Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Welcoming Practice

The Welcoming Practice has become my 4th core spiritual practice. My other 3 core spiritual practices are Contemplative Prayer, Praying the Scriptures, and Spiritual Friendship.

The Welcoming Practice is a surrender practice, a way of yielding the whole of our lives to God. The classic expression of this kind of practice is Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s book Abandonment to Divine Providence, also published as The Sacrament of the Present Moment, which is my favorite edition of it. We seek to respond to and work with the present moment instead of unconsciously reacting to it.

The Welcoming Practice is a way of extending Contemplative Prayer and Praying the Scriptures into the rest of the day. It is particularly used in situations which upset, frustrate, make us anxious, and/or throw us off balance. It is a way of recognizing the presence of God in these situations and of experiencing and yielding to the Holy Spirit in the midst of them. The practice involves 3 steps: (1) noticing and sinking into our feelings, thoughts, sensations, and commentaries, particularly as they are experienced in the body. Secondly (2), it involves welcoming the presence of God in the feelings, commentaries, or sensations in the body by mentally saying “Welcome.” And (3), it involves Letting Go (i.e., yielding everything to God) by mentally repeating the following sentences one time each: “I let go of my desire for security, affection, control” and “I let go of my desire to change this situation.”

This practice does not mean that we are always passive and yielding to the external circumstances themselves nor that the external circumstances may not need to be changed. It means we let go of our own agendas, our own timing, and our own interpretations. We fully surrender the circumstances to God and thus grow in our ability to sense and align ourselves with the Spirit’s presence and action in them. Having done this, we can then take appropriate action, which at times may involve protest or resistance. But whatever action we take, it is not merely mindlessly reactive or thoughtlessly self-involved. It is rooted in God, not in our egoic interpretation.

As with all the contemplative practices, the primary fruits of the Welcoming Practice are not experienced immediately but rather over the long-term. Gradually we become more peaceful, less reactive, and more effective in loving God and loving our neighbor.

Rickey

6 comments:

Rehoboth said...

The Welcoming Practice is helpful to me as well. I have been working on it - not to say mastering it, of course - but finding God in the conflicts of life is literally a life saving experience. It puts things into the right perspective. One thing I love about it is being able to rest in the fact that God is here, and to enjoy watching Him work.

Thank you for this post, Rickey.

Susan

living stones said...

I think I like this spiritual practice because it is so practical. I particularly like your point about seeing the fruit appear over the long haul. It's not a magic formula; it's God's tender mercy at work in us as we let go. Then we can "grow in our ability to sense and align ourselves with the Spirit’s presence and action." I am deeply grateful to be growing with you. Thank you, Anna

Paul Corrigan said...

Thanks for sharing this here. I've been practicing it as well, since you shared it with me a few weeks ago.

The welcoming prayer seems to meet at the intersection of the apophatic and cataphatic: You experience the thing, positive or negative, and then you let it go. Or at least you let go of your attachment to it so that you can respond or not respond with a clear mind or in the spirit instead of responding or not responding based on your attachments.

I'm curious about the degree to which these separate practices you mention are really separate practices at all. I feel somewhat uneasy about compiling a list of practices. Actually making the list isn't what I'm concerned about, since that is helpful for reflection, as our community documents are helpful. Rather I don't want to "carry around" a list emotionally. But I don't think that that needs to be the way to think about the various particular practices if they become integrated into one's life. For instance, I don't think of eating, breathing, and sleeping as separate practices. They are all part of the whole of being human. I think that spiritual practices could be viewed as (or could become) something like that.

Also, prompted by this post, I've ordered a copy of The Sacrament of the Present Moment. I look forward to reading it.

Thanks for contributing to our spiritual dialogue on this blog!

Bill said...

Although I am somewhat linear and tend to focus on "list practices" I have gradually come to allow certain practices to ebb and flow in my life.

Some practices, such as Centering Prayer and scripture reading, are ogoing supplying some of the basic nutrients for my spiritual life.

Others, such as the Welcoming Practice or Br. Lawrence' Practicing the Presence, surface in my awareness. I practice them for a season. Then for some reason they ebb and are not as vivid for me. Then something will remind me of them and they'll surface and flow through me life again.

Perhaps one of the practices that I didn't realize until just now that I am practicing is learnig to let even the practices themselves come and go. Noticing how that sense of letting go is manifesting itself in my life alerts me to how the Holy Spirit is steadily and quietly working on me from the inside out.
Bill

John Orzechowski said...

Thanks for sharing this reflection.

I'm not sure that I can express this clearly, but it seems to me that welcoming prayer calls into question the common-sense division between contemplation and action (or perhaps even theory and practice), and allows for a much more integrated view of our existence. The concrete choices we make and the actions we take are inextricably connected with our spiritual/mental/bodily life. It reminds us that we ought not separate who we are in prayer from who we are everywhere else.

I pray I might learn to take the "appropriate action" without being "merely mindlessly reactive or thoughtlessly self-involved."

Daniel said...

John, I share the same prayer and desire. Rickey, thanks for the helpful reminder about this practice. I especially liked the following:

"It means we let go of our own agendas, our own timing, and our own interpretations. We fully surrender the circumstances to God and thus grow in our ability to sense and align ourselves with the Spirit’s presence and action in them."

Be it so.

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