Practice Contemplation

Practice Contemplation

Devoting time to contemplative practices, such as those listed below, can help people identify where they find meaning and energy in life, engender positive emotions, and provide a way to connect or heal.


Review the day’s events each evening for five or ten minutes to determine which experiences were life-giving, and which were life-draining. This could help you discover where you find purpose and meaning.

If you discover that:
  • A particular part of your work is life-giving, you can explore how to expand that part.
  • Other parts are less satisfying, you can explore the feelings connected with those situations.

You may also see a pattern of response that is unhealthy. Changing your response in situations can be a powerful way of averting negative feelings and outcomes that are life draining.

This exercise can help you reflect:

  • Close your eyes and take a moment to slow down. Begin with a slow deep breath. Breath in, filling your lungs and taking the breath right down to the belly. Breathe out slowly. Repeat.
  • Keeping your eyes closed, think for a moment about your day so far.
  • What made you feel most alive?
  • Allow the image or answer to surface. Make a mental note of it and give thanks.
  • Now ask, where did I feel life drain from me?
  • Allow that answer or image to surface and ask for guidance, if this is your tradition.

Writing down your responses may help you identify emerging patterns. You might also want to share your insights with a friend or spiritual director.

Dream Journal

Dreams are a way for the unconscious mind to work on issues that people may or may not yet consciously acknowledge. While very few dreams are prophetic, they can provide precise insights into personal needs, desires, and concerns. They are also compensatory and healing.

Dreams are highly symbolic, so they are frequently dismissed as silly until the dreamer starts to take them seriously by writing them down and reflecting on them symbolically.

One way to begin thinking about dreams is to keep a journal by your bed. Each morning, write down what dreams you remember. You may find that you remember more of your dreams and begin to develop an understanding of your own unique symbolic language.

Rushing to interpret your dreams isn’t necessary. Instead, let them speak to you, perhaps over time. Dreams are often multilayered and their truth may not become evident until years later.

Try this dream exercise:

Can you remember any dreams or dream fragments from last night? If not, can you remember a vivid dream from the past? Take a moment to write down the dream without editing it, no matter how irrational it seems.

  • Where were you?
  • What did it look like?
  • What were you doing?
  • Who else was there?
  • How did you feel?
  • What happened?

Note the words used. Look up meanings in the dictionary. Don’t try to interpret the dream, just reflect on it and allow the meaning to emerge.


Meditating can be another path to spiritual self-knowledge, and it has numerous other benefits. Modern technology actually shows positive changes in the bodies and brains of meditators.

If you are interested in trying meditation, set aside 20 minutes once or twice a day. Find a space that is comfortable and away from distractions. Meditate around the same time each day to make it a practice.

Here is a simple meditative exercise:

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Let your breathing be slow and relaxed.
  • Focus all your attention on your breathing. Notice the movement of your chest and abdomen in and out.
  • Block out all other thoughts, feelings, and sensations. If you feel your attention wandering, bring it back to your breathing.
  • As you inhale, say the word "peace" to yourself, and as you exhale, say the word "calm." Draw out the pronunciation of the word so that it lasts for the entire breath. The word "peace" sounds like p-e-e-a-a-a-c-c-c-e-e-e. The word "calm" sounds like: c-a-a-a-l-l-l-l-m-m-m. Repeating these words as you breathe will help you to concentrate.
  • Continue this exercise until you feel very relaxed.


Research shows that prayer, in whatever form you use, benefits health through the physiological effects of positive emotion. You might select a daily reading (for example, a psalm or an excerpt from a book of meditations). Read it slowly, connecting with the words, and reflecting on them. You may want to read the passage several times. To enter a contemplative state more quickly, it helps to do this at the same time and place each day.

You could also try this prayer exercise, listening and reflecting upon the following words:

Make me an instrument of peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
And, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.