A big misconception about contemplative spirituality is that it is done as an individual. The Lay Cistercian spirituality which takes roots from the Cistercian Order (women and men) stresses five areas to transform the individual from self to God (silence, solitude, work, prayer, and community). Trappist monks and nuns confine themselves to the physical limits of their monastery for the rest of their lives. Lay Cistercians are not monks or nuns but go back to their families, their work, their ministries, and come together in a Gathering Day once a month to pray, learn, worship, and celebrate the Holy Spirit in each other. http://www.trappist.net
St. Benedict organized this spirituality by having monks and nuns pray the divine office together, eat together, have chapter meetings together. http://www.divineoffice.org. He also advocated a spiritual director and to obey the abbot or abbess as they would Christ. Thus, Cistercian charisms of humility, hospitality, obedience to the Abbot, conversion of life to move from self to God, all help the individual to seek God each day where they are or as they are. You would think that monks and consecrated religious women would have an easier time of community than Lay Cistercians who only meet once a month. These two approaches to contemplation should not be compared as one is better than the other. All seek to have in them the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) and to seek God daily through prayer, work, silence, solitude). Each one of these ways to live out the call of Christ to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect has unique temptations and difficulties. Community, in the form of a spiritual director or members of the community, helps to sustain the focus on Christ. Of late, I have been trying to see the workings of the Holy Spirit as I encounter monks or Lay Cistercians in my journey. This journey for me extends beyond the confines of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery to embrace my faith community at Good Shepherd and to the Church Universal wherever I am and as I am.