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We live in a world informed in large part by digital devices and outlooks, and one of the primary impacts of thinking this way is to assume the rigors of digital time as our own. Our digital universe is always-on, constantly pinging us with latest news, stock quotes, consumer trends, email responses, social gaming updates, Tweets, and more, all pushing their way to our smart phones. There are so many incoming alerts competing for attention that many phones now allow users to swipe downward to reveal a scrollable screen containing nothing but the latest alerts pushed through.  Everyone and everything intrudes with the urgency of a switchboard-era telephone operator breaking into a phone call with an emergency message from a relative, or a 1960s news anchor interrupting a television program with a special report about an assassination. Anything we do may be preempted by something else. And, usually, we simply add the interruption onto the list of other things we’re attempting to do at the same time. By dividing our attention between our digital extensions, we sacrifice our connection to the truer present in which we are living. The tension between the faux present of digital bombardment and the true now of a coherently living human generates (a kind of present shock). The things we use do change us . . . It’s not about how digital technology changes us, but how we change ourselves and one another now that we live so digitally.

– quotes from Present Shock by Douglas Rushkoff

Technology is not evil–that would just be to easy to jump to this conclusion, right? To just feel guilty about our smart phones or to feel pride about our resistance of them isn’t helpful as we seek for a way of life that is deeply present and open. We must not simplify our tendencies to be always on to such an either/or solution: “I’m awesome – I don’t own a smart phone” OR “I’m awful – I own an always on, pushing, pinging, tweeting, hand-held machine.”

As our life has become more digitally immersed, our devices call for us to keep pace with them–but we are analog. We are not meant to be always on, always updated, always processing, always available. Rushkoff says these devices (really our settings on these devices) draw us away from the present — to a “faux present” which is on the periphery of present living. You know the scene, right? Being in a room with friends, your kids, or even alone–but you are actually anywhere but there . . . you are captured by pins, likes, comments, replies, forwards, pokes, pushes, tweets, and who knows what else (this is admittedly outdated the moment I type).


What do we do to unplug?

Consider the artwork by Chris Castro. Inspired stylistically by a traditional mexican folk artist, Chris captures the the tone of the words of Rushkoff. The always on-ness is deteriorating us.

How can we infuse a value stillness back into our life? into the life of our communty? into the life of our kids?

Sit for five minutes in silence.

After the minutes have passed, note what your experience was.
Do you think silence could become easier? In what ways? 

Exercise found on page 32-33.



Elemental not only refers to the classical views on the most essential of part of matter – but also the most integral part of life. What would you say are vital parts of life? I’m sure we’d share many of the same answers, while also adding a few unique ones as well. But, this retreat is about heeding what often goes un-recognized, un-tended to, un-kept. It’s not that we don’t care–it’s that we care for so many things, that we can miss the most quiet, the most subtle of things. Martin Laird writes, “we are built for contemplation.”

ElementalRetreat_coverWhat would it look like for you to make your inner life, the awareness within you, an integral part of life?

Laird goes on to write in a way that inspires a picture of the nearness of God. We need not feel guilty or stressed–we shouldn’t view ourselves as a failure or “not deep” when it comes to our reflective life. What if you, at a base level in your life knew that,

“God is our homeland.
And the homing instinct of the human being is homed on God.” – Martin Laird

The elemental, when it comes to our life, isn’t a “spiritual” part — but the entirety of life. What is intended to be basic & elemental for us–is whole living,

and that comes when we encounter life with awareness.

When we are awake to God, to our life, to others, and to creation, we feel what we’ve always longed for, wholeness.

“When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes. Union is seen to be the fundamental reality and separateness a highly filtered mental perception.”  – Martin Laird

May we silent ourselves and sense the connectedness to all things.

Find general practices and art reflections on pages pages 28 -45. 


ElementalRetreat_coverMany philosophies and worldviews have a set of classical elements that have been inspired by natural observation of the phases of matter. These classical elements include: earth as the equivalent to solid, water as the equivalent to liquid, air as the equivalent to gas and fire as the equivalent to plasma.

– Wikipedia, “classical elements”

Each of these elements are found all around us. They are elemental in that they are an integral part of the environment. They are sensual in that we can encounter them with our senses. And, while they are certainly profound enough to be seen by most ancient civilizations as the most basic forms of matter; they are also common enough for us to overlook their beauty.

The retreat theme of: ELEMENTAL – forming an integral part of life, has been inspired by the writing of Christine Valters Paintner in her book, Praying the Elements. It is our hope that we can engage the commonness of these classic elements and infuse them with some greater conection to prayer. Certainly earth is still dirt. Maybe our next interaction with dirt–planting a garden or washing our kids grass stained jeans can become more of a moment of awareness as we engage in the following practices?

Maybe the spirit of God is so common—wherever life is, that we don’t recognize it or necessarily respect it. And so we snuff it out sometimes. This does not seem entirely unlikely to me. Maybe this is the explanation—the explanation for why we are unkind, ungenerous, why we ever hate and kill one another. Why we are ungrateful and destructive. The spirit of God is among us, the Holy Spirit, and we often don’t even notice it.

– Debbie Blue, Consider the Birds


May our encounters with each other, with nature, and with ourselves enact a sense of deep relationship with the One who is ever so present. 

Elemental . . . forming an integral part of life


When we practice contemplative ways of praying and living, we slow down, which allows us to really see and hear God at work. We savor our experiences rather than consume them; relationships become heightened. We become more present to each moment and discover the luminosity of everyday life. Daily tasks feel less burdensome as we remember everything is holy and we become aware of the gift hidden in each moment. We learn to cultivate the ability to be present to the tides of transition in life and respond from a more calm and centered place. We develop compassion for our own challenges and in turn we widen our compassion for others. These have been some of the fruits of (contemplative) practices for me.

– Christine Vaulters Paintner, Lectio Divina 


I’m really excited to share the resource Daran Freund and I prepared for the Convergence Fall Retreat Weekend.  Daran and I started talked about the themes for this weekend almost immediately following last year’s retreat.  We’ve both impacted by the writing of Christine Valters Paintner – and wanted to use some of her practices to help connect us to nature – specifically the elements of WATER * WIND * FIRE * EARTH.

I also gathered a few of our more meaningful practices and wrote a few new ones around some of the reading I have done the last year.  Combining with these practices some art from our friend Chris Castro and many other amazing artists including Elizabeth Brizzi and Melanie Crawford.


The contents of the PDF include:

Evening Practice Morning
Lectio Divina Departure Practice

Imaginative Prayer of Peredgrinatio
Lectio Divina with Wind

Praying with the Purifying Gifts of Fire
Lectio Divina with Fire
Praying to Become Fire

Praying with the Groundedness of Earth
Praying with the Earth as Garden
Contemplative Walk

Flowing Prayer

Breath Prayer of Petition
Always On
Crossing Over
Both / And
A Celtic Prayer



Fall Retreat Prayers & Practices 2012

The theme for the annual Convergence Fall Retreat is Let the Light In.  For me, this theme is about letting go of the things that hold us back from a genuine experience of the everyday.  God is much more present than we often recognize.  I have this gut-level sense–but I’m far from living this way–that even the most mundane moments of life are radiant with the Light of God.

We sleep through life as it blurs before us.  Or we wish the present away in a belief that everything in the now is temporary and the only thing that matters is a future hope for one day.

I think we are meant to pour our life into living–invest in it, feel deeply all of it’s suffering, struggle, chaos, mystery, joy, etc.  It’s in this invested life that we can have room for a future hope while still encouraging a life of awareness, of compassion, of willingness to enter into love and pain to see the Light.

Read more here