Monday, November 06, 2006


Creativity: The place of contemplation drawing on the practice of mysticism

Now before you all think I have lost it is some fluffly new agey way, I want to say that this idea of creativity we are exploring this month in our rhythm of life, is as a fundamental starting point to how we pray, is something very ancient in terms of a sustaining spiritual life. That we have a lot to learn from the mystics through the ages (as the title page of our website says) in having a sustaining, creative and mystical prayer life.

First a few clarifications. Mysticism conveys a wierd image - of myst - makes it mysterious, lots of white sheets, damp, druid type aesthetics, and an indulgence of bored women or bad poets.

I want to say that there is a lot more to it, and I want to share some of the insights I am gaining in this area as a novice to it all.

At the heart of it, is a spiritual disipline. that as a contemplative Christian, you move through your embodiedness - your fleshness, through to the intellectual and then into the spiritual, to be able to encounter a loving God in prayerful encounter.

Helpfully - such prayer starts with having self awareness (blokes please note), of understanding your feelings and self. This is crucial so that you 'withdraw' your projections - projecting out at others what is within you, projections that distort you, and prevent you from encountering God. Projections are about our inner fragemented selves, that in us we carry the experiences of childhood to now, all the unresolved, all the pains and experiences. Contemplation is about finding inner peace with these first. Often, we run straight to the intellectual, and not face the emotional first. This makes our the enquiries of our brains driven by our unconscious desires and compulsions, or the projection of angst or anger straight into the intellect, which is not healthy for us or others. So contemplation begins with being self aware of our emtions and our motives, to find peace with these before engaging with the mind, and then to move onto the spiritual.

So unlike Budhist meditation Christian contemplation is not about getting beyond your heart and mind to find nothingness, more of a prayer of ordered peace, that draws in a form of holism to a God that loves you. In this way, this form of creative prayer helps you to become poised and balanced, not because you are believing right, but because we experience the love of God. This process says that whilst we are lost in the projections of our emotions, projected thinking and self led prayer around our own stuff, we are in exile of being our full selves. So this form of contemplatiive prayer, is about saying that we start in exile of ourselves, and have something wonderful to find and discover in ourselves and the cosmos.

It then frees us up to befriend the world as God befriends us. To befriend God and not to attempt to dominate God with such modernistic phrases whether we by some hypthesis believe in God as a logical process to accept or reject. To befriend creation and not to dominate it, to befriend friends and not to dominate them, to befriend work colleagues and not to dominate them. The list goes on. The challenge is for us to try and be disciplined and fit in this type of prayer, which has to be learned. I am wondering whether we should have a regular slot for this type of learning to pray, as we can't expect to learn this from nowhere or from ourselves. The monastics and mystics learnt this from others, so may I suggest, we need to learn this from others.

However, there are some key texts about this stuff - Evelyn Underhill, a recent find for me, has loads on this, (Gareth & Jonathan will be amused that this digression from a recent STMW PCC has proved to be helpful to me). St John of the Cross etc. My retreat director at Ham Convent is good on all this stuff, Kathy, so I am thinking it would be good to have some 1 day prayer training days, to help us individudally and as a community to develop more creative and contemplative prayer.

Personally I am really excited by this form of creative, mystical and contemplative prayer. As a very emotional boy that doesn't always have the easiest of lives, this has proved to be hugely liberating and real - not forced, not shopping lists, but a way of encoutering and embracing God.

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