Contemplation: 5 Ways to Breathe in

“[Contemplation] is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.” – Archbishop Rowan Williams

Our lives are busy with many important people and tasks such as family, work, studies, socialising and sport. Taking the time to stop, breathe and remember who we are can sometimes be a big ask. However in our non-stop lives the act of contemplation is necessary to help us to ground ourselves, tune into God and to savour the present moment. Here are five practical ways to weave contemplation into our daily lives

  1. Contemplating during a daily activity

There are basic tasks and activities that we do everyday or at least most days, for example eating. At meals I have a habit of throwing food down my throat rather than savouring the taste and texture. When I remember, I now aim to chew my food more and roll it around my mouth. This slows my eating down and allows me to be present, to be thankful for the privilege of delicious food and to be aware of my surrounding environment.

For a while I used to take time with God during my morning coffee. As I enjoyed my freshly prepared coffee, I imagined myself sitting across from Jesus. I would ask him any questions on my heart and give him time to answer. This helped me to be present with Him and savour the beauty of my drink.

Take some time to think through your day and see when you can take time to breathe during a regular and methodical activity.

  1. Liturgy/Guided Meditation 

For one year, Debbie and I challenged ourselves to read through Common Prayer each day. This is a liturgy that is read through and reflected on. We enjoyed the communal aspect of the process and being able to read through set prayers when we could articulate our own. It is important for communities and families to breath in together, to value the importance of sharing life. Personally I could see me using it in the future with our family over the breakfast or dinner table.

Recently I’ve been using the Sacred Space app to reflect for ten minutes. I find the simple sentences and reflections thought provoking and centring. Having a guided meditation helps me to focus on scripture and God’s presence when I might easily be distracted.

  1. Exercise

In August 2015 I badly damaged my ankle playing basketball and was unable to run for months after. During my recuperation I realised how important exercise is for my physical, emotional and spiritual states. I find it necessary to go for regular runs and connect with my thoughts as I pound the streets or scamper over the hills. Our bodies, mind and spirit are deeply connected and we need to ensure we’re looking after them. Find a way that you can exercise regularly in a life-giving way.

  1. Nature

Nature can be soothing and beautiful but also powerful and destructive. Having a healthy appreciation of the planet we live on reminds us of the inter-connectedness of life. When I’m feeling low, D is quick to encourage me to go outside as she knows this helps to lift my mood. I find getting out into nature soothing for my soul. So whether it’s going to the local park or it’s climbing a mountain, being able to hear nature’s symphony speaks to us in ways we can’t explain.

  1. Creativity

We are all creative in our own ways. You don’t need to be a professional artist or musician to embrace this side of you. Maybe your creativity comes out in the way you cook or the way you solve problems by thinking outside the box. The difficulty for me is being intentional about using my time to embrace this side of me. When I choose to pick up a pencil and draw, strum a few chords on the guitar, take my time making dinner for the family, or work out a science problem, I enter a content place. A place where I can be free and imaginative, breathing in who I am. How can you welcome your creative side?

We hope that these ideas have encouraged you to think about how you connect with who you are. Feel free to comment and add any of your own suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Contemplation: 5 Ways to Breathe in

  1. This list is very similar to a list I recently made to remind myself of the things I need most days to do and be my best. Probably obvious to you guys, but my addition to this list would be having a genuine human connection. Conversation with people who challenge you and allow you to be open can be an important space for contemplating and reframing life.

    1. This is so true. I’ve found listening to the stories and thoughts of people from a different culture expands my worldview and deepens my understanding of who I am in the world.

    2. Hannah I agree with you on this. I have a friend with whom I trust my inner thoughts and we share so much of what we have read, heard, seen and thought of things pertaining to God. It brings me closer to Him so I am more aware of His will for me as it relates to the world around me. God always wants us to be closer to Him and one way to do this is to contemplate and meditate on His word daily and then take action.
      Great job Paul is doing.

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