What is contemplative practice?
One might say contemplation is the art of learning to be here, now. It is the practice of bringing one’s full awareness to the present moment, for the sake of all sorts of things. Contemplative practices do not belong to any one religious tradition or philosophical region. While some generalities might be made between Eastern or Western practices, rich differences exist and no definition can fully capture the riches of contemplative practice.
Why might a person begin a contemplative practice?
- to know oneself
- to feel more whole or calm or peaceful or settled
- to untangle
- to learn to be honest or loving
- to slow down enough to feel, to care, to be kind
- to hear one’s own voice, or that of another
- to learn to feel pleasure
- to draw close to the divine or to what transcends what we can know
- to connect with what is sacred, near or far
- to prepare for actions of justice and courage
- to become quiet
- to become wise
- to become free to be ourselves
- to become
“Contemplative practices are practical, radical, and transformative, developing capacities for deep concentration and quieting the mind in the midst of the action and distraction that fills everyday life. This state of calm centeredness is an aid to exploration of meaning, purpose and values. Contemplative practices can help develop greater empathy and communication skills, improve focus and attention, reduce stress and enhance creativity, supporting a loving and compassionate approach to life.” (www.contemplativemind.org/practices)
Contemplation is not an idea or a belief. It is practicing simple exercises that involve our whole selves in the challenge (especially today) of fully being right here, right now. We call our center the Center for Contemplative Practice and Wellbeing for this reason. Being good, feeling good, takes practice.
The Center for Action and Contemplation offers the following examples of simple contemplative practices:
Drumming: Practicing surrendering the mind and attuning the body through rhythm
Walking Meditation: Taking slow, mindful steps
Ecstatic Dance: Moving freely to music
Chanting: Singing with intention
Centering Prayer: Observing and letting go of all thoughts without judgment during a period of silence
Lectio Divina: Reading short passages of text in a contemplative way
Welcoming Prayer: Welcoming any feeling, sensation, or emotion that arises in the midst of your day
YHWH Prayer: Consciously saying God’s name through each breath
Pranayama: Breathing mindfully
Loving Kindness Meditation: Recognizing your inner source of loving kindness and sending love to others
Or consider this simple invitation from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Learning How to Sit:
On paying attention to your breath:
“In our daily lives, our attention is dispersed. Our body is in one place, our breath is ignored, and our mind is wandering. As soon as we pay attention to our breath, as we breathe in, these three things—body, breath, and mind—come together. This can happen in just one or two seconds. You come back to yourself. Your awareness brings these three elements together, and you become fully present in the here and the now. You are taking care of your body, you are taking care of your breath, and you are taking care of your mind.”
- Mindfulness - every Wednesday, 4:30-5pm, Little Chapel – Anam (Gaelic for “soul”) – a time of mindfulness for all college students (Currently on Pause)
- Yoga - The Center is currently looking for a new yoga instructor and look forward to making that announcement soon.
- Tai Chi with Dr. Jing Ye – every 1st & 3rd Tuesday, 12:30-1:15, in the Dance Studio. Our class is free and suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced students – open for all members of the Salem Academy & College Community
- Mindful Mondays – (this meeting is currently on hold) every Monday, 12:30-12:50, Little Chapel – a time of mindfulness for Academy & College employees
(Currently on hold, please contact Dr. Bradford if you have suggestions for this ongoing event or are interested in a helping facilitate.)
The Contemplative Tree
Contemplative Practices are both individual and communal, still and active, quiet and loud. Join us as we care for ourselves, and lead others to a more centered way of living.
CMind. (2021). The Tree of Contemplative Practices [Illustration]. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
Past Special Events (New events will resume in the 2023-2024 academic year)
- Labyrinth Walk
December 6-8 in the Student Center Meeting Rooms; drop by anytime for your self-guided walk. Information will be available at the door.
- “Understanding Buddhist Meditation”
led by Rev. Jissan Michelle Nicolle, PhD, BCC
Buddhist priest & Chaplain for Wake Forest School of Medicine and Innovation Quarter
Monday, March 22, 5:30pm,
Student Center Meeting Rooms
- “White Supremacy in the American Church”
guest speaker - Dr. Kristopher Norris, author of Witnessing Whiteness
jointly sponsored with Black Student Union
Wednesday, Feb. 9, 5:30pm
Shirley Recital Hall
- “Create your own Journal with Spiritual Journaling”
jointly sponsored with Center for Women Writers
Monday, March 29, 6pm, Student Center Meeting Rooms
About the CCPW
As part of Salem College’s focus on health leadership, we are leading the way in providing support and tools for spiritual health and wellbeing. The Center for Contemplative Practice & Wellbeing provides ongoing events, programs, and educational opportunities about how best to care for our whole selves in the midst of a stressful world.
The Founder and Director of the Center is Rev. Dr. Amy Rio, Chaplain of Salem Academy & College. Rev. Dr. Aminah Bradford is delighted to be serving as the Center’s interim director.