The Rhythm of Contemplation

Posted by Spalding Hurst

September 11, 2021

The Rhythm of Contemplation

By Carlette Gentle, SCN

Part of the Toolbox for Prayer series

Download in PDF format

Rhythm is known as the repeated patterns of movement or sound while contemplation is known as deep reflective thoughts that form who we are as a person. We each have a rhythm of life and how we contemplate. The rhythm of who we are flows out of us every day. As I stop to contemplate, I have come to realize that my way of contemplation is a rhythm of loving. It is a rhythm of going out and coming in. It is a rhythm of caring that sometimes feels like movements of melodious music.

So, as I stop to contemplate the rhythm of my life, I realize that I am tender. I am an antenna; my ears and heart are on high alert to pick up signals of injustices. I attend to the needs of my neighbors, the poor, the elderly, people seeking assistance and I attend with love and compassion. I work mainly with the elderly poor living on Southside Belize City. I am attentive to their needs trying to help in whatever way possible. And as I go out and attend to my clients, I also know that I have to come in and attend to me as well. As I pause to contemplate these people, these interactions, the faces come back to me as well. It’s that back-and-forth rhythm, I go out and work with them and then come in and reflect on myself and them and hold them in loving prayer as I know they do for me. The back-and-forth rhythm of loving and being loved.

“It’s that back-and-forth rhythm … the back-and-forth rhythm of loving and being loved.”

This contemplative time of slowing down and pausing is needed by my body, mind, and soul. Therefore, when my body calls out, I must create that time and space for it to happen. I know sometimes we might not believe that we need this time, but the body has a way of calling out for its needs. Thus, some days I lay in my hammock contemplating looking to the peaceful sky for assurance that I am not in this ministry alone, that I don’t have to carry the burdens of those I work with alone. And as God knows my thoughts, I believe God sends the beautiful Caribbean wind to engulf my body. I close my eyes and feel the embrace of God in the wind. This is my assurance “I am not in this alone.” After a while, I let go and let God take me where God wills. The beauty of contemplation, I believe, is letting oneself go as God guides our thoughts.

 

I enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen. As a result, one way I look at contemplation is allowing myself to sit in a combination of seasonings being marinated, with the seasonings of God, and of my experiences.

Taking time for the marinade to happen will assure me that the seasonings are embedded within me. And after that marinade, I then allow the time for a slow simmer in my pot of God’s loving arms. The slow simmer over low heat allows the slow process of thoughts, and the presence and love of God to mingle and create the tender that I am.

Sister Carlette Gentle is a Belizean SCN living in Belize. She has a master’s in clinical social work and a certificate in gerontology. She works with the elderly poor in the Southside of Belize City and is also the Associate vocation director for Belize. In addition, she helps to cook for the homeless. She enjoys cooking, singing, and meeting new people.

Want to read more from the Toolbox for Prayer series? Click the links below.

A Journey with Prophets

The novices were delighted to attend the class of Sister Jane Karakunnel on scriptures, especially on prophets and the Gospel of John from July 11 to Aug. 4, 2022

The Rhythm of Contemplation

Rhythm is known as the repeated patterns of movement or sound while contemplation is known as deep reflective thoughts that form who we are as a person. We each have a rhythm of life and how we contemplate. The rhythm of who we are flows out of us every day. As I stop to contemplate, I have come to realize that my way of contemplation is a rhythm of loving.

Letting Scripture Speak

Lectio Divina is a special kind of Scripture prayer. The term means a “holy reading” or “a prayerful reading” of Scripture. It is a process of praying with Scripture in a way that invites us to be more open to hear a personal and meaningful message from within the passage. This kind of prayer also leads us to a contemplative stance in our prayer with Scripture.

In this article you will find the four basic steps of Lectio Divina: READ, MEDITATE, PRAY, CONTEMPLATE. I will attempt to explain these steps in a practical way. My hope is that this process will help us to pray with the Scriptures in a richer way. This reflection is meant to aid us in understanding and following the spirit of each step and also to help us to become more open to God’s word within the Scripture passage you select.

Two Wings of My Prayer Life

As an Indian Christian Religious, the two wings of my prayer life are Biblical and Indian Spirituality. At home, we had everyday family prayer which included Rosary and reading from the Bible. I was responsible to conduct it. It was a vocal prayer that did not touch my heart though there was devotion to do it. After coming to the Congregation too, prayer was mostly a recitation of psalms and singing of songs. Though I was faithful to it there was not much impact on my life. Prayer was like an activity I had to do but I did not enjoy it or experience anything in my heart.

Creating a Toolbox for Prayer

Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” It is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques rediscovered 2500 years ago by Gotama the Buddha, and is the essence of what he practiced and taught.

Heart Meditation

This Toolbox for Prayer post is a video from Sister Chris Kunze. Sister Chris provides the opportunity to reflect on the idea that there is no greater gift you can offer, that the energy of an open heart. An open heart has the qualities of unconditional love, a healing presence, innate harmony, and compassion. Opening our hearts to these qualities allows for joy filled service to be possible. 

Latest issue of ‘The Journey’

The second volume of The Journey Magazine for 2022 will be hitting mailboxes soon and is available to read online.

Using Prose as a Stepping Stone into my Prayer Time with God

I often use my prose that I produce as a creative writer, as a stepping-stone into my prayer time with God.

Praying with Catherine Spalding: From the Known to the Unknown

What seems like a lifetime ago, during a third grade social studies activity about daily life for the Kentucky pioneers, I vividly remember taking turns churning
butter and pouring melted tallow into iron candle molds. I was fascinated by all they embarked upon on their journey. From an eight-year-old’s perspective, their
lives seemed unbelievably difficult – fraught with obstacles to daily survival, uncertainties about the future, and risk. I could not understand why someone
would choose this path; however, I admired the passion, grit, ingenuity and faith in God required to cross from the known into the unknown. All that I learned back then took on its own shape in my active 8-year-old imagination and I believe those early images of the pioneers awakened in me a curiosity and awe about acting on a dream. What was it like to be so strongly drawn to move into the unknown – willing to risk it all in the name of hope? I was captured by this pioneer spirit. As I grew older, my understanding became more informed, less imaginary and more inclusive of the various impacts of this westward movement. Today, it continues to be expanded as we search to recognize the full story of that era and our place in it – good or bad. We still have so much to learn. However, for this reflection, I will focus on the part that captured my interest as a child – spirit, passion and resilience.

Dance as Prayer

Dance was always a part of my life growing up. I am from German heritage so polkas, along with the chicken dance, conga lines, the hokey pokey were a big part of our family celebrations. Our joy and enjoyment was expressed with our whole being – mind, heart and body. I loved it!

But, I never thought of dance as prayer until the novitiate. Our novice director, Sister Mary Pauletta, had a Sister friend from another community who visited her when I was a first-year novice. This was in the post Vatican II days when lots of new ideas were emerging. The Sister friend introduced us to liturgical dance. She choreographed several dances to psalm songs and many of us participated. Though her name is long lost in my memory, I will never forget the gift she gave me by introducing body as well as mind and heart to my way of praying. I loved it!

8 Comments

  1. Rosemarie Kirwan

    It’s Friday morning, and I’m just now getting to the reading of your reflections. I have seen this for myself in your life and in your care for others. May you continue to grow in the depth of your relationships and in your awareness of how much you can assure and inspire others.

    Reply
  2. Martha Walsh SCN

    Although my sea is the Atlantic I join you in experiencing the calm or turbulent sea washing over me as the wind, whether gale or zephyr embraces body and spirit. With enlightenment from the sun I recall this phrase from way back in my novitiate days. “The heart of the beginner is as the sea when it surges” We are all beginners. Thanks for your thoughts and especially the hammock picture! Love, Martha

    Reply
  3. Rita Davis, SCN

    Collette, so dear to my soul! Thank you for being sooooo talented, kind and fun, and prayerful!
    Love you.

    Reply
  4. Sr. Ann Moyalan scn

    Such a wonderful way of blending life, prayer & ministry. I found your life inspiring & life giving . May Jesus bless you & all those whom you minister.

    Reply
  5. Michelle

    I love your insights and inspired imagery! Very Vincentian and a very healthy rhythm! Thanks for contributing to our toolbox for prayer!

    Reply
  6. Linda Soltis

    Carlette,
    How insightful your comments, and how beautifully written. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    Dear Carlette, you have “nailed” the rhythm of contemplation. You are so wise, and you share that wisdom with humility, simplicity and charity. You are a true daughter of Catherine. You live the SCN charism.
    I am blessed to call you my sister.

    Reply
  8. Maria Brocato

    Our dear Carlette, dearest thanks for this beautiful reflection. May God keep you growing in those loving Divine arms!

    Reply

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