Welcome to the New ASC Web Site:
Each month CC will offer a short meditation for you to contemplate. In a fast moving world where we are bombarded with information from all sides, CC invites you to slow down and be present with the wisdom teachings of the Christian tradition and those in solidarity with these teachings from other traditions. CC also has resources for you to further your interest should you want to deepen your understanding of contemplative practices.
You are on this web page for a reason — curiosity, intellectual interest, Divine guidance. Now, as you read slowly, let your heart and mind be open and consent to the presence of the indwelling of the Divine, and be transformed.
This month we are offering a meditation by Mirabai Starr, from her latest book,
Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.
Mirabai will be here at ASC on October 6, 2019, at 5:00pm to speak about her book and we wanted you to have a preview of it.
When you are done reading, click around on our site and see what else CC has to offer. We are new and welcome feedback, so don’t hesitate to contact us with comments or questions.
Yours in Christ,
The Centering Prayer Ministry
Carol Hekman, Richard Redman, and Brian Fullner
TURNING INWARD: Cultivating Contemplative Life
An except from Wild Mercy by Mirabai Starr
Contemplative life flows in a circular pattern: awe provokes introspection, which invokes awe.
Maybe you’re making dinner and you step outside to snip chives from the kitchen garden just as the harvest moon is rising over the easterslopes. She is full and golden, like one of those pregnant women who radiate from within. Suddenly you cannot bear the beauty. Scissors suspended in your hand, tears pooling at the corners of your eyes, you nearly quit breathing. Your gaze softens, and the edges of your individual identity fade. You are absorbed into the heart of the moon. If feels natural, and there is no other place you’d rather be. But the onions are burning, and so you turn away and cut your herbs and go back inside. You resume stirring the sauce and setting the table.
This is not the first time you have disappeared into something beautiful. You have experienced the unfettering of the subject-object distinction while holding your daughter’s hand as she labored to give birth to your grandson; when you curled up in bed with your dying friend and sang her Haskiveinu, the Hebrew prayer for a peaceful sleep; while yielding to your lover’s lips. You have lost yourself in heartbreak, then lost the desire to ever regain yourself, then lost your fear of death. You long ago relinquished your need for cosmic order and personal control. You welcome unknowingness.
Which is why seemingly ordinary moments like moonrises and lovemaking undo you. The veil has been pulled back. Everything feels inexhaustibly holy. This is not what they taught you in the church of your childhood. Your soul had been formed in the forge of life’s losses, galvanized in the crucible of community, fertilized by the rain of relationship, blessed by your intimacy with Mother Earth. You have glimpsed the face of the Divine where you least expected it.
And this is why you cultivate contemplative practice. The more you intentionally turn inward, the more available the sacred becomes. When you sit in silence and turn your gaze toward the Holy Mystery you once called God, the Mystery follows you back out into the world. When you walk with a purposeful focus on breath and bird song, your breathing and the twitter of the chickadee reveal themselves as a miracle. When you eat your burrito mindfully, gratitude for every step that led to the perfect combination of beans and cheese and tortilla — from grain and sunlight to rain and migrant labor — fills your heart and renders you even more inclined to be grateful.
So sit down to meditate not only because it helps you to find rest in the arms of the formless Beloved but also because it increases your chance of being stunned by beauty when you get back up. Encounters with the sacred that radiate from the core of the ordinary embolden you to cultivate stillness and simple awareness. In the midst of a world that is begging you to distract yourself, this is no easy practice. Yet you keep showing up. You are indomitable. You are thirsty for wonder.
What is Contemplation?
Contemplative practices facilitate and deepen our relationship with God. The more we practice and allow the transformation process to happen, the more we are able to experience the Indwelling Presence in everything we do. Contemplative practices give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear God calling us to the banquet that is our lives, as they are.
Contemplative Practices at All Saints Church
Centering prayer is a form of contemplative prayer that is rooted in the Christian tradition and the wisdom saying of Jesus, “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to God in secret. And God, who sees in secret, will repay you” (Mtt 6:6). It is a discipline of intentional silence, where the individual in trusting faith, empties their self to become entirely receptive to God’s divine love. This is a prayer of surrendering life as lived on our terms to receive the indwelling love of God given to us. Each person chooses a word to help them keep focus and as a reminder of their intention to remain open to God’s love. This practice can be done alone or in a group. Over time, it is best to do CP for two twenty-minute periods per day. At All Saints Church we meet Tuesday evenings in the chapel.
Here we allow ourselves to settle in silence, to come home to the refuge of who we really are as God’s own. We sit in fellowship in our All Saints chapel, resting in the stillness of the Spirit. We listen. We keep watch. We let the healing, transformative presence work its mystery in us.
This form of worship includes simple songs and chants in different languages, readings, silences and prayers. At All Saints Church we have monthly and weekly gatherings.
The labyrinth is like a maze you walk through, except there is only one path from start to finish. A form of movement meditation, this is an ancient spiritual tool, steeped in spiritual mystery and practiced all over the world. Our labyrinth at All Saints Church is a replica of the medieval labyrinth of France’s Chartres Cathedral.
- Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening. Bourgeault, Cynthia.
- Open Mind, Open Heart. Keating, Thomas.
- Wild Mercy; Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics. Starr, Mirabai.
- What the Mystics Know: Seven Pathways to Your Deeper Self. Rohr, Richard.
“Wild Mercy: The Wisdom of the Feminine”
with Mirabai Starr
On Sunday, October 6th from 5 to 7 PM, Mirabai Starr will be speaking about and signing her latest book, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics. There is no charge for admission. Books will be available for sale. Location: Forum. Contact: Christina Honchell, firstname.lastname@example.org, (626) 583-2742.
Putting it Into Practice
Commit to cultivating a contemplative practice. A commitment to a practice of sitting in silence for a period of 20 minutes, once or twice a day, is good. If you need to start with 10 minutes, do that till you are able to sit in silence for 20 minutes. It is best to learn traditional techniques of contemplation under the guidance of a teacher or experienced practitioner. Here at ASC we have a weekly meeting of Centering Prayer every Tuesday, in the Chapel from 6:45pm to 8:00pm, where we practice contemplative prayer in a group setting, followed by 10 minutes of walking in silence, ending with a short reading and discussion. No experience with meditation is necessary to participate. Yet, even just ten to twenty minutes of following the arc of your inhale and exhale while in a seated posture, with eyes closed or gazing downward, can be transformative. Click the tabs on the CC website to see other forms of contemplative practices here at ASC.
Union with God is not something any of us needs to acquire. It only needs to be realized. By way of intentional silence and self-surrender into the practice of contemplation the illusion of separation from God dispelled.