Exploring how Silence and the Contemplative Way infuse into our ordinary everyday active lives, how Awareness manifests itself, and how we respond to the call to surrender to the divinity within.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Contemplation - A Definition


Nature as Contemplation


The word Contemplation holds a number of definitions in everyday usage:
  • The action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time. Synonyms: regarding, examination, inspection, observation, scrutiny.
  • Deep reflective thought. Synonyms: thought, meditation, consideration, pondering, reflection.
  • Religious meditation.
From a spiritual perspective, here is a helpful definition for Contemplation:
  • A state of mystical awareness of God’s being (Merriam - Webster). A form of prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.


It is awakening, enlightenment and the amazing intuitive grasp by which love gains certitude of God's creative and dynamic intervention in our daily life....It is the experience of "I Am."
 From: New Seeds of Contemplation


Today is the anniversary of Thomas Merton who died accidentally in 1968. He remains one of the foremost modern writers on Contemplation, and is considered by many to have beautifully and accurately captured in his writings the nature of Contemplation and the Contemplative Spirit of the ancient saints and mystics. He was primarily experiential in his writing, and it proves timeless in its essence:


Contemplation is not and cannot be a function of the external self.
Contemplation is not prayerfulness.
It is not the contemplation of abstract ideas.
It is not something to which we can attain alone, by intellectual effort, by performing our natural powers. It is not the fruit of our own efforts.
It is not a kind of self-hypnosis, resulting from concentration on our own inner spiritual being.
From: New Seeds of Contemplation


Contemplation seems to involve a continual inner "consent" whereby we offer to yield internally to the call to be transformed, to allow and trust the process of life. This inner "Yes" does not happen easily, and often goes against our instinctual nature to do it ourselves, to put into action all that we wish to exist for ourselves, to initiate change, to try and find happiness.

Most people find they reach some form of spiritual crisis or opening when they experience deep pain, or indeed deep love. Life presents us with Illness, Grief, War, Poverty, Famine, Relationships, Stress, Depression, Fatigue, the Joy in the much longed-for birth of a child, a Wedding Day, the deep companionship of a friend/partner who accompanies you through a season of change. All of these experiences can trigger deep Contemplation. Somehow, it is possible to emerge from these sometimes overwhelming seasons, utterly changed within, knowing we have been shown kindness, love, understanding, patience. Love itself accompanied us during these seasons, and we consented, albeit reluctantly initially.

Contemplative experiences, to me, are not designed to support a superficial external world, but instead pull us inside, they insist on stripping us of our self-reliance and independence, our external self, and lead us into our deepest places of weakness and vulnerability. We can even realise that we didn't volunteer for this. Yes, we may have prayed for happiness and ease in our lives, for protection for ourselves and our loved ones, for good health, for meaningful relationships, for purpose and meaning, for fulfilment, but we never imagined these might come through defeat, through utter helplessness, through despair, and even through joy, or miraculous breakthroughs.


... the deep, inexpressible certitude of the contemplative experience awakens a tragic anguish and opens many questions in the depths of the heart like wounds that cannot stop bleeding...This torment is a kind of trial by fire in which we are compelled, by the very light of invisible truth which has reached us in the dark ray of contemplation, to examine, to doubt and finally to reject all the prejudices and conventions that we have hitherto accepted as if they were dogmas.
From: New Seeds of Contemplation



Intuition, and finally certainty of what is not true paves the way for the certainty of what is. In letting go, wisdom grows. The experience of the impact of divinity grows. Such contemplative experiences have confirmed to the degree of unshakeable certainty that Life, that Love, that God is present in them. These experiences build certainty that whatever comes our way each day is an external happening. We steadily become more planted inside.


For the contemplative and spiritual self, the dormant, mysterious, and hidden self that is always effaced by the activity of our exterior self does not seek fulfilment. It is content to be, and in its being it is fulfilled, because its being is rooted in God.
From: The Inner Experience


The inner self, humble and content, speaks an inner word-less language. We realise that the inner self is expanding outwards into our external experiences. It is not contrived. It is a becoming of our true nature. We realise also that those seasons are moulding and shaping us, and we know this is ultimately a good thing. What is inside, is now becoming reflected outside. Transparency and alignment build. It is not our doing. Our inner consent is a response to an inner call.


We become contemplatives when God discovers Himself in us.
From: New Seeds of Contemplation