Group Characteristics:

What is the difference between religion and spirituality?

Although religion and spirituality are sometimes used interchangeably, they really indicate two different aspects of the human experience. You might say that spirituality is the mystical face of religion.

Spirituality is the wellspring of divinity that pulsates, dances, and flows as the source and essence of every soul. Spirituality relates more to your personal search, to finding greater meaning and purpose in your existence. Some elements of spirituality include:
o Looking beyond outer appearances to the deeper significance and soul of everything
o Love and respect for God
o Love and respect for yourself
o Love and respect for everybody

Religion is most often used to describe an organized group or culture that has generally been sparked by the fire of a spiritual or divine soul. Religions usually act with a mission and intention of presenting specific teachings and doctrines while nurturing and propagating a particular way of life.

Religion and spirituality can blend together beautifully!

Different religions can look quite unlike one another. Some participants bow to colorful statues of deities, others listen to inspired sermons while dressed in their Sunday finery, and yet others set out their prayer rugs five times a day to bow their heads to the ground. Regardless of these different outer manifestations of worship, the kernel of religion is spirituality, and the essence of spirituality is God.

In the depths of personal contemplation, spirituality is intertwined with religion, politics, science, philosophy, and art on subtle levels that may not be outwardly obvious. The ultimate goals of these endeavors is some version of knowing greater truth and living better lives — what Kahlil Gibran referred to as being “in quest of the uttermost.”
Spirituality is:

* Beyond all religions yet containing all religions

* Beyond all science yet containing all science

* Beyond all philosophy yet containing all philosophy

The format of the meetings will include: Presentation of topic, meditation and group discussion.

Some topics might include:

* Being in the present moment
* Meditation practices
* Contemplative prayer methods
* Quantum physics and spirituality
* Great mystics and their message for today (Cayce, Goldsmith, Meister Eckhart, Rumi etc…)
* Near Death Experinces and the afterlife
* Defining and finding God

It will be facilitated by a graduate of The Shalem Institute. All members of the group will be invited to coordinate subjects that might interest not only themselves but the group. Videos, audios and books will be used when appropriate to clarify a subject. For example, Eckhart Tolle’s DVD entitled The Flowering of Human Consciousness will be used to introduce the concept of being in the present moment. It is important for the group to be ONE with respect to meditating and being in the current moment. Therefore, these topics will be reviewed initially.

Eckhart Tolle is known world-wide for his teachings on spiritual enlightenment through the power of the present moment. In The Flowering of Human Consciousness, you will come face to face with Eckhart Tolle, for a transformational meeting with this respected teacher and author.

The Shalem Institute defines the word contemplative this way:

The word contemplative has many meanings today. It comes from the Latin roots cum (with) and templum (temple), connoting a sense of the sacred. Stated simply, the classical tradition understands contemplation as a loving quality of presence in which one is open to things just as they are in the present moment.

In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,” or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear.” When referring to prayer or other spiritual practices, contemplation is classically distinguished from meditation.

Generally this means that meditation seems like something we “do” by means of our own effort and intention, while contemplation always seems to come as a gift. Further, the reverence for mystery implies an openness to unknowing, a willingness to be led and guided by God without having to comprehend what is happening.

In this understanding, contemplation is in no way opposed to action. In fact, our sense is that truly effective, responsive action in the world needs to be undergirded and informed by contemplative awareness.

Also, although silence and solitude play a role in the contemplative life, contemplation does not mean withdrawing from the world. On the contrary, it is a responsive, participative presence in and with God, oneself, one’s neighbors, and all creation.

What is a contemplative practice?

The following information was taken from The Contemplative Mind website.

A practice designed to quiet the mind in the midst of the stress and distraction of everyday life in order to cultivate a personal capacity for deep concentration and insight.

Although usually practiced in silence, examples of contemplative practice include not only sitting in silence but also many forms of single-minded concentration, including meditation, contemplative prayer, mindful walking, focused experiences in nature, yoga and other contemplative physical or artistic practices. We also consider various kinds of ritual and ceremony designed to create sacred space and increase insight and awareness, such as council circle or vision quest, to be forms of contemplative practice.

Contemplative practice has the potential to bring different aspects of oneself into focus, to help develop personal goodness and compassion, and to awaken an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life.