What is Contemplation?

This past week, I had a dear friend who has not had the experience of attending any of my classes or programs, ask me, “What is it exactly that you do?”    Now, this is the $10,000 question!  How do you explain something that can only be experienced?  I have struggled for 15 years to find a way to answer this question and I find I always come up short.  I cannot explain the work I do in the context of religious belief or practice because contemplative practices transcend belief.  I cannot explain it simply in the context of meditation, because frankly, for most people, meditation itself defies comprehension.  So for my friend, I tried to give examples, tell stories, and in the end, I think all that came out was Blah Blah Blah!

Then something amazing happened.  My friend, began to tell me about a creative project that he was working on.  He passionately showed me a drawing of the project and share with me the joy, peacefulness and contentment he feels when he has a chance to indulge this creative pasttime.  “When I let myself get involved in these kind of projects, time loses all meaning, the ideas and execution of the ideas simply flows and I feel peaceful and contentment, ” he shared with me.  Then the grace of inspiration came upon me, “This,” I said to him,” is what I do.  This is what I help people to find – that one thing that allows them to find peace, contentment and joy.” 

Contemplation, I have discovered has an infinite number of expressions.  In my friends situation, he found contemplation in his creative work.  Some find contemplation in their athletic endeavors, running, basketball, etc.  Some find contemplation in cooking, nurturing, volunteering, praying, meditation, dancing, painting, sculpting, active listening, writing, solving problems, etc. etc. etc.  The vehicles to contemplation are endless and all lead to the same destination – an awareness of our deeper truth and a deeper connection with that which we call God. In the search for contemplation, the question to ask oneself is, “What gives me peace, allows me to experience joy, to know love more deeply, to exercise compassion?”  These, I have learned, are the hallmarks of contemplation. 

So for today, I invite you to explore your everyday life for those items that give you peace, joy and help you to know love, and next time you indulge in that activitivy give yourself credit for having spent time in contemplation and prayer. 

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