One Simple Change That Dramatically Transformed My Contemplative Practice

Since college, I‘ve been convinced of the value of contemplative practice, its capacity to help with awareness, with letting go, and with spiritual growth in general. But for years I had the same problem: I couldn’t stay consistent.

I would go through some difficulty: a break-up, a life change, conflict at work, whatever. The inner tension would mount and I’d pick up my contemplative practice again. 20 minutes of practice first thing in the morning, and again in the evening, and I’d feel a whole lot calmer.

The problem with this is it limits the scope of contemplative practice to stress relief, to situational self-help. But it’s a lot more than that. It’s a way of being, but it does take a commitment to ongoing transformation.

But even when I had that insight I still struggled with sitting in silence for 20 minutes straight. It wasn’t until several years of fits and starts, a month here and there with limited benefit that I made a huge change.

Almost as an aside in one of his videos, Thomas Keating threw out a nugget  to help the transition from our ordinary thought patterns to the contemplative space.

Here’s how. When you’re sitting comfortably, after you’ve set the timer, with your sacred word in mind (for a general Centering Prayer how to, click here):

  • Focus your attention on the spot two inches above your navel for two full breaths
  • If a thought arises, gently return your attention to the body
  • Focus attention on the area above your upper lip for two full breaths
  • Again, let go of thoughts that arise
  • Focus attention two inches behind your eyes for two full breaths, then begin your practice

This slows you down and makes for a much easier transition into the contemplative space. It welcomes the silence. And if we don’t make a habit of welcoming the silence, it won’t stay.

This simple practice made a huge difference in my ability to maintain daily practice. It’s like a personal turn-down service for heartfulness. The life change is monumental.

Question: What simple practice helps you to stay the course in your spiritual practices? Share your answer on Facebook or Twitter

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  • A very wise distinction between stress conditioning v. Way of life. Great read, Marc, and thank you for the resources!