North Cove

The Tree of Contemplative Practices

We can all experience inner ease when we pull away from the world around us, go quiet, breathe, look or feel inward, find balance and make things right. Through contemplative inquiry, we cultivate awareness. There are tools to help us.

Let’s talk about spiritual, meditative and contemplative practices.

Meditation, reflection and prayer are called practices because, over time, with repetition, we gain mastery. A spiritual practice is an instrument, an act of self-awareness and connection. It becomes a natural way to connect with our innate wisdom. It can be an integral part of every day, a way to understand and navigate our journey; thus, a spiritual practice transforms our lives. 

Yet, we are often confused about this topic and can feel inadequate. For example, we might try one practice only to find that it doesn’t work for us, try another and maybe another, losing our motivation with each failed attempt. 

Some years ago, I discovered the Tree of Contemplative Practices at The Center of Contemplative Mind in Western Massachusetts. CMind, a teaching center, created this excellent tool to illustrate the variety of reflective practices. Some of them will surprise you, or you may discover that you already have some informal meditation experience. They have many forms, including:

  • Creative practices: singing, playing music, drawing, writing, knitting.
  • Movement practices: martial arts, yoga, dancing, walking, working out.
  • Relational practices: storytelling, deep listening, dialogues, circles.

Let’s add gardening, cooking, and daily activities accomplished with care and awareness to the tree. Some practices overlap several branches; look at the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono tradition, which I introduced in the last post; it belongs under ritual, relational and generative practices.

Credit to “CMind” ( The Tree of Contemplative Practices [Illustration]. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.

Now, I invite you to spend some time under this beautiful tree of knowledge and feel the wisdom it holds for you. You can print the blank image. CMind offers a download of an empty Tree to customize it and include your practices.

8 steps to finding your meditative practices

  1. We begin by connecting with the earth. Place your hands on your belly, close your eyes, and allow your breath to expand your abdomen. Breathe for a few minutes connecting breath and earth.
  2. Now, look at the tree, its roots, branches and leaves. What are the roots evoking for you?
  3. What are the seven branches of the tree, and what kinds of practices are on each?
  4. What resonates with you? Are you surprised? Are you pleased or curious?
  5. Is your current practice not listed? Where would you place it?
  6. Now step back and look at the tree. Is there a practice that stands out? 
  7. What attracts you to It? How can you begin integrating it into your daily life?
  8. When you feel complete, give thanks to the Tree of Practices. 

Please leave a comment below and tell us about your discovery.

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