What is Contemplative Correspondence?

St Terese of Avila - Version 2People have been engaging writing as a spiritual practice for as long as they have been writing, and it can take many forms.

Contemplative correspondence is a particular spiritual practice of writing first developed in a congregational setting as an invitation to members to reflect on the monthly worship themes. It has since been enjoyed in a wide variety of groups, communities and workplaces and also by individuals, all discovering a contemplative writing practice that equips them for paying attention to their own lives and connecting their experience to a wider view, to larger meaning and to others.

Rooted in the wisdom teachings of world religions, contemplative correspondence makes use of poetry, story, images, objects, history and science as food for thought and reflection on a particular word or theme. Participants’ writing is drawn to the surface by questions, prompts, and ellipses as they fill their own pages in a correspondence with their own soul or inner truth. When practiced in small groups, it also invites participants into rich conversations and new relationships with one another.

Karen Hering’s book, Writing to Wake the Soul describes the practice in detail and provides 60 reflections on 10 themes that can be used in this kind of writing, in groups or as individuals. As Karen explains in the book, the practice can be engaged by people of different faiths and world views:

Like prayer, this practice is doctrinally neutral. It claims no allegiance to a specific faith or even to a particular position on the theological spectrum, insisting only that life holds more than meets the eye and that spiritual practices can help connect us to that more. It can be used by the theist, agnostic, and atheist alike. Some say this kind of writing is the most basic work of creating meaning—a human effort of ordering the chaotic nature of our experience. Others say it’s a matter of opening oneself to revelation and to meaning already embedded in the world, whether it’s been placed there by nature and evolution, by a holy Creator, or by some combination of these working together. From any perspective, this spiritual practice of writing can be described as our creative participation in a universe still unfolding.

To discover the practice of contemplative correspondence, you can attend one of Karen’s guided writing sessions, pick up a copy of Writing to Wake the Soul, or try one of the writing prompts on-line.

As one participant said, “It helped me name what matters. It made me feel better. It helped me think clearly.”