What is contemplation?
Only the contemplative mind can bring forward the new consciousness that is needed to awaken a more loving, just, and sustainable world.
Deepening Our Awareness
Contemplation is the practice of being fully present—in heart, mind, and body—to what is in a way that allows you to creatively respond and work toward what could be.
For many, contemplation is prayer or meditation, a daily practice of deep listening to better connect with ourselves and divine love. Father Richard teaches that contemplative prayer helps us sustain the Truth we encounter during moments of great love and great suffering long after the intensity of these experiences wears off. Contemplative prayer is the way we work out the experiences that words elude, how we learn from them and bravely allow ourselves to be transformed by them, even when our normal modes of thinking can’t make sense of them.
Contemplative prayer is a practice for a lifetime, never perfected yet always enough. Each time we pray, our habitual patterns of thinking and feeling will inevitably interrupt and distract us from deep listening, but it is through our repeated failings that we encounter God’s grace and experience a transformed mind (Romans 12:2).
The contemplative mind is about receiving and being present to the moment, to the now, without judgment, analysis, or critique. Contemplative “knowing” is a much more holistic, heart-centered knowing, where mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is. “This is how you come to love things in themselves and as themselves. You learn not to divide the field of the moment or eliminate anything that threatens your ego, but to hold everything—both the attractive and the unpleasant—together in one accepting gaze.”
In short, contemplation might be described as entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings in order to connect to a truth greater than ourselves.
Many people practice forms of contemplation like Centering Prayer or focused breathing. Other expressions and cultures emphasize communal experiences (like speaking in tongues), movement (dancing or yoga), and music (drumming, ecstatic singing, or chanting). We all may resonate more with some practices than others.
Contemplation is a word that’s not easily defined. It has ancient roots and is continually evolving. At the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), we refer to the Christian contemplative traditions (plural) to acknowledge the diverse history and evolving future of contemplation.
Whatever ever practice(s) you choose, we invite you to commit to it. Through contemplation and life, God works on us slowly and in secret. Contemplative practice gradually rewires our brains to perceive and respond to reality with love.
Some Examples of Contemplative Practices
Drumming: Practicing surrendering the mind and attuning the body through rhythm
Walking Meditation: Taking slow, mindful steps
Ecstatic Dance: Moving freely to music
Chanting: Singing with intention
Centering Prayer: Observing and letting go of all thoughts without judgment during a period of silence
Lectio Divina: Reading short passages of text in a contemplative way
Welcoming Prayer: Welcoming any feeling, sensation, or emotion that arises in the midst of your day
YHWH Prayer: Consciously saying God’s name through each breath
Pranayama: Breathing mindfully
Loving Kindness Meditation: Recognizing your inner source of loving kindness and sending love to others