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Contemplative Reflection Themes*


1. Preparing To Let Go

Consider this guidance from hospice guide Frank Ostaseski when reflecting on letting go. “Look at the way you meet endings,” end of your day, end of a meal, end of a workshop, end of a relationship…This could be a journal entry day by day. What helps you let go? Watch your reactions and responses, resistance and acceptance. What resources within you and through the lives and writings of others, inspire and support you?  


2. Who Am I?

Who are you beyond this body? Fill in your view of something larger than yourself; what gives you the feeling of awe; life in God, unity with nature, dreams, an after-life; however you express the inexpressible. Make this your own reflection.


3. What Lifts You Out of Body Consciousness?

What or who do you turn to that may lift you beyond physical or emotional pain?

What do you choose to dwell on that brings beauty and healing? Could you write your own daily prayer or meditation journal? Something you could turn to every few hours? Something that may also bless the one in bed?


4. My Retreat is Filled With:

Listening. In the quiet hours, enjoy the silence, begin with an inspirational phrase or watch your breath. Stillness may lead to dwelling on some part of your life that needs a deeper truth or a needed healing. Or your silent sitting may simply open you to a mystery that has no words. Dedicate your quietude as a blessing for the one in bed, an intuitive listening for what your friend might need.


5. How Do You Feel About Change?

How do you respond? What do you need to support your feeling good or to support the times you don’t feel good about it? Do you love the challenge or dislike the disruption? How do you deal with resistance? What allows you to give up resisting? What allows you to grieve? You may be inspired by some of the following poets: Kahlil Gibran, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Dylan Thomas, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rainer Maria Rilke. Also the mystical prayer poems of Thomas Merton, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, 13th Century Flemish Beguine, Hadewijch, St. John of the Cross.


6. Stay in the Present Moment

What do you do to stay in the present moment without ruminating over the past or worrying about the future? How do you release problem thinking and dwell in the Presence of peace?


7. What Needs to Die Out of Your Life?

Reflect on what in your life no longer serves you and what you need to do to release its hold on you.


8. Embracing Grief

Do you embrace grief? How? Do you deny or ignore it? What for you is healthy grieving?


9. Love

What are the day to day ways you express love? How frequently do you love? What stands in the way? What inspires Love to shine in you? Here in this room, be open to a more expansive Love. Welcome this Love to guide the caregivers, helping them transcend exhaustion and burn-out. Inspire them with tenderness, mercy and compassion.


10. Gratitude

Do you frequently express gratitude for the gift of life, its living and dying cycles? How often during the day do you feel grateful? Watch your thoughts. If your thoughts are fearful or complaining, move your focus onto what is good and beautiful. Name what you are grateful for. You might write thank you notes to people in your life who touched you. This can be an end of life practice.


11. Personal Spiritual Journey

Write what your spiritual life means to you in your deep heart. Avoid superficial responses to what others expect your beliefs to be. Write what is true for you, freely, without judgment. Be bold, stand tall within yourself, allow your wisdom voice to speak.


12.  What are your deepest resources when life doesn’t go your way? 

Settle down into the quiet, allow a resource to come forth in writing a prayer or poem. Or read scripture and listen to your wisdom voice. What does Wisdom tell you about an important issue in your life? Do you find anything humorous about your situation in spite of sufferings? Look up humor poems online or write one yourself.


13. Poetry, a gift of soul 

Do you enjoy poetry or do you think you can’t understand it? Do you find it too remote from your life? In the quiet hours, you may find that poetry opens your heart to wisdom and love. It can become an inner journey, not simply the poet’s expression alone but touching a deep core in the center of your being, an awakening to more of who you really are when you practice listening. Read a poem several times, stop to reflect on a word or phrase. How does the phrase touch you, speak to something in your life? You can make the poem your own. And speak a phrase silently or aloud for your friend. (see #6 for a list of poets or go online to find poetry themes to aid your reflection)


14. Honor your spiritual teachers

Who were the people who influenced you most for your highest good? A parent? A spiritual guide? The Presence of God in scripture? Take this time to recall a major life shift due to this influence. Write your gratitude to them and also for those who touched the life of your friend now in bed. Invite their spirits to come now into the room as a blessing for healing and grace.  


15. Is there humor to be found in illness, dying or getting old?

Are you in touch with a humorous voice inside of you? If not, find humor stories or poems for you and your friend in bed.

You cannot be expected to experience laughter when grieving is deep or your friend is actively dying. But there may be long

periods of waiting and caregiving, being exposed to suffering and discouragement. At such times, there may be room for

humor. When the situation feels heavy, when you know you carry a lot of tension, humor can offer a release.



*Joan Englander©2019


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