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Doodle Prayer: A Form of Contemplation in Action

Last week, I had the privilege of representing Georgetown University’s Office of Mission and Ministry by attending the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC) held at Santa Clara University (SCU). From the SCU website, NJSLC can be described as “a five-day conference for all 28 Jesuit universities throughout the United States. This conference is designed for student leaders to prepare for their leadership positions with other students.” Hosted in San Jose, California this summer, this leadership retreat gave me the opportunity to learn specifically about interreligious dialogue at other Jesuit universities as well as seek out best practices from their Campus Ministry departments as I move forward to become Chair of the Interfaith Student Council (ISC) at Georgetown this upcoming fall. Throughout the conference, I attended several workshops, ranging from topics such as how to be an effective leader to one titled, “Standing at a Crossroads: What Would St. Ignatius Do?” These discussions focused on personal growth and development throughout a college student leader’s career, while maintaining the Jesuit value of faith and justice in this year’s theme titled, “Contemplatives in Action: Leaders in a Globalizing World." Of all the lectures, the one that resonated with me the most was a workshop called, “Innovative Doodling as a Form of Prayer.”

Led by a Campus Ministry faculty member at SCU, the room’s silent atmosphere, dim lighting, and soft background music set the tone of contemplation and reflection from the activity’s onset. Given the direction to use paper and coloring utensils and express how I felt not only as I doodled but also how the process of doodling affected my emotional being, I began to seek out various combinations of shapes and lines. Through this, I found myself using self-expression as a means of submission to a higher being. I was instructed that no drawing needed a thought-out plan; thus, the cycles of contemplation were complemented with subsequent moments of reaction to my changing artistic vision that helped me relate to a greater power.

Through the process of doodling, I realized that being in those moments of peace and reflection was a form of prayer in and of itself. As I acquiesced to submitting my innermost thoughts to a subconsciously uncontrollable part of my mind, I finally embarked upon the idea that the nature of cura personalis is inherently present in each one of us, whether or not we identify with it as such. As a whole, the mind, body, and soul have the powerful capability of transforming one’s thoughts through levels of mysticism, obedience, and inevitably submission, that can be ignited by almost anything, even something as mundane as scribbling on the margins of notebook paper.

In this session, I learned that “doodle prayer,” as I have since named it, has significant value in the process of contemplation in action. It continuously engages the mind, body, and soul—through the physical processes of drawing on a piece of paper, simultaneously working to translate these thoughts into active and outward expression, and reaching haphazard moments of silence to reflect on how to appropriately react to the doodle through drawings thereafter.

I like to relate the submission of my thoughts onto that piece of paper to submission of my mind’s innermost thoughts to a being that can interpret it, with the only difference being that I am then responsible for interpreting those thoughts once they have been outwardly expressed. As one may surmise, this becomes an extremely difficult exercise in channeling thoughts into actions and then reflection on those actions. Yet, this accurately represents the Jesuit value of contemplation in action and why it holds so much importance in our daily lives as Georgetown students.

Doodling serves as a silent, yet omnipresent force that signifies what meditation hopes to achieve among the religious. In this exercise, I found solace in releasing my mind to something greater than myself via doodling, and this enlightened my NJSLC experience in that I took charge of action as a pivotal piece of the process of contemplation. Often this very type of reflection makes critical thinking a meaningful endeavor, particularly throughout a spiritual quest such as the one many of us find ourselves in every day. Little do the theology professors know that the Georgetown students doodling during their class may actually have legitimate reasoning behind their actions.

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