Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What contemplation is and is not

Scripture: Psalms 62
I had many false assumptions about contemplation going into my retreat at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. From Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation to the time spent in silence and in worship, I learned that contemplation is exciting and invigorating.  Contemplation is no isolated, introspective navel gazing selfish aloneness. Merton speaks a whole lot about what Contemplation is not. Appropriately so since it is much maligned in our culture of pseudo-community that really only desires to avoid loneliness and noisiness at all cost. Among the words Merton uses to describe Contemplation include: awake, active, aware, alive, awe, and gratitude. I believe Merton accurate to describe contemplation as "a kind of spiritual vision." He writes, "Contemplation is a sudden gift of awareness, an awakening to the Real within all that is real." (3)
Our vision is often too low and too narrow. We are usually busier than worker bees and more distracted than the most hyperactive feline. The result is we become like a ship in a storm without an anchor being tossed about here and there. Beginning with a place and time of silence, contemplation can anchor us to the God who is fully present in this world seen in the microsphere to beyond our atmosphere, from the internet to the cityscape. But in our distraction we not only miss the wonder and greatness of the world around us, we fail to hear from the God speaking within. We miss the awe of the God of the universe and compassion of the one who cares for and feeds the birds of the air. Contemplation, then, far from navel gazing, might go on to produce the compassion and aliveness for which we have been longing.
What are your assumptions about contemplation?
How might contemplation lead to awareness of the Real?
How often do you feel distracted? How might contemplation bring focus and attention to what is real among us?

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