There are many ways to bring alive our innate connection with the sacred, which often becomes obscured through the pressures of everyday living.
Forms of prayer and meditation are the best established routes. In the 20th Century two main forms of contemplative prayer and meditation were rediscovered and disseminated widely – Christian meditation taught by John Main, and Centering Prayer, taught by Thomas Keating. We have separate pages on meditation and centering prayer.
Among the myriad other ways of exploring and deepening our spiritual connection are:
Art as meditation
Artistic expression, singing and music-making, sacred dance and other forms of movement also reconnect different kinds of people with their spiritual roots. For art and spirituality please see our special interest page.
“Dance is a meditation in movement, a walking into silence, where every movement becomes a prayer” – a quote from Bernhard Wosien in the summer 2013 edition of Grapevine, the magazine of the sacred and circle dance network. The Sacred and Circle Dance Network – www.circledancenetwork.org.uk/.
Walking the labyrinth
Since the 1990’s the tradition of walking the Chartres labyrinth as a sacred path has been uncovered again by Revd. Lauren Artress and Veriditas, based at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Revd Di Williams is disseminating this work in the UK through Still Paths.
A new book on the uses of the labyrinth in settings such as prisons and hospices in the UK is listed below. LS subscriber Lizzie Hopthrow of the Quiet View has written the chapter on labyrinth walks in a hospice setting. Barbara Wallace, an LS subscriber based in Kent, also has a labyrinth ministry.
See: www.pilgrimpaths.co.uk/page29.html – Labyrinth events.
The organisation Veriditas, based at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, teaches facilitators worldwide to lead labyrinth walks as a sacred path.
Music and song
Ways of exploring singing and music making are well known. A useful resource for exploring sacred song for those not involved in churches is the e-newsletter of the Natural Voice Practitioners’ Network, which gives details of many events nationwide.
Being in nature
Being in nature is frequently a trigger for experiences of the divine, as set out in Professor David Tacey’s book The New Spirituality Revolution, which many Living Spirituality Connections subscribers have found meaningful. J. Philip Newell’s work in bringing the Celtic tradition into contemporary form includes a strong focus on our deep connection the earth.
The Cosmic Walks organised by Greenspirit are a way of experiencing our cosmic human origins.
The New Monasticism movement
The New Monasticism movement aims to bring the practices that were used for centuries within monasteries into the rhythm of our daily lives. Bernadette Flanagan, the LS regional contact in Dublin, is spearheading the work of New Monasticism Ireland which seeks to facilitate a new lifestyle by blending together a number of commitments:
1. Retrieving of the core of the monastic tradition as daily practice.
2. Embracing practices of solitude in daily life.
3. Valuing the enriching power of silence.
4. Celebrating artistic imagination.
5. Living with contemplative attentiveness.
6. Awakening to the rhythms of nature.
7. Living with a hospitable heart.
8. Experiencing the spiritual significance of work.
An inter-spiritual movement for new monasticism has been founded in the USA. Their manifesto asserts the following:
“We assert that new monasticism names an impulse that is trying to incarnate itself in the new generation. It is beyond the borders of any particular religious institution, yet drinks deeply from the wells of our wisdom traditions. It is an urge which speaks to a profoundly contemplative life, to the formation of small communities of friends, to sacred activism and to discovering together the unique calling of every person and every community.”
New Monasticism UK Network – www.new-monasticism-network.ning.com.
New Monasticisms Ireland – www.newmonasticismsireland.org.
Finding rhythm and balance
A Lent talk on finding the ever elusive rhythm and balance in our everyday lives by Revd. Lindsay Meader of St James’s Piccadilly is available here.
Using everyday activities
There are also the everyday activities that for some people are the means of breaking through to the deeper dimensions that lie beneath the surface of life. Humble activities like doing the dishes, tending to the garden, stroking the cat or being out for a walk and really seeing the flowers and plants can evoke a sense of mystery.
Relaxation and play
Relaxation and play are also neglected routes to the spiritual experience. Balancing a pole on one finger in a group with others soon breaks barriers down and reminds us not to lose humour and lightness as ways to connect.
Initially taught by lay Dominican and co-founder of the Eckhart Society, Ursula Fleming in the 1970’s, they are taken forward in today in the refreshing Tumble Trust workshops.
Walking slowly and mindfully can be readily transformed into a spiritual practice, eating food very slowly, and many other ways of being at one with what we are doing, can all reconnect us with the spiritual roots of life.
We can all add things that evoke for us the sense of something beyond the ordinary experiences of our lives.
The Retreats Association lists many and varied retreats and workshops throughout the UK and some further afield.
Other useful resources
Spirituality and Practice – www.spiritualityandpractice.com. Based in Canada, it offers online courses and very extensive book reviews. It is an inter-spiritual resource including Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, J. Philip Newell and luminaries from many traditions.
Stilllpoint – www.thestillpoint.org.uk. “Nurturing Spiritual Practice”.
Original Blessing by Matthew Fox talks about art as meditation.
New Monasticism as Fresh Expressions of Church (Ancient Faith, Future Mission) by Graham Cray (Author, Editor), Ian Mobsby (Ed), Aaron Kennedy (Ed)
New Monasticism: an Inter-Spiritual Manifesto for Contemplative Life in the 21st Century by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko
Cave, Refectory, Road – Monastic Rhythms for Contemporary Living by Ian Adams.
The Dance in Christianity by Marilyn Daniels 1981 (order via Abe Books www.AbeBooks .co.uk since this is no longer in print)
Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practiceby Lauren Artress
Working with the Labyrinth: Paths for Exploration by Ruth Sewell, Jan Sellers and Di Williams. It discusses uses of the labyrinth in the UK in prisons, hospices etc.
The New Spirituality Revolution by David Tacey
All books by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme on the new universe story and humankind’s deep connection with the earth, nature and the cosmos.
In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré. How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed.