Free & Fit - Contemplative Self Guided Spiritual Direction - Anglican, Catholic & Sport Base

Free & Fit - Contemplative Self Guided Spiritual Direction - Anglican, Catholic & Sport Based Practices

In God we live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28). As noted by Maria Tattu Bowen the Holy Spirit is dwelling within us, in us, animating our lives and our world, when we are conscious of it and when we are not (Bumpus, Langer 2005). However, Christians today remain unaware of how to gain access to the Holy Spirit and have a deep longing, a need and a desire to pursue the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Denis Edwards highlights for us, as individuals, to be able to have access we must first discern what it means to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. What is discernment of the Holy Spirit? Paul saw the discernment of spirits as a manifestation of the Spirit, a gift given to some in the Christian community for the good of all (1 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Edwards defines four practical steps as to how we can firstly pursue the presence of the Holy Spirit. These are based firstly in Discipleship following Jesus Day to Day. Secondly, to read scripture and follow Jesus teachings to love God with all you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. Thirdly, to stand with those without access to power and resources, and, finally, to discern the Holy Spirit through practical outcomes. Edwards states you will know the nture of the Holy Spirit by fruits. Good fruits or bad fruits as noted in Matthew 7:15-20 (Edwards, 2007).

This can be done more practically through praying and reading aloud Galatians 5:22-23. By asking God in prayer to help us to receive these gifts of the Holy Spirit and to share “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” with ourselves (on a daily basis) and our neighbor (living together daily in community).

In order to fully understand how to discern the Holy Spirit it is important that this paper defines what assumptions it rests upon. Firstly, when we refer to Spirituality we are talking about Christian Spirituality. For the purposes of a definition for Spirituality we may refer to the traditional Church definition given as the “Practice of Worship, Devotion and Prayer which enables an awareness of the Holy Spirit (James, 1968).” However, in the context of Sport, other denominations (Catholic), other faiths and new age spirituality we will explore this definition and its practices in more detail in the text (Parry, Robinson, Watson and Nesti, 2007, Chapter 2).

When we speak of God we are referring to The Christian God. A Trinitarian God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Christian Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity. To fully understand the Holy Spirit refer to Appendices 2 which references the Anglican Catechism to define the true meaning, presence and experience of the Holy Spirit.

It is through our personal relationship with God and the Holy Spirit that establishes our call to serve the Kingdom of God. How we define this calling is personal and in that we are personally responsible for our own development and communal future. This personal calling may not simply be pre-ordained or pre-destined and it can be subject to change over time. Anne Carr sees the pursuit of the Holy Spirit as a life of prayer and struggle for justice as an authentic part of Christian spirituality. Essentially a part of Spiritual growth. It can be seen that the traditional pursuit of the Holy Spirit is as important as new and challenging methods to discern the Holy Spirit that are being practiced today (Edwards, 2007).

John Pilch states that if no human person can be identified then its either a good or bad spirit. New age understanding of Spirituality means it is harder to distinguish the Holy Spirit and has created obstacles for Christians. Confusion has been raised about our outlook and certain biases towards what is a good or bad spirit. More simplified this can be perceived as our personal lack of understanding and may lead us to naive and imbalanced conclusions of what is a good or bad Spirit (Edwards, 2007).

Edwards defines three traditional methods as a practical way of discernment of the Holy Spirit. Firstly, weighing a decision through specific pros and cons. Secondly, discerning interior movements or promptings of the Holy Spirit and, thirdly, discernment based on the experience or an encounter with the Holy Spirit (Edwards, 2005). A weighing of a decision can be done very simply through recognizing Gods call as clear and unmistakable. It is usually when you are not pulled in different directions or left over analyzing and evaluating all your options. Through prayer and petition we are clearly able to define Gods call on our lives (Edwards, 2007). We need to also discern how our interior relationship is with the Holy Spirit.

Essentially if we are feeling pulled towards God or away from God. Perhaps we suffering from a state of Consolation or Desolation. This can be a disruptive or sweet pull in a different direction, a sense of evil or evil energy and more often than not it can be a good feeling representing a Bad Spirit. This is why it is so important not to react on impulse. Especially if we are feeling neglect or loneliness this could all be happening during a trial period or whilst we are going through purification. Therefore, the practice of contemplation and prayer can be all the more important. (Edwards, 2007).

Finally, we must be discerning the Holy Spirit based on our encounter and experience with the Holy Spirit. If we are experiencing consolation or desolation without previous cause are we truly experiencing Gods sheer good grace or are we are we experiencing a fresh revelation of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you have encountered revelation happening at every stage, at one stage or even a one off supernatural and potentially life changing experience of the Holy Spirit. These all need to be considered with the reading of scripture, prayer and meditation as we contemplate, discern and pray to identify the presence of the Holy Spirit (Edwards, 2007).

Rationally speaking we all revert to what is our familiar and comfortable experience of the Holy Spirit. Unless of course, we have a different experience! Maria Tattia Bowen states that we should be aware of how our relationship with others forms our understanding of ourselves. She asks “what kinds of data do we notice in our bodies, emotions and minds when we sense God’s presence and when we feel blocked from doing so? (Bumpus and Langer, 2005). It is first of all, like stated in our assumptions, important to identify what we mean by a “relationship with God”. Barry and Connolly (1982, Chapter 3) define a relationship with God as being “established by the creation of the human person and exists even when the person is unaware of its existence.” So we are referring here to three types of relationship, with God, our neighbor and ourselves. For the purpose of discerning the Holy Spirit we will be focusing on our relationship purely with God as the Holy Spirit through reflections on self guided Spiritual Direction (Barry, Connolly, 1982).

In 2 Timothy 1:7 it states that “for God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control (the Passion Translation).” The Holy Spirit who gives power, love and self control can also be accessed through Contemplative prayer. Through meditation, prayer, spiritual practice and discipline we can gain access to Gods power, love and self control. As we receive we can receive it, like the fruit of the Spirit, and then share Gods power, love and self control through contemplation with others. How do we do that? Barry and Connolly (1982) state that the dialogue takes place (between God and the individual through prayer and meditation), then between the living word and the responsive hearer we can recieve heavenly wisdom and share it with others.

The practice of contemplative prayer is often rare. When forming practices of self guided Spiritual Prayer often “the Lords prayer, the Book of Common Prayer, the Psalms, the Rosary, petitionary prayer, meditation from a book of meditations or the pondering of problems or questions is used instead (Barry and Connolly, 1982, Chapter 3).

We will be exploring different practices of Spirituality and Contemplative prayer, but as a practice it can be defined as “paying attention to and becoming absorbed in the person of Jesus, in God, in biblical persons or outstanding Christians (Barry and Connolly, 1982, Chapter 4.)

For Catholics the practice of Contemplation prayer can be used through the practices of St Ignatius of Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises. For example the Prayer: Soul of Christ can be prayed as a Christian Contemplation for Catholic Self Guided Spiritual Contemplation (Refer to Appendices, Puhl, 1951.)

This practice is historically and still presently used today by Christian leaders within the Christian Catholic Church and by Sisters in Covenants throughout a 40 day Lenten practice. Anglicans and other denominations also borrow these Spiritual Exercises and use them for contemplative prayer. However, when used in group or public contemplative settings Spiritual Directors have to “work long and patiently” to gain Spiritual interaction with their Directee’s attention (Barry and Connolly, 1982, Chapter 4) and therefore the practice of Contemplative Prayer is perhaps best used in Self Guided settings. Through Spiritual Practices which are not focused on “disordered affections” individuals can seek first the Kingdom of God and in the process God must increase, but the individual must decrease. (John 3:22-30). Ignatius summarizes his Spiritual Exercises as “conquering oneself and ordering ones life, without choosing under the influence of any disordered affection (Gallagher, 2017, Chapter 3).

Outside of Catholic and Faith based Churches Spirituality and Sport have also seen growth in the 20th and 21st Century. In pursuit of Spiritual Discipline without disordered affection athletes and sports people have found God through new Spiritual practices including whilst participating, competing, training and playing sports. However, running is a more common spiritual and sport based practice used for contemplation, through meditation, endorphins and perspiration, and thus enable more freedom and access to the Holy Spirit.

Marlatt and Kristeller (2003) state that this type of meditation in the running context aims to create mindfulness, an awareness and centeredness. This can be perceived as a “runners high” where there is an experience through contemplation of transcendence and direct dialogue between the individual and God whilst running in the Lords creation. Saint Sing (2004) states that this is similar to the Greek concept of arete’, a state of both Gods grace (the presence of the Holy Spirit) and Gods excellence (the Lords creation) (Parry, Robinson, Watson and Nesti, 2007, Chapter 2).

The practice of Sport and Spirituality is not therefore uncommon. Perhaps more common outside of a Church Practice, but elements of Contemplation and meditation whilst participating in Sports can often be found in the outdoors sporting context. The biggest conflict with Sport remains competition and perhaps during challenge matches and when playing against opponents its harder to hear from God. In this sense, Sport and Spirituality in a non-competitive practice becomes more appealing. The practice of non-religious sports such as Yoga, Pilates and Group Exercise classes continue to grow outside of Christianity. Yet the practice of running independently, working out whilst contemplating scripture or meditations as Spiritual practices remain fairly new and untried methods to develop in relationship with God and the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the practice of self guided contemplation in spiritual direction has its benefits. Yet there remains issues with community, accountability and loneliness for those who solely use this practice independently on a daily basis. Individuals would do well to slow down and place more emphasis on quality relationships in which there is spiritual depth with God and neigbour. Therefore, the practice of Ignatius Spiritual Practices, Contemplative Prayer and non-competitive Sport and Spirituality create great methods to discern the presence of the Holy Spirit.


Barry, William A. & Connolly, William J. (1982) “The Practice of Spiritual Direction.” Harper One Bumpus, Mary Rose and Langer, Rebecca Bradburn (2005) “Supervision of Spiritual Directors Engaging in Holy Mystery”, Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing.

Edwards, Denis. “Discernment of the Holy Spirit.” (Presence) (December 2007), Journal 21-29. International Spiritual Direction Journal. Gallagher, Timothy M. (2017) “A Handbook for Spiritual Directors An Ignatian Guide for Accompanying Discernment of Gods Will.” Crossroad Publishing Company. Parry, Jim. Robinson, Simon. Watson, Nick J. Nesti, Mark. (2007) “Sport and Spirituality an Introduction.” Routledge. Puhl. J. Louis (1952), The “Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius” Louis J. Puhl. Loyola. Smither. L. Edward. (2009)“Augustine as Mentor”. B&H Publishing Group.

Annotated Paper Introduction/Bibliography