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Contemplative Practice for Healing

There is something that comes up for you again and again.  Perhaps it is a bit of reactivity or sudden feelings of hurt, fear, or grief.  You have likely already done some healing work, so you might be dismayed to find it arising again. You to understand it but, you certainly don't want to wallow about in it and feel worse in the end.

As we talked about last week, contemplative practice can be structured and clear (no wallowing:).

A structured and clear contemplative practice contains at least three key elements:

  • Knowing what you know

  • Body awareness

  • Consistent sustained attention.

Ideally you would begin a session of contemplative practice with at least twenty minutes of calming body, heart, and mind.  This calming period hopefully grounds you in your compassionate witness.*  Next you could begin clarifying what you already know (knowing what you know).  Through journaling, speaking aloud to yourself, or speaking aloud to a very calm attentive listener; express everything you know and understand about your chosen topic (trigger, reactive symptoms, etc.).  Push your expression to its very edge.  If you haven't run into fragment sentences and incomplete thoughts, you are not yet at the very edge of your knowing.  

Questions that may be helpful to ask yourself at this stage include:  What else do I know or understand about this?  What information, context, or conditions are relevant to remember?  What insights have I already had about this?

Once you have reached your edge of knowing, set down anything in your hands, take a meditation posture and place your attention in your body.  At this point your mind will likely return to an iteration of what you know, or generate random thoughts.  Each time a thought arises gently return attention to your body.  (If you have significant pain in your body, try another posture; perhaps lying down).

In contemplation practice for healing, you can likely find a place in your body that the difficulty is being held.  Some common places in the body that hold the need for healing are the heart area, stomach, gut, shoulders, and back.  Put your attention on the relevant place in the body and accompanying sensations.  Gently notice everything you can about those sensations.  Consider qualities like shape, movement, color, and depth.  Ideally your mind could remain quiet during this noticing for at least three or four minutes at a time before a thought or other distraction arises and you need to refocus.  If you are not able to have this level of focus, then there may be needs other than healing requiring your attention or you may benefit from more time doing a calming practice.

When your focus on the initial body sensations deepens and stabilizes, tell yourself to notice what these sensations are connected to.  It is important at this point, to remain still and gently focused on that area in your body.  If you do, the next thing will arise all by itself.  The body sensations may give rise to other body sensations, an image, a feeling, a thought, a memory, a belief, or an impulse. Allow your loving attention to rest on that next thing whatever it is.  

As long as your compassionate witness is engaged, this process will continue to unfold in this way.  If at any time you become lost in the experience, rather than observing it, pause and shift your body through exercise, stretching, drinking or eating something.  Once you have a sense of resource, begin again with a calming meditation.

If this is something you can sustain for an hour or so or practice daily or even weekly, it's likely that little or big insights will pop into your awareness and/or you will be able to have a previously difficult experience in conjunction with empathy and compassionate witnessing.  For example, a familiar memory arises, but this time you are connected to the feelings and needs that were alive for you at that time and you have compassion for yourself - a soft loving heart that acknowledges suffering.

An insight is an experience that becomes known to you in body, heart, and mind - an understood experience.  Celebrate even the smallest insight, such as a little opening of perspective or a greater felt sense of something.  Write down or somehow record all your insights as well as the connection you experienced to feelings and needs and the sense of compassion you have for yourself.  These things will be incorporated into the practice of knowing what you know for your next contemplative practice session.


Take a moment now to reflect on any bit of reactivity, emotion, or difficulty that you would like to have more clarity and compassion.  Set time aside on a day off for a contemplative practice period.

*Compassionate Witness:  refers to an ability to be just a little bigger than any experience you are having in the moment so that you can name what's happening with kindness and compassion for yourself.


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Contemplative Practice for Spiritual Insight

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