Are you embracing contemplative practices in the New Year?

Leadership and Spiritual Formation DMin Retrea...

Progressive Christianity is full-on tickling this year. And those whose ears are itching for a little spice in their spirituality won’t be disappointed with the contemplative writings of Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., a “Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess,” who teaches monastic spirituality and going into the “divine silence’ of contemplative prayer. Her latest article, Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices, instructs Christians to welcome ambiguity by adopting some spiritual disciplines. She starts with a beckoning that should sound familiar to those in the Spiritual Formation movement:

Imagine if your New Year’s wasn’t about fixing or improving, but about deepening and transforming, about embracing the holy mystery at the heart of the world.

Well, that doesn’t sound all that awful, does it? Who doesn’t want a deepening relationship with our Savior; one that transforms us into the image of Him? Sign me up for those practices, right?

Not so fast. Let’s examine those ten essentials Christians must follow, according to Paintner:

New Year’s resolutions often come from a place of lack, or of thinking we know how to “fix” ourselves. Unfortunately, they are often fueled by a consumer culture that is eager to have us buy more and more things to improve ourselves. Embracing mystery, on the other hand, honors our profound giftedness and depth and acknowledges that coming to know ourselves and God is a lifetime exploration.So my invitation to you, dear monks and artists, is to shift your thinking this year. Welcome ambiguity. Learn to love the holy darkness of mystery. Dance on the fertile edges of life. Let what you love ripen forth.

Here are ten essential practices to help support you in this journey:

  1. Breathe deeply. Our breath is our most immediate and vital connection to the life force that sustains us moment by moment. Let yourself be filled with awe and wonder at the marvels of this intimate gift. Sit for three minutes savoring that you are breathed into.
  2. Embrace night wisdom. One of the great gifts of dreams is that they upend our desire for logic and immerse us in a narrative that reveals the shadows we must wrestle with and the joys that call to us, whether or not they make sense to the waking world.
  3. Dance freely. We live so disconnected from our bodies. Dance has been part of human culture for thousands of years as a way to experience union with ourselves, one another, and the divine. Each day put on one piece of music that you love, close the door, and dance. Pay attention to what rises up in the process. If you resist, even better—dance with your resistance!
  4. Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along.
  5. Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.
  6. Let the rhythms of nature guide you. We live our lives in a constant state of stimulation and productivity. We are often exhausted and overwhelmed. When we turn to the natural world we find with each day, each moon cycle, and each season a rhythm of rise and fall, fullness and emptiness. Trying to live all the time in rising or fullness is exhausting. Make some time to embrace the falling and emptiness of life, which immerses us in an experience of mystery.
  7. Release what is no longer necessary. We accumulate so many things in our days, perhaps you have discovered at Christmas that you have a new pile of stuff that now requires energy to maintain or worry about. Reflect on what is most essential. Then ask yourself, what are the thoughts, attitudes, or expectations about life that keep you from freedom? How do you try to control the direction of your life rather the yielding to grace?
  8. Remember that you will die. St. Benedict writes in his Rule to “keep death daily before your eyes.” This is never an act of morbid obsession, but a reminder of life’s incredible gift. Any of us who have brushed near death, or had loved ones pass away, know this wisdom in profound ways. This is another paradox of the spiritual life: a vibrant relationship to our mortality is essential to a vibrant relationship to life.
  9. Ask for the wisdom of your ancestors. Each of us is the inheritor of generations of stories that beat through our blood. Each of us has mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, who wrestled mightily with living a meaningful life. We can call upon this great “cloud of witnesses” to support us in our own wrestling. We can listen across the veil between worlds.
  10. Open yourself to receiving a word for the year ahead. In quiet moments what are the desires you hear being whispered from your heart? Is there a word or phrase that shimmers forth, inviting you to dwell with it in the months ahead? Something you can grow into and don’t fully understand?


Did you see anything in this list about being in prayer, or drawing close to Jesus Christ through the Bible?  No, instead you are hearing New Age “Christianity,” which is not centered on Him at all but on our own selves.

“Embracing night wisdom” or “asking for wisdom of your ancestors” replaces embracing God’s wisdom; “trust what you love” replaces trusting in the one true Savior; “let the rhythms of nature guide you” replaces letting the Holy Spirit guide and convict you; and finally opening yourself to receive a word is not really about the Word of God, but instead a word that shimmers from the whisperings of your heart.

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4 Responses to Are you embracing contemplative practices in the New Year?

  1. Larry says:

    Don't worry, at the right time the Lord will speak very clearly and show a difference again between those who fear Him and those who do not. Until then we speak the truth in love.


  2. Larry says:

    What I have been contemplating is how much longer the sad state of our nation can persist. I'm not sure I like the answer I seem to find,… A long long time.


  3. Mr Davis says:

    I would argue that difference is clear now. If we love (pursue) the things of this world we make ourselves God's enemy. That however is not being clearly taught. It seems we have lost almost all sensitivity to our own evil desires even among confessing believers.

    1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

    There is no room for hatred: we were all once children of disobedience, being ourselves lawless, slaves to darkness, slaves to sin, slaves to unrighteousness. Our hearts should be broken for those who make themselves Christ's enemy through willfull disobedience which we all once walked in and still do. Such is our desperate need of Christ and His salvation.

    1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

    From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

    Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

    Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4 all


  4. Mr. Jamie Lee Rake says:

    1)I've no problem with breathing deeply, but not for the reasons the abbey gal suggests.

    2)If you're reading Proverbs in the PM and something strikes you, yeah, go for it! Dreams? Not so much.

    3)Dancing with resistance sounds like a new exercise program. Neat!

    4)Some may call synchronicities "god things," and I'm about as sick of that term as I am of the newagecontemplativemysticalemergent navel-gazing mumbo-jumbo this strange fire bringer's on about.

    5)In the right mood, I quite love me a slice of the pumpkin walnut cake available at a truck stop between my town and Milwaukee. Trust it? Only to give me calories I'll have to burn!

    6)Quoth Arthur Fonzarelli, "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go!" Or was he talking about the call of nature and not the rhythms of it?

    7)Maybe holding a rummage sale could do me some good, but I do try give all my unwanted magazines to the local food pantry. 'Zat count?

    8)…only to live again in either glory or wrath, ya crazy nun!

    9)My biological dad left mom before I was born, and grandpa on mom's side would in his later years speak of characters on soap operas he watched as if they were his own kin. I'll bypass on my ancestors', erm, wisdom and go right for that of the One responsible for creating them, thanks.

    10)Jeremiah 17:9-'Nuff said re:my or anyone else's heart!, yes?


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