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Deep Abiding: Praying, Living, and Loving From The Inside Out

Catherine Mary Quehl-Engel

Ph.D. Dissertation Washington Theological Union, Virginia Theological Seminary, March 2014.

For a PDF version of the complete paper, click here.

ABSTRACT

This thesis project involves the creation and assessment of a heart-focused interior prayer/compassion meditation program for an inter-spiritual, liberal arts college ministry context. The Deep Abiding project was not only intended for participants' personal solace, healing, and empowerment. Reflecting Cornell College's mission and core values concerning civic engagement, social responsibility, and moral courage, this program also sought the original purpose of many Western and Eastern contemplative traditions: namely, to live, love, lead, and serve as instruments of healing peace, and to awaken awareness of our inter-connective oneness.

Sound quantitative and qualitative assessment instruments were used to measure whether heart-focused formal and informal contemplative practice of "tuning in" and identifying with indwelling life force energy or Spirit as one's Deepest, Truest Self contributed to participants' personal and communal healing. Also measured was the implied assumption that this practice would increase awareness of inter-connective oneness, compassion, mutuality, and solidarity with others.

Chapter I provides introduction to this research project through background on this liberal arts college ministry context, rationale for a contemplative healing approach, thesis statement and intended outcomes, as well as multi-cultural and inter-spiritual perspectives on indwelling life force energy or Spirit, and heart-focused contemplative practice. Chapter II explores indwelling Spirit as found in Jewish and Christian scriptures, and in the wisdom of Sts. Clare and Francis of Assisi, and Teresa of Avila. Chapter III samples some of the growing scientific research on psycho-physical and psycho-social healing benefits of meditation/interior prayer generally, and heart-focused vi meditation/interior prayer specifically. Chapter IV and the Appendices address project design and assessment instruments. Chapters V-VI offer data analysis and interpretive conclusions.