Understanding the Tree

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1 Understanding the Tree On the Tree of Contemplative Practices, the roots symbolize the two intentions that are the foundation of all contemplative practices. The roots of the tree encompass and transcend differences in the religious traditions from which many of the practices originated, and allow room for the inclusion of new practices that are being created in secular contexts. The branches represent different groupings of practices. For example, Stillness Practices focus on quieting the mind and body in order to develop calmness and focus. Generative Practices may come in many different forms but share the common intent of generating thoughts and feelings, such as thoughts of devotion and compassion, rather than calming and quieting the mind. (Please note that such classifications are not definitive, and many practices could be included in more than one category.) Because this illustration cannot possibly include all contemplative practices, we offer a free download of a blank Tree that you can customize to include your own practices. Activities not included on the tree (including those which may seem mundane, such as gardening or eating) may be understood to be contemplative practices when done with the intent of cultivating awareness and wisdom.

2 Activist Practices Pilgrimage to areas where social justice issues are highlighted Work and Volunteering Vigils and Marches Bearing Witness Creative Practices Contemplative Arts Improvisation Music and Singing Journaling Generative Practices Lectio Divina Visualization Beholding Loving-Kindness Meditation Movement Practices Labyrinth Walking Walking Meditation Yoga Dance Qigong Aikido Tai Chi Chu an Relational Practices Council Circle Dialog Deep Listening Storytelling Ritual/Cyclical Practices Ceremonies and Rituals based in Spiritual or Cultural Traditions Establishing a Sacred/Personal Space Retreats Stillness Practices Meditation Quieting the Mind Silence Centering Pilgrimage A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone's own beliefs. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit. A person who makes such a journey is called a

3 pilgrim. As a common human experience, pilgrimage has been proposed as a Jungian archetype by Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift. [1] Contemplative Art Art-making is a contemplative practice that affects us internally, through our thoughts and emotions, as well as externally, through the creation of object and images that can serve as sources of inspiration and healing. Contemplative art may be loosely divided into two (nonexclusive) categories: 1) Process Emphasis: the process of making artwork is what is paramount; the work that results from the practice is not important. One might consider these contemplative practices to be simply exercises; they can be especially freeing for those who feel they lack adequate artistic talent or skill, since the point of the practice is not to make good art, but simply to observe the mind while engaging in the creative process. 2) Product Emphasis: the practitioner intends to create a specific type of object which may be directly related to other contemplative practices. For example, painting a religious icon, weaving a prayer shawl, stringing a rosary, or hand-binding a journal may done with mindful intention. The practice has a desired result: to produce a particular image or object. In both cases, despite the emphasis on process or product, the intention of the practitioner is the same: to engage in the creative process with contemplative awareness. Lectio Divina Deep, contemplative reading is part of just about all traditions with written scriptures. Since most of the religions have revered texts, reading forms a very special form of devotion and provides an interesting background to explore the modes of contemplative engagement. In the Christian tradition contemplative reading is known as lectio divina ( divine reading, in Latin). Through a process of close, contemplative reading, the simple words on the page become clearer and more meaningful. It brings greater understanding and connection, something easily missed by a superficial, quick reading. The instructions for his exercise are as follows: 1. Sit quietly and relax our minds and bodies for one minute. 2. Read aloud, slowly, the entire text, each of us reading one or two sentences, passing along the reading to the left to the next reader. 3. One minute of silence and reflection. 4. One of us reads aloud the short passage that we have chosen in advance. 5. Another minute of silence and reflection.

4 6. We share a word or short phrase in response to the reading just give voice to the word without explanation or discussion. 7. Another person reads the short passage again. 8. One minute of silence and reflection. 9. We share longer responses to the text a sentence or two. We listen attentively to one another without correcting or disputing. 10. Another person reads the short passage one last time, followed by another minute of silence. Labyrinth Walking Labyrinth walking is the practice of journeying to and then returning from the center. A labyrinth has a clearly marked path to follow, and is not a maze in which you can get lost. Labyrinths can be thought as symbolic forms of pilgrimage; you can walk the path ascending towards salvation or enlightenment. During the middle ages, labyrinths were built in a number of large European churches. The full flowering of the medieval labyrinth design came about during the 12th and 13th centuries with the grand labyrinths of the gothic cathedrals, most notably Chartres and Amiens in Northern France and Siena in Tuscany. There are also remarkable examples of the labyrinth shape from a whole range of ancient cultures. The symbol has appeared in forms and media, such as petroglyphs, pavement, grass and basketry, throughout most parts of the world, from Java, Native North and South America and Australia, to India and Nepal. Many labyrinths exist today in churches and parks to provide people with a meditative way to relieve stress. Labyrinths can now also be found in retreat centers, hospitals, prisons, parks, airports and community centers. There are at least 2,000 permanent labyrinths in the United States alone.

5 Labyrinths may be created with stone, tape, fabric, sticks, chalk, plants, and many other materials. Finger labyrinths are also rising in popularity, as small wooden or metal plaques on which the labyrinth pattern is traced with a finger or a stylus. Deep Listening Deep Listening is a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment without trying to control it or judge it. We let go of our inner clamoring and our usual assumptions and listen with respect for precisely what is being said. For listening to be effective, we require a contemplative mind: open, fresh, alert, attentive, calm, and receptive. We often do not have a clear concept of listening as an active process; we often see listening as a passive, static activity. In fact, listening and a contemplative mind is open and vibrant yet spacious, and it can be cultivated through instruction and practice. As a classroom practice, deep listening requires that students witness their thoughts and emotions while maintaining focused attention on what they are hearing. It trains them to pay full attention to the sound of the words, while abandoning such habits as planning their next statement or interrupting the speaker. It is attentive rather than reactive listening. Such listening not only increases retention of material but encourages insight and the making of meaning. Meditation on Sound: Instruction Try to sit stable and still, like a mountain. Be relaxed and alert. Close your eyes. Listen to the sounds as they occur. Do not imagine, name, or analyze the sounds. As names arise, release them and return to the sounds. Just listen with wide-open awareness. Let the sounds come to you and touch your eardrums. As thoughts, emotions, memories, associations arise in your mind, notice them, gently let them go, and return to the sounds. You might think of the difference between radar that goes out looking for something and a satellite dish with a wide range of pickup capacity that just sits in the backyard, waiting. Be a satellite dish. Stay turned on, but just wait. Sylvia Boorstein Notice how the sounds arise and fall away. Do not grasp at sounds.

6 Do not reject sounds. If there are no sounds, listen, and rest in the silence. After the exercise, ask: In your daily life notice the positive and negative habits you might have in your approach to listening. What helps you to listen fully, without judgment? If you are in a place that is very noisy, how can you help yourself? Must you find a quieter place or wear earplugs? Or can you be with these sounds in a different way? Meaningful Conversation In conversation, we are often so focused on projecting our opinions and defending our agenda that we fail to hear the voices of others. This tendency is why contemplative dialog and deep listening practices challenge the way we normally engage in conversation. These practices rely on a commitment to self-control and self-awareness, as well as a group-centered rather than selfcentered approach. Attending Retreats There are many different kinds of retreat solitary or group, religious or secular, highly structured or self-directed but any retreat essentially involves getting away from your usual distractions to focus on your contemplative practice. This is what separates a retreat from other forms of rest or vacation: your intention. When you go on a retreat, you make a commitment to engage in and deepen your contemplative practice. Since retreats are often lead by a teacher, they can also be valuable opportunities for you to ask questions and receive guidance on more personal spiritual matters. Centering

7 Centering is one of the simplest and most common forms of contemplative practice. The center refers to a relaxed yet focused state of mind. Centering practice is especially helpful in the midst of strong emotional states such as excitement or anxiety, and is often used by athletes, public speakers, actors, and anyone who wants to feel stable and prepared before a potentially stressful event. Anything that helps you feel tranquil and aware can become your centering practice. Common Centering Methods: Count numbers, such as counting down from 10 to dissipate anger Repeat a word or phrase, such as a prayer or affirmation Smile and relaxing your body Go for a walk; get out into a different environment Stretch Close your eyes and breathe deeply Concentrate on breathing, such as breathing out for a count of 8 and in for a count of 4 Count your breaths Doodle or write Carry or place near yourself a visual reminder to stay centered, such as a quote or image Use sound to bring yourself back to your center. Periodically ring a bell, chime, or other gentle reminder. Persistence is an important aspect of centering practice. Purposefully centering yourself many times throughout the day, even when you are not feeling particularly emotional or in need of centering, will help to deepen your practice.

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