The following principles for entering into contemplative dialogue are adapted from Bridges to Contemplative Living with Thomas Merton, The Merton Institute, Ave Maria Press. These are the principles that guide respectful and supportive dialogue among the Oblates of Holy Wisdom Monastery.
EIGHT PRINCIPLES FOR ENTERING INTO CONTEMPLATIVE DIALOGUE
- Focus on your “lived experience” and how the Rule, Scripture, or retreat theme connects to your everyday life. Keep your comments rooted in your own experience.
- Express your own thoughts knowing that others will listen and reflect upon what you say without responding verbally. It is helpful to use “I” statements or to frame your remarks with a phrase as “my experience has been…”
- Pay attention to the assumptions, attitudes, and experiences underlying your initial or surface thoughts on the topic.
- Remember to listen first and refrain from thinking about how you might respond to another’s comments. Simply listen to and accept another’s thoughts on the subject without trying to challenge, critique, or even respond aloud to them.
- Trust the group. Observe how each participant’s ideas, reflections, common concerns, assumptions, and attitudes come together and form a collective group mind.
- Reflect before speaking and be concise. Make one point or relate one experience, then stop and allow others to do the same.
- Expect periods of silence during the sharing. Learn to be comfortable with the silence and resist the urge to speak just because there is silence.
- Avoid cross talking. In time you will adjust to saying something and not receiving a response and to listening without asking a question, challenging, or responding directly. Simply speaking to the theme or idea from your own experience takes some practice. Be patient with yourself and the other members of your group and watch for deepening levels of dialogue.