Cultivating Contemplation

Contemplative practices are those that quiet the mind and generate a state of reflection that holds a world of knowledge. These practices range from meditation, yoga, writing to walking, dance, and others. (Visit http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/tree for more on contemplative practices.)

I find wintertime to be the perfect time to cultivate the contemplative practices that bring me inner peace. In my late teens, I found Tae Kwon Do. This martial arts practice taught me what can be accomplished with determination and a disciplined body and mind. Over the many years of training, it gave me confidence and a sense of joy for learning and growing physically and emotionally. It shaped me in so many ways. As I have aged, I have cultivated other contemplative practices like meditation, tai chi walks in the forest, and storytelling to nurture the spiritual part of my life.

For me, the keys to any contemplative practice are consistency and self-compassion. I’ll be honest, there are days when it is hard for me to sit still or go for a walk. There are high-stress moments and deadlines to meet – they seem more deserving of my attention. I don’t eat as well, I don’t sleep as well, and I feel out of sorts. Ultimately the groundedness I feel when I stay in tune to these practices and prioritize them, outweighs the alternatives. The more I make space for meditation or a walk in the woods, the greater the distance between a trigger or stressor and my response; I feel a greater sense of calm and awareness. 

What will you do during these darker, colder months that will allow you to emerge into the warmth of spring a more centered person? Perhaps you’ve been saying you want to write daily but have not made the time for it. Maybe you promise yourself that you will wake up 20 minutes earlier for some quiet, alone time but the snooze button is just too easy to hit in the morning.

I encourage you to try and stay consistent with whatever contemplative practice you enjoy. I leave you with these words from Stephen Covey, “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.

chia tea ld

Chaga Chai:
A grounding and warming herbal beverage

Chaga mushroom has a rich, coffee-like taste and helps support the immune system. 

Ingredients

  • 8 oz water
  • 4 oz milk or non dairy milk of choice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of black tea (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chaga powder
  • 4 cardamom pods smashed with side of a knife
  • 2 in. section of a cinnamon stick
  • 1-2, 1/4 ” slices of fresh ginger
  • Pinch of fennel seed, about 10 seeds
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • Honey or maple syrup to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add water, milk, spices and chaga powder to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Add tea. Steep tea about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Strain into a cup and stir in honey to taste.

*Other herbs like dandelion or burdock can also be added to this drink

contemplative tree

The Tree of Contemplative Practices

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.)

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