The Science of Meditation (and the Relationship between Meditation and Trauma)


A few years back the Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar published an interesting article surveying what insights we can glean from the scientific study of meditation. These insights concern questions such as the health and psychological benefits of meditation, the relationship between meditation and compassion, and how meditation might impact our relationships and even our biases. It’s an...

A Julian of Norwich Meditation


Here’s a meditation I developed a few months ago for a retreat I led for an Episcopal Church. It’s based on Julian of Norwich’s vision of the hazelnut. Before you listen to the meditation, take a moment to find a small object (like a hazelnut, a shell, or a rock) that you can hold in your hand while you meditate. It doesn’t have to be a natural object — a ring or a key...

The Prayer of Recollection: A Classic Mystical Practice as Taught by Evelyn Underhill


Contemplative spirituality has its own jargon, and this “language of prayer” evolves over time. Nowadays you’ll find students of the mystical path speaking about meditation, nonduality, mindfulness and heightened consciousness, whereas a century ago you’d be more likely to encounter terminology like mental prayer, unitive life, recollection and rapture. Sometimes words...

Finding Your Perfect Prayer Posture


A question that sometimes comes up when people are first learning a practice like Centering Prayer is, “How do I sit?” In other words, what is the best posture for a prayer practice like this? We’ve all seen images of yogis and Buddhist monks sitting for incredibly long periods of time in the lotus position, cross-legged on the floor or on a small cushion, each bare foot tidily...

Some Journal Entries from A Young Aspiring Contemplative


I’ve been refurbishing my office over the past few months, and so one of the tasks I’ve taken on is reviewing my old journals. Most of them I’m content to simply leave tucked away in the corner of the closet where they’ve been sitting for a while. But the other day I came across a journal I kept from November 1985 to December 1986. I was 24 when I began it, and had just...

Optional Reading List for the Zeitgeist “Contemplation and Practice” Course — with Guided Meditations


From September 28 through November 9, 2020 I’m leading a program called “Contemplation and Practice” through Zeitgeist Atlanta. Here are some of the meditations that participants will have access to. On this page I’m listing books that may be of interest to persons taking the course — or to anyone else interested in exploring meditation and contemplation from an...

Can Contemplation Change the World?


Four years ago I wrote a blog post titled Is Contemplation Dangerous? It was a review of a book called The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? Written by two British psychologists, the book looks at a variety of meditation practices, such as Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the book offers a balanced assessment of what science has to say about how meditation...

A Few Thoughts on the Passing of Ram Dass


Ram Dass, author of many books including the spiritual masterpiece Be Here Now, has died. He passed away yesterday, 22 December 2019, at his home in Maui. He was 88 years old. I never met Ram Dass, or even saw him in person. My friend Mirabai Starr knew him well, so she would be in a much better position to offer a meaningful encomium. My purpose in writing about him is modest: I simply want to...

The Difference Between Meditation and Contemplation


A reader of my blog writes: As someone new and aspiring to find a more contemplative lifestyle, I’m curious of one thing. Is there a critical difference between sitting time and ‘observing silence, acknowledging God is present’ versus ‘meditating on God, whether through a holy text, your experiences with God, or other characteristics of God’? Thanks for your question. And...

Can Christians Use a (Non-Christian) Mantra?


A reader, who identifies as a contemplative/mystical Christian, posted this question to me on Facebook: Carl….when I meditate/contemplative prayer…can I use a mantra such as-OM or Hare Krishna or something similar? It’s a great question, and the short answer is, it depends. Some Christians are allergic to the very idea…... Read more at Patheos

Contemplation and Ecstatic Experience


A reader named Kevin wrote and asked me:  What’s your view on the phenomenon of spiritual ecstasy? I used to think, before I experienced it, that it was a surge of positive emotion, rather like joy. Experienced in the body. Actually, in my experience spiritual ecstasy takes place in silence,…... Read more at Patheos

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