Contemplative Practices in the Time of Coronavirus
By Sarah James
March 31, 2020
The current global pandemic is hitting all of us at many levels, ranging from health, to political and social life, our finances, and even to matters of simple convenience that we once took for granted.
Often in such times it is far too easy to overlook the all-important job of carefully sustaining our spiritual health as well. In this article on Contemplative Practices, Ms. James offers a number of simple, spiritual practices, including with details and explanation, that all of us can try, regardless of our personal religions and traditions. --Atsuko Mochizuki
A rabbi in New Rochelle, New York, while quarantined and being treated for coronavirus, said, “We sometimes find ourselves victims of life’s fragility and tentativeness. This is one of those times. It can help us to reorient our ultimate goals in life. Contemplation is good for the soul.”
These are frightening times, in which the threats of illness and loss loom large. Fear is driving us, quite literally, apart. For our health and safety, we must put barriers and distance between us. We must keep to ourselves, for the time being. Christian people are preparing for Easter without the welcoming embrace of Sunday services and while witnessing immense collective suffering without familiar community to lean upon for answers and support. Under the conditions of isolation and from within emotional overwhelm, our faith may suffer, but it is essential we nurture our relationship with God in the midst of a global pandemic. The Christian contemplative tradition, a rich but sometimes neglected part of religious life, offers healing balm for this moment.
Thomas Merton writes, “Contemplation is the highest expression of a man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, for being.” We can refine our awareness and steady our faith in a brutal world through three accessible modes of contemplative practice: silence (Centering Prayer), sacred reading (Lectio Divina) and embodied prayer (Julian of Norwich’s Body Prayer).
Through contemplation, we can take comfort in daily practices, well-worn by the hands, hearts, and minds of Christians—who endured personal suffering, illness, wars, and pandemics—for centuries. Contemplation serves not only our highest good but also the common good. Clear awareness creates within us wells of compassion; our faith leads us to the work of justice and mercy, from contemplation to action.