beloved” to center myself, which I found hard even in the darkness by candlelight. I did everything I could to create a mood of soft, tranquil solitude. My monkey mind made this exercise challenging even in spite of my efforts to really engage myself in this activity. I have actually been thinking about taking up Zen Meditation to learn how to learn how to detach better And since I am in Cambridge where one can find a myriad of alternative spiritualities, I think I need to try to see how centering prayer and Buddhist meditation intersect.
I am currently studying Tai Chi (two weeks) and want to integrate Tai Chi into my spiritual practice as well. But I’ll leave that for a separate blog posting. This is my bad habit of taking on too much in one posting.