Tag Archives: Contemplative Prayer

Cutting, Crocheting, Same Thing?

So I have addictions in my family.

I do.

Recently I have been creating textile art projects – knit and crochet. I had also read an article about ‘cutting” and wondered how people do this. I heard a speaker talk about ‘cutting’ as a way to counteract psychological pain. I still could not get my head around actually taking a box cutter and doing controlled cuts: the blood drops, the permanent scars, the hiding of the body. How does one hide one’s arms – from everyone?

The other night as I continued to crochet long after my shoulders and neck hurt. And went back to it again the next pain-filled day. A question came to me: “Is this any different from ‘cutting’, really?”

Well I have been creating ‘Circle Flowers’ for a pop-up love gifting. At least my pain is producing something good, I thought, ‘Cutting’ is just destructive and a call for help.

It was then that I saw them as the same. The meaning is mixed – perhaps because a moral judgement is irrelevant. I am no different. Perhaps my scars will come from carpel tunnel.

So I find myself wondering: “What pain am I trying to counteract?” and “Am I addicted now to creating beauty?” and “Am I damaging my neck to crochet for so long?” again “Why do I have to do this?” and “What am I hiding?”

Life is complicated. ‘Handle with Prayer’ is the old saying. I also practice contemplative knitting. I contemplate God. I contemplate myself. I pray. Is this contemplative knitting becoming an addiction? Can I tell the difference or is life a mash-up of healthy and destructive habits with a permeable line between?

I am not ready to look at my other addiction, Netflix, no.

Anyway, here is an image of my small ‘Circle Flowers’ installation as a love gift for all those engineering students at UBC who need some art love. Maybe, somehow, if anyone cuts with all the stress of midterms, the art love will give them a reprieve and with prayer, some healing – as I am healing in rest today.

And by the way – Happy International Women’s Day!

Christians for Biblical Equality – academic accessible ideas on Christian Feminism


“Circle Flowers Installation by DS at UBC”

After Rivendell



“Walking the Labyrinth, Rivendell” DS

Contemplative prayer is about waiting. It is an interior kind of waiting that is practiced on the outside too on a regular basis. This kind of waiting – like Godot perhaps – makes way for other more specific types of prayer. Contemplative prayer acts as a spiritual default position.

This attitude in prayer I experience mostly in contemplative knitting or collage. The rhythmic movement of my hands keeps the rest of my body at rest. Often I start with just repeating the Jesus Prayer brought back to us by eastern Orthodox Christians. Sometimes I will just mention a name of a loved one or situation as a way to petition for God’s specific help. Other times I just let my mind wander and then have a sentence or two that I read out loud – a poem or verse.

Once in a while I have the opportunity to pray as I walk a labyrinth. I did this recently at Rivendell. The switchbacks in the path of the Chartres style walk comfort me. They echo my life and edify my prayers. Sometimes when I walk away from the direction of the centre, I find that I was actually quite close but could not see it. As I walk to toward the centre, and an answer is right before me, the path turns away again. It leads me to return home to trust that I am being led no matter what I see.

Since my decision to live a contemplative style of being in the world, I study and practice the habits of the early church, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the ancient monasteries. My relationship with a loving God through Christ is the foundation of my existence. The Spirit works in the background of my life with practices of faith and creativity. In this way I prepare for the future, whatever may come.

Such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.

Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”



The Competition of Seagulls

iPad Photo

“St. Stephen’s Yellow Window” iPad Photo DS 2015

The church was set for Jazz Vespers – something that is not my tradition but a friend’s daughter was to sing this evening. I parked a block away and walked a little as is my way wherever I go. I arrived a bit early and took a good seat in the wooden pews.

My first act could have been prayer but it was to photograph the stunning squares of the three stained glass windows – tiny pieces of predominantly yellow with orange blue, red with yellow, pink and violet, and blue green with all of the colours geometrically offered. Hanging lamps were reminiscent of the Mackintosh Church in Glasgow.


A pillow was offered to me. I refused the comfort. I do not know why – just not my habit, I surmise. I saw the backs of several people I knew. Then she sang – loud, clear, pure and to my great surprise – she was joined by seagulls.

The seagull song lingered, swelled and receded a couple of times. I looked to the windows to see if they were real or piped in by some CD accompaniment. Everyone seemed to take the competing song in stride with no looks of humour or smiles of knowing.

But for me, I was amazed. I was struck with awe. I left quietly, rising inside was a swell of: “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free…”. I know I am cared for. I am free. Even seagulls praise their Maker.


The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land…   (Song of Solomon)

The House by the Sea




iPad Photo “Shell Still Life” DS

Several phone calls had made the morning stressful. I was tired, so tired. I decided to take it easy instead of catching up on more work. I sat in the garden room with a cup of coffee and began to knit.

I slowed my breathing to match the rhythm of contemplative knitting. This is my practice. I breathed a prayer. The sunlight shone on my face through the slats of the vertical blinds. I picked up a book lying in a pile neglected on the summer table: “The House by the Sea”.

A random reading became a welcome contrast to my disciplined course reading of late. It began: “Yesterday I lay around all day, sometimes on my bed upstairs, sometimes on the chaise longue on the porch, looking at the flowers. I enjoyed the lovely rooms in which I live, the light, the spaciousness…”. Peace started to blanket my mind.

May Sarton’s experience blended with my own. She continued: “Two days ago the purple finches came back… lovely to lie still and watch the wings coming and going…”. An interlude of words, of colour and patterned movement, a little sun, a sighed prayer brought calm to my type A personality. Now I can go back to work. In Genesis on week one of the earth, even God rested. Thank you.

IPad photo contemplative knitting

iPad photo “Contemplative Knitting” DS



IPad Photo - the light of the full moon is echoed by the light in the room

IPad Photo – the light of the full moon is echoed by the light in the room – DS

A desire to knit pulled me into the garden room on my way to turn in for the night. I sat down, pulled the green shawl around me and took up my knitting. I often pray the Jesus Prayer as I sit to contemplate. Green and grey, purl and knit, or knit all the way across, forms the rhythm. I now pray Breath Prayers for my loved one whose birth day was quite a while ago.

Scenes from the happy past appear in my mind as I glance through the blinds at the full moon. I feel called to this unusual task. As I knit by moonlight it feels memorable like other things one will never forget. This night, this night, will my prayers be answered?

Many years I have prayed for the one who is far away. This way I keep her close waiting for that hoped for day. Promised blessings form my soulscape for her as she lives and moves and has her being.

As my pink needles stop their inherited journey I stop to wonder if my knitting grandmother experienced this peace in praying. I paused to wonder if this silver night would mark a turning point in my loved one’s faith and life. We come from a long line of knitters and prayers. It is who we are. Thanks be to God.

Colossians 2:2

That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

Prayer Mash-up

"A Walk in the Woods"
“A Walk in the Woods” Collage Book 2013 DS

We say goodbye to winter with a mash-up of different art forms on prayer. After all that is what we are essentially all about.

“They should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring.”
(Acts 17: 27, 28)

Morning Has Broken
Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Eleonor Farjeon 1931

THE PRAYER by Josh Gronan and Celine Dion Live in Concert

“Snow Day” 2013 DS

Today I went back to bed. I made the necessary calls to cancel my appointments. It is a snow day. In fact at noon the snow is still falling.

There have been a lot of workshops this month and I am exhausted. However, I could not sleep. What happened was that, as I lay there, heaped with covers, trying to get warm, my basic coldness kept me kind of awake. My mind conceived or rather received, several new ideas for workshops in the New Year.

Often my best work is done when I do not plan it. This is what keeps me to a contemplative path. A snow day becomes an unexpected retreat day – what Richard Rohr in his book “Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer” calls a sacred space, a liminal space, where we are led to let go and to somehow be transformed. It becomes a period of time away from our normal everyday life. We are able to see things in a new way.

Today I am kidnapped by the Spirit for a beauty day – a white day, a quiet day where my schedule is interrupted. This moment I am in awe of the largest of flakes, of the crackling sound on the screen window; of the swirling of the flakes in various directions simultaneously.

Surely this scene is the Self-expression of God:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

I notice that my breathing pattern changes. This over-abundance of snow that is more than the branches can hold seems like this prophetic word:

I will [ ] open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 10:6b

Yes, even in my fatigue I have received the “spiritual creativity” Rohr writes about that God gives when we relinquish control for a while and trust in God’s work “in the darkness.” Not only am I rested; I am revived to return to my goal-oriented lifestyle.