Tag Archives: Contemplation

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part Two)

This episode concludes our two-part conversation with author and spiritual director Therese Taylor-Stinson, the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network. To listen to part one, please click here.

“All contemplation should be followed by action; they are there for one another. The reason to contemplate anything would be to have clarity about what action to take next.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

Therese Taylor-Stinson is the co-editor of Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, and the editor of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice. She is an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a lay pastoral caregiver, and a graduate of and an associate faculty member of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where she previously served as a member of the board.

She is the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, an international, ecumenical/interfaith association of persons of color with a ministry of spiritual accompaniment. A native of Washington DC, she now lives in Maryland. Her ministry, like her books, explores the intersection of contemplative spirituality and the ongoing struggle for social justice and the dismantling of racism.

“Trauma doesn’t have to be something physical, where a bone is broken or blood is seen or anything like that. Anything that silences you and keeps you from defending yourself against something coming against you is trauma.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In this week’s episode, Therese builds on our previous conversation by exploration the relationship between silence and trauma, talking about how the science of epigenetics has revealed how trauma effects people over generations. She also invites us to explore the question of how contemplation can be misused as a way of hiding from the problems facing our world — but how it can also be a meaningful way for people to awaken to what is real and what needs our collective attention.

Acknowledging the painful links between Christianity, racism, and white supremacy, Therese offers a word of hope — that we do not need to be shaped by the mistakes of the past, but can work together in pursuit of true justice and reconciliation for today and tomorrow. Comparing the struggle against racism to a relay race, she hopes that the steps that we take today can help to make the world a better place for our grandchildren.

To learn more about the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, visit www.sdcnetwork.org.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 61: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson (Part Two)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Taylor-Stinson
Date Recorded: March 25, 2019

 

Therese Taylor-Stinson: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice (Part One)

Therese Taylor-Stinson is the co-editor of Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color, and the editor of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around — Stories of Contemplation and Justice. She is an ordained deacon and elder in the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), a lay pastoral caregiver, and a graduate of and an associate faculty member of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, where she previously served as a member of the board.

She is the founder of the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, an international, ecumenical/interfaith association of persons of color with a ministry of spiritual accompaniment. A native of Washington DC, she now lives in Maryland. Her ministry, like her books, explores the intersection of contemplative spirituality and the ongoing struggle for social justice and the dismantling of racism.

I’ve always loved nature, I love trees… I love the ocean, I love the sunrise and the moonrise… those kinds of things bring me into silence in a kind of pondering and sitting with what we call ‘God’, but to me is more ‘Mystery’.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In this first part of a two-part episode, Therese shares with us her early experience of contemplative silence, formed by her education in Catholic schools as well as her early encounters with the silence of nature. She goes on to show how her journey as a contemplative and a spiritual director has impacted her experience as a woman of color. Of particular interest is her insights into the contemplative dimension of the civil rights movement, particularly in terms of the under-appreciated contribution of Howard Thurman.

“For some people of color, silence is uncomfortable — it feels oppressive or imposing,  it makes them go places or feel things they’re not ready for, or that they aren’t ready to express to me. We have to be really careful with silence… I don’t know that silence is a requirement to find that still place within.” — Therese Taylor-Stinson

In the second half of today’s episode, Therese offers insight into the contribution of people of color, not only to contemplative spirituality, but to Christianity as a whole — and how those contributions have been erased from history through the dynamics of racism — leading to a “silencing” toxic in its nature.

This is part one of a two-part interview; to hear the second part of this conversation, click here.

To learn more about the Spiritual Directors of Color Network, visit www.sdcnetwork.org.

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 60: Silence, Contemplation, and Justice: A Conversation with Therese Taylor-Stinson (Part One)
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Cassidy Hall, Kevin Johnson
Guest: Therese Taylor-Stinson
Date Recorded: March 25, 2019

Martin Laird: Silent Land, Luminous Ocean (Part Three)

Our conversation with contemplative author Martin Laird concludes with this episode.

“In a spiritual path there are no ‘outcomes assessments’.” — Martin Laird

After recording an interview with just Carl and Kevin, Fr. Martin graciously agreed to an additional recording session with all three of us. Today’s episode features that second conversation, including Cassidy. Fr. Martin deepens and clarifies some of his thoughts on issues already discussed, including discerning the distinctions between secular mindfulness practices and Christian contemplative practices.

“Simply being aware of thoughts as they go by — yes, that’s fine. But who is doing the ‘aware-ing’?” — Martin Laird

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this conversation with Martin Laird:

“This whole business of silence is B.S.-proof. It’s not a contemplative mascara… The attraction to things spiritual, the attaction to silence, to contemplative practices or disciplines, can actually be a defense against what contemplation will make you face.” — Martin Laird

Episode 57: Silent Land, Luminous Ocean: A Conversation with Martin Laird (Part Three)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Fr. Martin Laird, OSA
Date Recorded: February 25, 2019

“A self ‘unselfed’ of self is free, is fully created, and becomes a vehicle of compassion because it has overcome the sense of a separate self.” — Martin Laird

Martin Laird: Silent Land, Luminous Ocean (Part One)

Martin Laird is the author of three highly-regarded books on Christian contemplative spirituality: Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of ContemplationA Sunlit Absence: Silence, Awareness and Contemplation, and An Ocean of Light: Contemplation, Transformation and Liberation.

He is an Augustinian friar, and Professor of Early Christian Studies at Villanova University. He is also the author of an academic monograph, Gregory of Nyssa and the Grasp of Faith. Father Martin lectures and leads retreats widely through the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland. His books are deeply grounded in the Christian tradition and yet are accessible guides to how silence integrates into prayer and everyday life.

Fr. Martin joined Carl and Kevin for a conversation over Skype, and a week later spoke with us again, this time with Cassidy joining us as well. Thanks to his generosity, this is our longest interview yet, and we hope our listeners will find insight and meaning in this thoughtful and perceptive conversation on silence and the spiritual life.

The ‘silent land’ is you. — Martin Laird

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 55: Silent Land, Luminous Ocean: A Conversation with Martin Laird (Part One)
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Carl McColman
Guest: Fr. Martin Laird, OSA
Date Recorded: February 18, 2019

Christine Valters Paintner: Silence, Art, and Contemplation (Episode 40)

Christine Valters Paintner — an American expatriate living in the west of Ireland — joins us on Encoutering Silence to explore the intersections of silence, spirituality, contemplation, creativity, and living as a monk in the real world.

Author, poet, spiritual director, and Benedictine Oblate Christine Valters Paintner serves as the online Abbess at www.AbbeyoftheArts.com, a virtual monastery without walls. She is the author of twelve books on spirituality, contemplative practice, and creative expression, including: The Artist’s RuleThe Eyes of the HeartThe Wisdom of the Bodyand The Soul’s Slow Ripening. Next year Paraclete Press will publish her collection of poetry, Dreaming of Stones.

I started to realize how photography has a lot of violence in its language — so there’s capturing, shooting, taking… the way that we interact with photography is very much about seizing the movement in this kind of violent way. What if when we were with our camera, we looked at it as receiving a gift, rather than taking something? — Christine Valters Paintner

Drawing connections between her life experience as an introvert and her early spiritual formation shaped by Jesuit education and the wisdom of St. Benedict and St. Hildegard of Bingen, Christine shares how a silent retreat inspired her to find the silent, contemplative dimension of artistry, poetry, movement — as well as winter time as a powerful season for contemplative rest and unknowing which is its own contribution to the creative process.

I find that creative work is a lot about just giving ourselves permission to make mistakes, and to have fun, and to do things that we maybe haven’t done since we were a child, and there is a lot of freedom that comes with that. — Christine Valters Paintner

She reflects on how the experience of grieving, living with an autoimmune illness, and embracing our embodied selves, are some of the many portals through which the mystery of contemplative silence has invited her — and can invite all of us — into stillness and unknowing, and into finding ourselves in the present moment.

Christine offers a special treat at the end of our conversation — she reads a never-before-published poem of hers, “Saint Francis and the Grasshopper.”

I believe in the revolutionary power of stillness and spaciousness, and of practicing presence to life’s unfolding. I believe this commitment can change the world. — Christine Valters Paintner

Some of the authors and resources mentioned in this episode:

When I do spend that time in silence and solitude, I am so nourished by this sense of something so much more expansive and deep and generous, that that naturally spills over into how I want to live my life. — Christine Valters Paintner

Episode 40: Silence, Art, and Contemplation: A Conversation with Christine Valters Paintner
Hosted by: Carl McColman
With: Kevin Johnson, Cassidy Hall
Guest: Christine Valters Paintner
Date Recorded: October 29, 2018

Paula Pryce: Silence, Bodily Knowing and Ritual (Episode 28)

What happens when a friendly anthropologist conducts an ethnographic study of contemporary contemplative Christianity in America, looking at subjects both in monasteries and in secular life?

Paula Pryce does just this kind of work in her insightful book The Monk’s Cell: Ritual and Knowledge in American Contemplative Christianity. Spending several years of research with teachers like Cynthia Bourgeault and Thomas Keating, along with monasteries like the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Massachusetts, Pryce offers a detailed exploration of how contemplative spirituality is making a profound transformation in our time. From previous days when such practice was almost exclusively found within cloistered walls, to the increasing (if still marginal) presence of contemplation  in churches, centering prayer groups, online forums, and educational offerings such as the Center for Action & Contemplation’s Living School or Bourgeault’s own Wisdom School, contemplative practice is a vibrant subculture within Christianity — and Pryce, to our knowledge, is the first ethnographer to write about contemplative Christianity in a scholarly, yet accessible, fashion.

I always meditated before I wrote… I go back in my mind, meditate, and then enter in through memory to those places where I was doing research, and that allowed me to give language to these non-verbal situations. — Paula Pryce

What emerges from her research is a recognition that contemplation (and, by implication, the practice of silence) invites the practitioner into a new way of knowing, that is marked by qualities such as embodiment, community, humility, and ritual.

I’m always after trying to understand the beauty of humankind. We have lots of messages about how awful we are! And we can’t ignore that and I wouldn’t want to. But I honestly think we need to embrace how wonderful humans are. — Paula Pryce

In this conversation, Paula joins the Encountering Silence team to explore not only her own relationship with silence, but also how her research deepened her knowledge of contemplation as a transformational practice. She movingly speaks of her Anglo-Indian father as her silence hero, and draw connections between his lifelong meditation practice and his commitment to social action. She reflects on the paradox of writing about silence (expressing a non-verbal phenomena through the verbal medium of language), and on how ethnography, as a discipline, can help us to understand silence better.

One can use anything as a contemplative practice. That’s the main point of this book: people are trying to train themselves in everyday life as contemplatives, in every action and every way of being. — Paula Pryce

Some of the resources and authors we mention in this episode:

Episode 27: Silence, Bodily Knowing, and Ritual: A Conversation with Paula Pryce
Hosted by: Kevin Johnson
With: Cassidy Hall, Carl McColman
Guest: Paula Pryce
Date Recorded: May 29, 2018