A New Contemplative: Timely reflections from a night time blog walk down Broadway.

For those of you tracking, my meeting with the leader of the Holy Orders committee yesterday went 'swimmingly', in the words of the leader of my discernment group. I'm meeting with the HOC again in a week and a half, confident this time that I'll be able to clear the hurdle that I depressingly, comprehensively tripped over last week.

For that meeting I've been charged with the somewhat unusual (to most normal humans) task of talking about my set of spiritual practices concisely and clearly--to 'speak so that people can hear', as it were. I talk about 'Blog walking' all the time here, and I wrote a Rule of Life describing those practices a few months back, you might remember. The problem is that I've had trouble packaging that into something clear and coherent for a group of people that know almost nothing about me and speak a wholly different dialect of Christianese (I speak postmodern emerging Episcopalian, they speak modern liberal Episcopalian). Well, I've stumbled onto something, and realize now that my spiritual approach is thoroughly in line with the varieties of contemplative approaches that have popped up primarily in the Monastic tradition at various times across the past 1500 years.

The path that you try to follow to God will always depend upon the God that you're looking for. When I was young, I was looking for a God who was a lot like a human--a transcendent and all-powerful wholly-separate 'person'--so conversational prayer made the most sense: speak to God in English and listen for him to speak back to you--preferably through the words in the Bible. I still do that a lot of days, because it's honestly the easiest, purest way to pray.

The problem is, that kind of prayer doesn't seem to make that much sense based upon the view of God that I have now. I'm a panentheist, so God is immanent here, everywhere, in everything as well as bigger than here, everywhere and everything. It's hard to converse with a God that you perceive as being a part of you, and expecting God to speak back only through Scripture is severely limiting--God doesn't only live in that book, after all.

So, what is my most crucial personal spiritual practice? Meditative prayer, starting most often by walking and intentionally focusing on the people and places in my environment (and Broadway's a good place to start), or at other times the subjects of my studies or Scripture or music or art, and at the best moments moving towards contemplation--a consciousness of God's presence that isn't about rational knowledge, but the experience of the Holy Spirit of Christ.

That's how I'll describe it in liberal Episcopalianese. In the ironic emerging Episcopalianese language that I've made up, I'm a blog walker who goes on urban caminos and pays attention to the place where I live, assuming that transcendence, purpose and meaning are close by. That transcendence shows up just as reliably at indie concerts at bars as it does in disciplined study of Scripture, and it's nothing foreign to most people. As Matthew Fox points out frequently, there's almost no one who hasn't experienced God--it's just that most people in the West don't call it that anymore.

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