Contemplation is a panoramic, receptive awareness whereby we take in all that the situation, the moment, the person offers, without judging, eliminating, or labeling anything. It is pure and positive gazing.
The one is the way to the many; the specific is the way to the spacious; the now is the way to the always; the here is the way to the everywhere; the material is the way to the spiritual; the visible is the way to the invisible. When we see contemplatively, we know that we live in a fully sacramental universe, where everything is an epiphany.
If we can allow our thoughts and feelings to pass through us, neither clinging to them nor opposing them—and without ever expecting perfect success—I promise that we will come to a deeper, wider, and wiser place.
At the moment of our struggle, we must turn back to God with complete confidence. Be still in the presence of divine majesty. Respect God humbly, telling them our heartaches and our weaknesses, and asking them lovingly for the help of their grace. This is how in our fragility we find in God our strength.
Contemplation is a kind of seeing that is much more than mere looking because it also includes recognizing and thus appreciating. The contemplative mind does not tell us what to see but teaches us how to see what we behold.
The real gift of contemplative practice is to be happy and content, even while we are just sitting on the porch, looking at a rock; or when we are doing the “nothingness” of prayer or benevolently gazing at anything in its ordinariness; or when we can see, accept, and say that every single act of creation is “just this” and thus allow it to work its wonder on us.
Breathing in Enoughness
We share a guided meditation from Kaira Jewel Lingo, a former resident of Plum Village and student of Thich Nhat Hanh (1926–2022), to help readers settle into a moment of “just this” awareness.
Let’s begin our practice by finding a comfortable position of dignity and ease.
Let’s really take our seats, let’s really occupy this moment. If there are parts of ourselves somewhere else, in some other time, past or future, invite them all to come back. We’ll be here, we’ll be now. Settling into just being here. With all the tumult that may be in your life, still you can breathe in and out, with presence, recollecting yourself.
Feel the contact between your body and the floor, whether through the soles of your feet or your legs, knowing that the Earth is supporting you in this moment.
Allow the in-breath and the out-breath to flow naturally. Experience how the breath arrives, what happens as you breathe in. Feel how the out-breath just does what it does, quite naturally.
Breathing in, aware of the body. Breathing out, allowing the body to rest, calming the body.
Aware of the body with the in-breath. Calming, resting, with the out-breath.
If you notice that your mind wanders into thinking, planning, worrying, acknowledge that it is happening, knowing you can return to focus on your thoughts later. For now, engage again with the exercise of attending to this moment.
Inhale and open up to the awareness that this moment is enough, that what we need, it’s already here.
As you exhale, practice to accept that life is as it is in this moment. Allow it to be here, just as it is. Inhaling the sense of enoughness, of contentment, that actually things are okay right here and right now, we don’t need anything more. Exhaling acceptance of how things are.
Breathing in enoughness, breathing out acceptance.
Kaira Jewel Lingo, We Were Made for These Times: Ten Lessons on Moving through Change, Loss, and Disruption (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2021), 34–35.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Wings (detail), digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Tuesday Chemistry (detail), digital oil pastel. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 1 (detail), oil pastel. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
In the midst of color and movement we focus and are present to one point in a sacred sphere.