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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer

Contemplation Changes Everything 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Father Richard shares how contemplative practice offers access to a deeper, more loving response to the world: 

Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander writes, “True thought is not the brain’s affair. But we have—in part by the brain itself—been so trained to associate our brains with what we think and who we are that we have lost the ability to realize that we are at all times much more.” [1] In this moment, in every moment, we are much more than our physical brain and our physical body.  

True thought is pre-physical. This is the thinking behind the thinking, the consciousness behind our small ability to plug into it. If we stay at the horizontal level of calculating, judging, and labeling, we won’t plug into it very well because we don’t really believe in it. Many of us don’t really believe there’s anything spiritual beyond this material body. I think those of us in the West have probably been influenced by the materialistic worldview more than we realize, but Alexander and other scientists are coming to the recognition that there’s something more. The recognition that the real power, as in the Trinity, is in the capacity for relationship, for communion, for being mirrored, and therefore gaining the ability to mirror other people. This type of thinking isn’t dependent on linear deduction. It moves as fast as lightning, making connections on different levels. It might be hard to verbalize, but it’s experienced as a moment of insight, a spontaneous gift of compassionate, inner clarity. It will never be angry or violent, only a clarity of love.   

In the face of this free inner intelligence, our ordinary thought is hopelessly slow and fumbling. It’s this free thinking that comes up with the radical insight or writes the inspired song. Handel composed the Messiah score in less than a month; clearly, he was in the flow. I hope we’ve all had moments when we’re inside of grace, inside of love, inside of communion. To revert to negative, resentful thinking is simply five steps backward, and yet we do it. Of course, we have to return to face the injustice, the evil, the stupidity, and the oppression present on this earth. Yet I believe that we’ll have the clarity, the calmness, the grace, and the freedom to do it better than we ever did before. We won’t respond to the urgency in angry or dualistic ways, and that makes all the difference.  

Is it any wonder that so many people are excited to learn about the contemplative mind? This is why we dare to say that it really is or can be the change that changes everything. Contemplation gives us access to our birthright waiting within us. If we stay on this journey, we come to know that we are merely a grain of sand, though a wonderful grain of sand, in this marvelous universe. We are a part and therefore a participant. To the soul, that’s enough specialness for a lifetime. 

[1] Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, 10th anniv. ed. (New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2022), 84. 

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Lawrence Freeman, Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2013). Available as MP3 audio download.  

Image credit and inspiration: Vlad Bagacian, woman sitting on a grey cliff (detail), 2018, photo, Romania, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Prayer is a practice for the long road of life, remembering that we are accompanied even when we feel alone. 

Story from Our Community:  

For some time now I’ve had a growing awareness that to accept reality moment to moment is to see life the way it really is. The meditation on May 13, 2024, Welcoming Reality, reminded me of a phrase in the original Serenity Prayer: “Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.” For me, that constant return to acceptance becomes the inner stance of least resistance to being overtaken by the mystery of Love.  
—John D. 

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