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Center for Action and Contemplation

Contemplation: Week 2 Summary

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Contemplation: Week 2

Summary: Sunday, December 16-Friday, December 21, 2018

The effectiveness of action depends on the source from which it springs. If it is coming out of the false self with its shadow side, it is severely limited. If it is coming out of a person who is immersed in God, it is extremely effective. —Thomas Keating (Sunday)

Contemplation is radical in that it goes to the root (radix) of all our problems. Contemplation is the heart of the matter because it changes consciousness and thus transforms how we enter into communion with God, with ourselves, with the moment. (Monday)

Contemplation is any way one has of penetrating illusion and touching reality. —Parker Palmer (Tuesday)

[Centering down] is not an escape from the din of daily life; rather, it requires full entry into the fray but on different terms. . . . Always, contemplation requires attentiveness to the Spirit of God. —Barbara A. Holmes (Wednesday)

As our resistance to God’s quiet persistence diminishes, our experience of ourselves as other than Christ dissolves into a meditatively realized oneness with Christ. —James Finley (Thursday)

Centering Prayer’s simple but powerful pathway of transformation illumines what it means to “put on the mind of Christ.” [Its basis] lies in the principle of kenosis, Jesus’s self-emptying love that forms the core of his own self-understanding and life practice. —Cynthia Bourgeault (Friday)


Practice: A Long, Loving Look

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. —Romans 12:2

Be renewed in the spirit of your minds. . . . —Ephesians 4:23–24

Nondual or contemplative consciousness is about receiving and being present to the moment and to the Now, exactly as it is, without splitting or dividing it, without judgment, analysis, negative critique, mental commentary, liking, or disliking; without resistance; and even without registering your preferences.

In other words, your mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment, just as it is. That allows you to say, “Just this,” and love things in themselves, as themselves, and by themselves, regardless of how they benefit or make demands on you. Is there any other way to really love anything?

You gradually learn to hold everything—attractive and non-attractive alike—together in one accepting gaze. This is divine seeing. Contemplation has been well-described as “a long, loving look at the Real.” Contemplata in Latin means to gaze at something eagerly or with intense interest. Note that it is a deep looking more than a knee-jerk thinking (which is not really thinking at all, but usually narcissistic reacting).

Contemplative consciousness is a whole new mind! It is a different “software and processing system” than most Westerners typically develop on our own, so we must be taught how to see in this way.

Contemplation is another word for prayer, a kind of prayer that doesn’t seek to fix, control, or explain but surrenders to Presence and synthesizes the full reality, “warts and all.” Contemplative practice is an exercise in humiliation as we come to see the repetition and power of our thoughts. We realize that our thinking brain can’t help us understand or experience the deep, significant things in life like love, suffering, death, infinity, or God.

The mystics of all the world’s great religions understood that what I call the “calculative” or dualistic mind cannot access God. Contemplative consciousness leads to compassion and loving, which is the way to God. Here’s how the Muslim mystic Shams-ud-din Mohammed Hafiz (1320–1389) put it:

Pulling out the chair
Beneath your mind
And watching you fall upon God—
There is nothing else for Hafiz to do
That is any fun in this world! [1]

[1] Daniel Ladinsky, inspired by Hafiz, “Laughter,” I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy (Penguin: 2006), 65. Used with permission.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Just This (CAC Publishing: 2017), 29-30; and

Contemplation and Action: An Informal Session of Questions, Responses and Teachings, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download.


For Further Study:

Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer: Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (Shambhala: 2016)

James Finley, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God (HarperSanFrancisco: 2004)

Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church, 2nd edition (Fortress Press: 2017)

Thomas Keating, From the Mind to the Heart (Temple Rock Company: 2017)

Richard Rohr, Contemplation and Action: An Informal Session of Questions, Responses and Teachings (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download

Richard Rohr and Laurence Freeman, Transforming the World through Contemplative Prayer (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CD, MP3 download

Image credit: Dancers in Green and White Dresses, Vinicius Vilela.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The word contemplation includes but does not require silence or solitude. Instead, contemplative practices can be identified in public prayers, meditative dance movements, and musical cues that move . . . toward a communal listening and entry into communion with a living God. —Barbara Holmes
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