Is Contemplative Spirituality for Everyone?

Quiet Solitude by Rob.From time to time I have been asked if I believe contemplative spirituality is for everyone. Those who ask confess that they find it difficult and unrewarding to sit still. They experience God much more in doing things. “I’m just not wired that way,” they admit, hoping I will let them off the contemplative hook.

Neither am I, I want to respond. (I skipped centering prayer to write this post while it was fresh in my mind.) Neither was Henri Nouwen. Even though he wrote a lot about finding God in silence and solitude, he had great difficulty sitting still for five minutes.

Yet Nouwen persisted and so do I, because God desires to be truly known in a way that is unlimited by metaphors and images, thoughts and words. “Be still, and know that I am God,” the Lord says in Psalm 46:10.

I think of this poem from Celtic Daily Prayer

There is a contemplative 
in all of us,
almost strangled
but still alive,
who craves quiet
enjoyment of the Now,
and longs to touch 
the seamless 
garment of silence
makes whole.
– Alan P. Tory

Whether we are aware of it or not, we all long to be with God alone without any props. The Bible talks about it. Christian mystics remind us of it. Questions open us to it: Why am I so busy? Why is work so important to me? Who am I when I can’t do anything?

I want to say all these things to my arms-crossed inquirers, but God doesn’t.

Love will awaken that deep desire in its time.

Return by Kathrin Burleson

 You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
– Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

Credits and references:
“Quiet Solitude” by Rob. Used with permission.
Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen by Michael Ford, 1999 (p.5).
Poem by Alan P. Tory in Celtic Daily Prayer by the Northumbria Community. Originally published in Wonder: Learning the “Ah!” of Things by Alan P. Tory, Ballantine Books (1973)
“Return” by Kathrin Burleson.
© Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim, 2014.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission from Esther Hizsa is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided there is a link to the original content and credit is given as follows: © Esther Hizsa, An Everyday Pilgrim 2013, 2014

About Esther Hizsa

Esther is a spiritual director and writer. She lives in Burnaby with her husband, Fred, and they have two grown children and two grandchildren.
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