Asking for Directions: Part 2

ask directions

“Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do next?” I ask the Universe.

“Stop being afraid and shut up,” She tells me.

It’s “shut up” in a kind way, don’t get me wrong. (She sounds Yiddish, actually.) And I know what She means. Even I get tired of the busy chatter that goes on in my head sometimes.

Yesterday, I was walking in the woods. It was a gorgeous, early fall day. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and my mind was chattering away—blah, blah, blah, blahblahblahblah. It was as spastic as the chipmunks giggling in the leaves along the trail. When I finally realized I’d spent most of the walk in busy-brain mode, I stopped. Closed my eyes and tried to quiet the prattle.


Blah. Blah. Blah.




Sha! Shtil! Shhh,” She says. “Quiet!”

“Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do next?” I ask.

“Shut up,” She repeats, kindly.

She knows I have trouble with this.

Which is why, perhaps, the sheet of paper at my client’s office last week was oddly askew in its rack.

Which is why, perhaps, the colorful illustration caught my eye.

Which is why, perhaps, I picked it up and read “The Tree of Contemplative Practices.”

“Shut up,” She repeats, smiling.

Tree of Contemplative Practices

The “Tree of Contemplative Practices” was created by Maia Duerr for The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society in Northampton, Massachusetts.

The illustration, by Carrie Bergman, shows a simple tree with roots firm in the earth and branches reaching up to the sky. The roots of the tree symbolize the intentions of “all contemplative practices: cultivating awareness and developing a stronger connection to God, the divine, or inner wisdom.” The branches represent and illustrate different types of practices: stillness, movement, creation, generative. On the stillness branch, for example, the tree presents silence, centering prayer, insight mediation, sitting meditation, quieting and clearing the mind.

“Shut up,” She motions her head to the piece of paper askew, to the colorful illustration, to the words and soft guidance.

If you visit the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society’s website, you’ll find an entire section devoted to the concept of Contemplative Practices.

“Contemplative practices quiet the mind in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight….Contemplative practice has the potential to bring different aspects of one’s self into focus, to help develop personal goodness and compassion, and to awaken an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. They have helped people develop greater empathy and communication skills, improve focus and concentration, reduce stress, and enhance creativity. Over time, these practices cultivate insight, inspiration, and a loving and compassionate approach to life. They are practical, radical, and transformative. The concept of contemplative practice is as old as the world’s religions. Every major religious tradition includes forms of contemplative practice, such as prayer, meditation, and silent time in nature.”

In addition to broad descriptions of the concept, the site also includes information about many of the individual practices—articles, definitions, how-to instructions—as well as ways to begin a contemplative practice, attending retreats, and recommended reading.

“Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to do next?” I ask the Universe.

And She responds.

• • •

Photo by Jen Payne.

Tree of Contemplative Practices © The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Concept and design by Maia Duerr; illustration by Carrie Bergman. Note: you can download a full-size copy of the Tree of Contemplative Practices from their website.

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