From the Introduction: Pushing the Pause Button
Teaching contemplative prayer practices, which nurture personal faith, presents two challenges. First of all, these practices are “nonpractices” in the sense that they call us to pause in our busy lives. These are more about listening than speaking. It takes time for people to learn the art of such a pause. Second, these practices, developed in early Christian monastic settings, only recently have returned to public awareness. We are thus seeking to learn and teach these practices largely “on our own.” Most of us in the Protestant traditions do not have the sustained daily rhythms of a Christian monastic community in which to cultivate this heart of God’s presence. We are seeking to integrate such practices into family life and active participation in the world.
The gentle presence that we cultivate in spiritual formation practice is described well in Parker Palmer’s understanding of a “circle of trust.” He contrasts a circle of trust with the circles we ordinarily convene.
A circle of trust is a group of people who know how to sit quietly “in the woods” with each other and wait for the shy soul to show up. The relationships in such a group are not pushy but patient; they are not confrontational but compassionate; they are filled not with expectations and demands but with abiding faith in the reality of the inner teacher and in each person’s capacity to learn from it. The poet Rumi captures the essence of this way of being together: “A circle of lovely, quiet people becomes the ring on my finger.” (A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004, 59)
Does it make a difference if we learn to appreciate one another within our congregations across theological and cultural differences? Today it is essential. It is not a luxury. I’ve come to deeply appreciate any practice that puts some space between our quick reactivity and our actions. A few decades ago, such practices were denigrated as self-absorbed navel gazing. Quite the contrary, such practices are essential to break the imprisonment caused by naming anyone different from ourselves as “enemy.” We must examine such attitudes and break their power over us in the name of Jesus’ calling to compassion.
How do you "push the pause button?"