In Good Faith

What does “contemplative practice” mean to you, and what value do you see in forms of it?

Jeff Scholes - Agnostic

Jeffrey Scholes, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Religious Diversity and Public Life at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

This could either mean the practice that is informed and motivated by contemplation or simply the practice of contemplation. I favor the latter. While hopefully avoiding a mind/body dualism, I find that clearing away the mental clutter that entangles, frustrates and unnecessarily complicates our lives is the essential precursor to good practice. Decisions made without the kind of serious contemplation that can give us a clear sense of who we are in relation to the outside world are haphazard and vacuous. From Plato to Jesus to Muhammad, the practice of contemplation permitted and even directed an awareness of reality. When actions outrun the mind, the appearance of the world becomes reality and those actions rarely serve what is best for us.

David Gardiner - Buddhist

David Gardiner is an associate professor in the Colorado College Religion Department, specializing in Buddhism and religions of China and Japan, and is co-founder and director of BodhiMind Center.

Contemplation means different things to different people. I practice forms of seated meditation from the Buddhist tradition that aim to enhance attention, patience, resilience, loving-kindness, compassion and kinds of knowledge about how our mind, body and spirit operate. We work with energies of body and mind to strengthen habit patterns that nurture wellness. Sitting without an agenda sometimes permits our experience to settle so that we become more intimately familiar with, and gentle toward, the various and often subtle forces that move within. Gentle yet sustained attention brings its own healing power. Any regular practice that unites attention to body and breath — whether yoga, tai-chi, qigong, heart-centering or prayer — serves to reduce stress and promote various kinds of healing. 

Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian

Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.

Practice offers us the opportunity to bring our beliefs and values more fully to life. Contemplative practice is a form of spiritual embodiment, which uses focused attention to cultivate a connection to the sacred. Think of it as training for the soul. Just as athletes practice skills over and over until they can rely on body memory to kick in during a performance, people of faith commit to repeating contemplative practices on a routine basis so that spiritual resources are available when we most need them. My own practices include discovering the wisdom of the heart as well as a series of nature meditations that remind me the sacred can be found anywhere and everywhere.

Eric Sandras - Christian

Eric Sandras, Ph.D. — Author of four books, “Dr. E” leads The Sanctuary Church in the heart of Old Colorado City and teaches graduate courses in human sexuality, counseling and psychology.

Sometimes my life philosophy tends to be, “The faster I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up.” Maybe you are like that — consistently 10 minutes late to whatever you intended to be early to? Contemplative practices are designed to help us slow down, not speed up. They are designed to help us recalibrate and spiritually/emotionally/physically breathe. The Bible encourages us to “Be still and know I am God.” Contemplative practices like Lectio Divina (Bible meditation), silence, prayer, worship, etc. are tools that yield profound results. They help keep your body grounded, your emotions in check and your spirit connected. It helps make life a journey and not a sprint. 

Join the conversation at ingoodfaith.org.