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Cultivating Serenity and Healing: Contemplations from a Semester at Open Spirit

With the frenetic rhythm of school assignments all but ceasing, I’m seizing a pulse pause, a momentary break from the bustle, as I often do these days.


I’ve been marveling at the unexpected tranquility that has defined these past months. This startling serenity owes much to various factors, chief among them being the transformative haven of Open Spirit (OS). More than a conventional “field education” site, OS has become a sanctuary for cultivating observant presence and personal well-being. Tucked away from the bustling Cambridge bubble, this space has offered a healing experience that resonates with the cherished traditions of Christian contemplation.


OS, with its welcoming allure, has been more than helpful in my sense of calm. The spaces I’ve witnessed, blending visualization, prayer, songs, and discussion, have beautifully connected with the principles discussed in my coursework, creating a harmonious synergy that makes the abstract appear tangible. I’ve noticed that the dynamism here is not based in empty performativity but thrives in the sacred, contemplative atmospheres charged within its events, branding, and programming.


In these serene moments, whether on the church campus, on Zoom, or throughout Framingham, I discovered the joy of stepping out of the minutiae. Healing became a process of connection—an active engagement with myself and others that beautifully captures the holistic power of community, integrating the spiritual, physical, and emotional/mental aspects in the pursuit of healing.


Building on this foundation in several contexts, the art of contemplation has emerged as a guiding force, cultivating resilience throughout my 3rd-year Master of Divinity journey. Learning to operate at a deliberate pace, accepting thoughts and feelings as contributors to productivity, I found stillness to be a life-giving force—a point of intention for both grounding and peace. In moments of struggle, reflection became a pathway to serenity, a reminder of God’s grace and my calling to purpose.


In my theological reflections with Debbie, we regularly explored silence and the power of intention-setting—a concept that became useful as I directed my mind toward positive images and sensations, and declarations to jump-start the day. The idea that our thoughts can shape our reality echoed in my mind as I carefully crafted the mental landscape before me. This practice of focused thoughts created momentum for me to believe better, speak better, feel better, and experience better outcomes.


With the semester drawing to a close, my exploration of deliberate presence leaves me with a continued sense of self-awareness, a deeper connection to my emotions, and the comforting knowledge that healing is a process we can all actively undertake, one breath at a time.


As I prepare for a restful break in the afterglow of the semester, an attitude of gratitude remains, promising to shape the dawn of a new semester with a renewed sense of presence and purpose. The power of intention-setting, positive affirmations, and the insights gained from contemplative practices at OS will undoubtedly find a place in the work I do going forward, encouraging more intentional and comfortable 2024. In the heart of the Open Spirit Center, I discovered not just a field education site but a nurturing space that enriched my mental well-being—a space where theory met experience, and gratitude became the foundation for a more mindful and engaging experience ahead.

--Ryan Conston, Open Spirit Intern


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