CONTEMPLATIO

CHRISTIAN CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES – a non-credit course for all USC students and staff – offered on Zoom in Fall 2020: Wednesdays, 5 pm PST, starting 9/2.   We’ll be engaging in meditative and contemplative practices of Christianity that date back to the time of Jesus – practices that emerged from different branches of the faith and are still followed today.  See these introductory VIDEOS to get a taste of these practices.  For info and to register, contact Rev. Jim Burklo, Sr Associate Dean, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life – burklo@usc.edu

CONTEMPLATIO Desert Spirituality Retreat – a day in the Mojave Desert, following early Christian monastic prayer practices.  All students welcome.  For info about the next retreat, contact Rev. Jim Burklo – burklo@usc.edu

 

CONTEMPLATIO: 

Interfaith Mindful Contemplative Prayer

An adaptation of Lectio Divina for practice for those of all faiths or no religious affiliation

A 12th c French Catholic Christian monk, Guigo II, described the spiritual life as climbing a ladder.  The steps were lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio – reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.   An ancient practice, revived today in churches both Catholic and Protestant, is called “Lectio Divina”.  Here it is adapted to an interfaith context.  It follows Guigo’s four steps:

Lectio/Visio:  In silence in the Little Chapel, but aloud in other contexts if appropriate, read a short passage from the scripture or wisdom literature of your choice.  Release any interpretation or opinion you may have about this passage as you read it.  To this you can add “Visio Divina” – sacred seeing – gazing at an icon, image, or object, while releasing assumptions or judgments about it.

Meditatio:  Close your eyes and let the passage or object “sink in” for two minutes.  Sit with it.  Hold it lightly – don’t force any attempt to interpret it.  Attend to it without judgment or preconception and with an open heart.

As your time allows, repeat Lectio/Visio and Meditatio four times.

Oratio:  Pray aloud (or in silence in the Little Chapel):  “May I receive from the scripture (or object) what my soul needs for today.”

Contemplatio:  For 10-20 minutes, get into a physical position in which your body will be comfortable but you’ll be unlikely to fall asleep.  (The “lotus position”, seated with legs crossed and tailbone slightly elevated on a little pillow, is just one way to achieve this balance.)  Begin with mindful meditation:  close your eyes, and in silence, observe whatever arises to take your attention.  The object of your observation can be anything at all.  A thought.  An idea. A sensation – something your body feels, something you hear.  A memory.  A scheme for the future.  It can be an urge – a desire – a sense of needing or wanting to do something.  Let it all be; don’t try to change your thoughts or experiences.  Wait until after your Contemplatio practice to consider ways you want to change your thoughts or actions.  Watch all that arises and passes, observing with non-judgmental, caring attention.  Be a quiet presence with these experiences, like a friend who stays close in silence with a loving attitude toward you.   (It can be helpful to take a Mindful.USC.edu class in order to prepare for this part of Contemplatio.)

With practice, you will reach a point in Contemplatio where you have so thoroughly and lovingly observed yourself – your thoughts, emotions, urges, sensations – your body, your mind, even your personality – that you will ask a profound question:  is that which is being observed doing the observing?  Or is Someone or Something else watching and paying attention within you?  The mystical and philosophical traditions of the world have different ways of expressing this sublime awareness.  In Buddhism, this is the moment of enlightened, pure consciousness that there is no self.  In Hinduism, it is expressed in the Sanskrit saying:  “Tat tvam asi – You are that” – one with Brahman.  In Christianity, it is the moment of awareness that God is loving observer within us; it is the moment of mystical union with God.  It is the moment St Paul described when he wrote: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.”  Non-religious people sometimes describe it as the moment of awakening to being one with the Universe.

If you would like guidance in Contemplatio practice, contact Rev. Jim Burklo, Senior Associate Dean, Office of Religious Life for an appointment: burklo@usc.edu .