Contemplative Profiles: Evelyn Underhill

Contemplative profiles are back with the help of author and historian Lisa Deam. This month we’re featuring Evelyn Underhill:

Lately I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the modern contemplatives and mystics. One of these is the Anglo-Catholic writer Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941). Underhill offered scholarly studies on great mystics from the past — she called them giants and heroes. At the same time, she insisted that the life of prayer and contemplation belongs to every ordinary person. No heroism necessary.

Underhill also believed that contemplation belongs to every era — eras of conflict and eras of peace. One of her early books, Practical Mysticism (free on Kindle!), was released at the beginning of World War I. Underhill almost postponed its publication out of concern that its subject matter would seem inapplicable or, even worse, selfish and otherworldly. But she decided that there was no better time to nourish the spiritual life.

We, too, live in times of turmoil and conflict. As Christians, we’re acutely aware of the world’s brokenness. This month we’ll explore what, according to Underhill, Christian contemplation offers us in troubled (as well as more peaceful) times.

I’ll leave you with some quotes from Practical Mysticism on the applicability of contemplation for every Christian.

For those who embrace it, the contemplative life “will teach them to see the world in a truer proportion, discerning eternal beauty beyond and beneath apparent ruthlessness. It will educate them in a charity free from all taint of sentimentalism; it will confer on them an unconquerable hope . . .”

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“Though it is likely that the accusation will annoy you, you are already in fact a potential contemplative: for this act, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, is proper to all . . .  is, indeed, the characteristic human activity.”

Read more about Underhill in the Fuller Studio.

 

About Lisa Deam

Lisa Deam writes and speaks about Christian spiritual formation from a historical perspective. She’s the author of A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps. Visit her on Twitter @LisaKDeam and at lisadeam.com.

Featured Article: Learn to Meditate While Walking

Taking my oldest son on a daily walk helped introduce me to contemplative prayer practices as I finally faced my thoughts, let them run their course, and could finally let my mind settle into a place of rest. If you struggle to get started with contemplative prayer by sitting in a quiet room by yourself, these tips for meditating while walking may prove helpful.

Of course I also recommend learning to approach prayer from a sitting position since that can prove restful once you get the hang of it. However, if you need a starting point, this article could help:

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“Unlike guided meditation, which asks you to clear your head of all thoughts (often producing the opposite effect), walking naturally allows your mind to go quiet. While you might start your walk thinking of everything that you need to do today, or this week, after a while, the rhythm of your footfall and movement acts as a focus, allowing you to just focus on the road ahead of you.”

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“Studies have shown that connecting to nature on a regular basis, whether that is through walking, gardening, or animal care, can improve your mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.”

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“Once you’ve given your mind a chance to clear, and not think for a while, it allows you to approach the issue from a fresh perspective.”

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Read more here. 

 

 

 

Scripture Meditation: The Glory of God Surrounds Us

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Psalm 8:1, NRSV

Creation is God’s invitation for us to witness his glory and beauty. The stars above our heads each night preach a message of creativity and love.

Taking a walk, enjoying our surroundings, and finding peace in a deep breath of fresh air can all become acts of worship for our caring God.  It also falls to us to find ways we can care for God’s creation in order to preserve this message of creativity and care for future generations.

May we always find new reasons to praise the majestic name of God as we observe his work all around us.

 

For Reflection

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Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

Seasons of the Soul via Adam McHugh

How Gratitude Made Ann Voskamp a Contemplative Activist

Tips for Handling a Toxic Co-Worker (The contemplative response? compassion)

Thoughts on Contemplative SilenceThoughts on Contemplative Silence

Sleepy Wasps and Ecclesiastes via Tanya Marlow

10 Predictions for the Days After November 8 (Deep breaths folks…)

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today

Saturday Prayer

Today’s prayer is from the Divine Hours:

“Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Read more in The Divine Hours.

Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

The Perpetual Panic of American Parenthood

Instructions on Prayer from a Trappist Monk

How to Write Every Day

Grace Is Not So Poor a Thing

Being the Gift the World Needs

Protestant Barriers to Contemplative Prayer (see page 6 of this PDF)

From Ed’s Blog: When Your Parents’ Simple Religious Answers Don’t Work

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today

Saturday Prayer

The Final Thanksgiving from the Divine Hours:
“Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.” Amen.

Source

Friday Favorites for Prayer and Writing

Each Friday I share some of my favorite finds related to praying or writing. If I think it could help you pray or write better, then I’ll include it below.

Do you have someone else’s article or post to share? Join the Contemplative Writers Facebook group, comment on today’s post on my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter (@edcyzewski) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, and books by Thursday at noon each week.

Spinning and Being Spun by Nancy Nordenson

Intimacy for the Avoidant

The Sanctity of Your Calendar

Stop Adopting Other People’s Anxiety

In Pursuit of Silence

Yes, the World Is Going Berserk, but Inner Peace Is Still Possible

From Ed’s Blog: Why Evangelicals Lack Compassion for Doubters and Doubters Lack Compassion for Evangelicals

 

Keep the Contemplative Writer Sustainable

The Contemplative writer is ad-free and never shares sponsored content, but it is a lot of work to maintain. We rely on affiliate links from the books we share and the generous donations of our readers. An automated monthly gift as low as $1 per month or a one-time gift of $5 goes a long way to sustaining our mission to provide contemplative prayer resources for our readers.

Learn how your support, through a one-time gift or small monthly gifts can keep this website running: Support Us Today

Featured Article: How to Resist Distraction

We are surrounded by distractions that are more than appealing to our minds that crave a quick win and pleasure. Choosing to focus runs against, the grain and the more we give in, the harder it is to say no.

So what recourse do we have when a text message pings or a commercial calls for our attention? This compilation of studies offers some practical steps you can put to good use when you writer or pray:

 

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Your lazy brain is happy to just react to that relentless bombardment of stimuli coming its way. But when you just react, you don’t usually make the best choices. And while you’re definitely doing something, you’re rarely achieving your goals.

That’s because when you’re reacting, you’re not in control of your life. In fact, reacting is the opposite of control. You see something fun and you chase it. You see something scary and you run away. Either way, your environment is determining your behavior.

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When you need to get work done, put your phone on the other side of the room. Make distractions harder to reach.

When you have fewer things to react to or you make it harder to react to them, you’ll be less reactive.

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Neuroscientists say stress takes your prefrontal cortex — the rational part of your brain — “offline.” Quite simply, stress makes you stupid. And that’s why just reacting often makes you do stupid things.

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Read more…

 

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Scripture Meditation: The Intentional Pursuit of God

Praise the Lord! I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.
Psalm 111:1-2

How do we become aware of God’s presence in our lives?

First, we prioritize time spent in Christian community, giving thanks together for the ways God has been present and provided for us. As our faith struggles or falters, we’ll find encouragement through the stories of God’s faithfulness among others.

Second, we grow in our delight of God by pondering the ways that God has been at work in our lives.

We shouldn’t be surprised that we struggle to see God at work if we don’t take time to ponder his presence each day.

 

For Reflection

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