Mind the conceptual gap

Some years ago on BBC Radio 4, there was short programme about the wonderful Civilizations Choir of Antakya, Turkey. The choir includes people of Alevi, Sunni, Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian and Jewish origin and performs songs and hymns in 12 different languages and dialects.

Part way through the programme, the presenter asked an Orthodox priest why he thought everyone in the choir got on so well.

He began his answer, “We all come from Abraham…”

Not an altogether surprising thing to say, you might think. …


for each other and the world

“If our thoughts are kind, peaceful and quiet, turned only towards the good, then we influence ourselves and radiate peace all around us — in our family, the whole country, everywhere. When we labour in the fields of the Lord, we create harmony: divine harmony, peace and quiet spread everywhere.”

Elder Thaddeus Vitovnica[1]

Interior peace gives birth to exterior peace. If our thoughts are peaceful, we radiate peace around us, we become places of peace for our neighbour and the world.

As a direct, practical response to the circumstances in our communities that call…


We are where they happen

Learning to greet our thoughts and feelings with stillness and silence, instead of immediately filling our heads with a story about them, can offer us a powerful sense of liberation and possibility for radical change in our lives.

As we learn to see beyond what we tell ourselves about ourselves, the boundaries of our mental and emotional world begin to dissolve and the simple truth of our life unfolds ever more clearly and brightly.

William (we’ll call him), is a brilliant teacher. His students and colleagues respect and like him in equal measure. But despite…


discovering what we already have

In meditation, we are not trying to obtain anything. We turn ourselves to what is always here, present, more intimate to us that we are to ourselves, to paraphrase the famous words of St. Augustine.[1]

As the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, put it, in prayer (and the simple meditation we practice is prayer):

“…we discover what we already have. You start from where you are, and you deepen what you already have, and you realise you are already there. We already have everything, but we don’t know it and don’t experience it. Everything has been…


a blog originally created for Church Urban Fund’s Living Theology Forum

Chris Whittington shares some thoughts on contemplative prayer and a radical re-framing of relationships.

“If we have no peace” Mother Teresa once said, “it’s because we’ve forgotten that we belong to each other.” Most of us, I think, recognise a simple truth in these striking words.

I’d like to share some brief thoughts on how contemplative prayer (the practice of silence and stillness, sometimes called silent prayer or meditation) can help clear a space to encounter how intimately we are connected and belong to each other, in our own…


just sitting, as we are, where we are

The seemingly relentless pressure to be conspicuously “doing” and “performing” in our daily life, can very easily carry over into how we approach meditation, the prayer of stillness and silence.

Many of us will have been taught to think of prayer as something we do, towards God, for God, another thing on the list of things we must “perform” to be in the right place with God. But this is a wrong view, a symptom of the heavy yoke of self-justification and an unnecessary burden that Jesus teaches us to put down.[1]


(in which we are simplified)

In the book of Isaiah, we are given a wonderful summary of the simple heart of prayer:

“In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and trust your strength lies.”[1]

In returning and rest, in quietness and trust, God leads us to the depths of who we are in him, the depths of his love for us.

The essence of prayer, this crisp teaching suggests, is radically simple. …


A gift from my teacher, Dom Sylvester Houédard OSB

During the time I lived at the Benedictine monastery of Prinknash Abbey and for some years afterwards, I was blessed to have Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924–1992) as a teacher and guide. His wisdom, kindness and generosity were a precious gift which continues to unfold.

Two of the aims of the School of Contemplative Life in particular are deeply informed by my time with this wise, kind and generous man: to nurture the common ground in contemplative practice across faith traditions and to become a source of peace and an antidote to…


De-cluttering and re-focusing for Lent

The word “Lent” derives from the old English word for “spring” or “spring season.” It’s a period of preparation for new life, for all that we celebrate at Easter.

When we meditate, we are both preparing for new life and living the new life.

Lent is not about being unhappy or punishing ourselves. And if Lent can involve us deciding to say “No” to certain things, this is never about self-denial as an end in itself. Fasting is not about how much we eat. It’s not a religious weight-loss programme.

The primary purpose of fasting…


Finding a place of calm

In meditation we learn to be still, to be silent.

As we learn to be still, to be silent, we discover the peace that is always present in the depths of who we are.

We discover that this peace, which can sometimes seem a long way off, or completely hidden beneath the waves of our thoughts and feelings, is always close-by: because it’s the deepest truth of who we are. As the author of the Cloud of Unknowing wrote to his student, “God is your being.”[1]

One of the great gifts of meditation is that…

The School of Contemplative Life

Christopher Whittington is the founder of The School of Contemplative Life.

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