Practice: Your Contemplation Style

"What form of contemplation best suits you? This practice will help you determine how to find a method that works well with your learning style.

"1. Using a sheet of paper, create two columns. Label one column 'Hobbies and Pleasurable Activities' and the other 'Personal Learning Style.'

"2. Now, proceed to make a list of all the hobbies and activities you enjoy. This may include looking at sunsets, taking a walk, enjoying a hot bath, bike riding, doing crosswords, writing in a journal, reading, singing or listening to music, talking with others, taking time for solitude, gardening, playing sports, doing yoga, going to parties, and so on. In particular, include those hobbies or pleasurable activities that you have historically done, even if you are not engaging in them at this time. In addition, include those activities that you have thought about trying but haven't yet. The reason for identifying those things you already like is to find a style of contemplation that can work for you, not to force you into something that you might likely lose interest in.

"3. After you have completed your list, you will identify your unique learning style or strength, which we will then correlate to one or more contemplative practices. These strengths fall into seven categories: language, sight, hearing, movement, natural world, relationships, and personal insight/spirituality.

"4. You can decode your hobbies and activities by looking at the following examples. Then, determine the correct category for each. Notice, too, that many activities fit into multiple categories.

"Your strength is language oriented if you like such things as reading, writing, keeping a journal, crosswords, word games, puns, word jokes, speaking, and telling or listening to stories.

"Your style is sight oriented if you enjoy activities like visiting museums and art fairs, looking at sunsets, photography, painting, doodling, quilting, knitting, astronomy, motorcycling, bird-watching, watching and playing sports, visual games, and appreciating colors and fashion.

"Your strength is hearing based if you are sensitive to sound and enjoy listening to music, going to concerts, dancing, singing, humming, or playing an instrument; or if you like to hear ocean waves and chirping birds.

"Your style is movement oriented when you engage in swimming, walking, yoga, stretching, hot baths, jogging, hiking, biking, quilting, knitting, painting, sculpting, competitive sports, and less competitive sports like horseshoes, shuffleboard, and Frisbee.

"Your style is natural world focused if you enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, the beach, camping out, archaeology, learning about natural shapes and objects, finding your way around new locations, sitting in the park, and farmers markets.

"Your abilities are relationship oriented when you typically enjoy friends, a committed relationship, volunteering, book clubs, social clubs, church activities, planning or going to parties, empathizing, teaching others, and public spaces and events.

"Your strength is personal insight/spirituality directed when you get pleasure from learning about yourself, praying, meditating, reading and reflecting, thinking about your purpose, going to lectures, engaging in spirituality, being in solitude, and seeking out silence, nature, and wisdom.

"5. Now that you've identified your strengths, let's convert them to contemplative practices that may work for you.

"Language contemplation: Centering prayer, mantras, chanting, affirmations, spiritual study groups, classes, and expressing gratitude.

"Sight contemplation: Meditation on an object, gazing at the sky, mindful walking meditation.

"Hearing contemplation: Chants; mantras; group singing; hymns; playing and sharing spiritual, religious, and meaningful music; affirmations; mindfulness of sound.

"Movement contemplation: Yoga in its various forms, tai chi, qigong, breathing practice, ecstatic dancing, mindful walking, and labyrinth walking.

"Natural world contemplation: Sky-gazing meditation, centering with nature, mindful walking or hiking, gratitude, and mindful gardening.

"Relationship contemplation: Religious and spiritual groups, shared nonjudgmental dialogue with others, prayer, chanting, philosophy groups, mindfulness, and sharing contemplative practices with others.

"Personal insight/spirituality contemplation: Meditation, mindfulness, reading, prayer, chants, mantras, affirmations, gratitude, and solitude with nature."