What is contemplation ~By Kim Brandt, Registered Massage Therapist~
What is contemplation?
But the dance of intimate dialogue with life’s emergent curriculum.
On the threshold of this emergent day,
Fully pregnant with possibility.
I set aside my sack o’ woe,
To journey on into the fray.
And when I meet with life’s narrate,
A joy, despair, a giggle, to share,
I pray we dance my dear
In dialogue and contemplate.
The contemplative view beckons me to stand back and reflect on my interconnected life through a lens of unitive consciousness and inter-relationality. In a broad sense unitive consciousness is described by Ray (2016)i in the Tibetan traditional teachings, as a Life Force that transcends time and space.
Virtually all the great spiritual traditions of the world share the conviction that humanity is the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity. There is a “self” and a Self, and our fatal mistake lies in confusing the two. ~ Cynthia Bourgeault
Keating (2005)ii discusses how the influence of Modernity and dualism has distorted the unitive image of God. Wilber (1977)iii writes “In contemplative awareness, our own egoic grasping in time comes momentarily to rest.” My views on inter-relationality are supported by Gallese (2012)iv who demonstrates that mirror neurons contribute to our inter-relationality. Our cosmic interconnectedness is elegantly demonstrated by iron, the life essential molecule that carries oxygen in our blood. It is exclusively created through the collisions of super-novas and black stars and not indigenous to earth yet absolutely vital for our existence. Caffau (2017)v. Sheldrake’s theory of Morphic Resonance holds that information is passed forward through time. Research by Norton et al (2017)vii instantiates that certain human brain activity and consciousness transcends bodily death. We are built from stardust living within an intersubjective, inter-relational, intercosmic, and timeless consciousness with love as the matrix that binds us all. I assert that the contemplative lens is the superior means to consider these expansive concepts.
Contemplation is a highly effective tool to grasp life’s emergent curriculum. O’Donahue (2018) viii says contemplation is a “threshold to the soul, our deepest intimacy and the compass of destiny”. Hawkins (1995)ix suggests that the contemplative process
does not take us to the upper reaches of consciousness but rather, “removes the barriers
that stand in the way” of ascent. Bourgeault (2004)x reminds me that “virtually every
spiritual tradition holds a vision of human transformation at its heart…a practice of
intentional silence is non-negotiable. Period”. Helminski (1992)xi states that “the real Work is
to serve, to pay attention to how other human beings can be helped toward freedom and
love by being an example of these qualities without expectation of any recognition or
Threshold, Process, Practice, Integration.
Below I will briefly expand on contemplation using these four terms.
Threshold: Moment by moment we traverse the threshold of possibility. If observant, I may notice that even my well-travelled paths offer variation. Can I live each day noticing the subtlety life holds, curiously seeking the gifts it may offer and what I may offer in return? Merton (1950)xii writes that “without desire we will never receive the great gifts of God”. A simple willingness to align my will with thine may open that door thereby helping me to see with new eyes.
May we intentionally pause throughout each day to reflect on a threshold then willingly, with a desire to see anew, cross into the unbridled possibility life extends.
Process: The flow of my life typically tracks along an earth-bound linearity. The veil, however, is lifted during my times of contemplation when I pause to stand back, let go of my agenda, quiet my mind, bring awareness to my body, then beckon my spirit-guides to aid my learning from life’s evolving syllabus. The ordinary becomes the extra-ordinary. Singularity, as I refer to it, the liminal space intersecting the horizontal line of Chronos and the vertical line of Kairos. In that extra-ordinary framework, the lines blur as I dance along linear time and simultaneously transcending it. Metaphorically the praxis is akin to tuning into a radio signal while driving. The frequency surrounds us and we move in and through it however it is unavailable until we tune in. I would characterize “tuned in” as awakened mind, a Kundalini experience, Christ consciousness, Buddha consciousness, or call it what you will. This expanded attitude aides my learning of life’s curricula.
The Singularity of awakened
space holding the creative
paradox of emergent life, time
May we be blessed this day by tuning into the ever-present frequency of the Divine, in throughout-surrounding all our relations.
Practice: Praxis is a foundational element of contemplation. Your path may meander for a while when you begin, but a beginning is vital. The “how” (mind) is not as important as the “feel” (gut) of it. The encouragement is to feel into what’s right because the body knows. Contemplation can be viewed as pause to release my agenda and take a journey with no intended destination. Being mindful and learning to let go of the outcome is important. Wiederkehr (2008)xiii emphasizes the significance of living mindfully writing how “we slowly begin to see the holiness of so many things that remain hidden when we choose to not rush through the hours…it will be a happy moment when we remember to add the wise act of pausing to our to-do lists”. Most people do not see things as they are - they see things as they are. Praxis and reflection implementing contemplation may promote the evolutionary trajectory.
May we begin and begin again, and again, moment to moment, to contemplate, and marvel with all that surrounds, nourishes, and encourages us to evolve and grow.
Integration: Countless times over the years people have approached me after an AA meeting to say something like, “At a meeting last year you said ___________ and completely changed how I saw things. Thanks so much.” I have no recollection of what I said. That’s not important. Just so grateful to carry the message as it was handed down to me in the situated learning circles of my spiritual community. It is difficult to predict the length of time it takes a student to integrate a lesson. As an educator I benefit from remembering this axiom. Wagamese (2016) xiv reminds me that, “Teachings come from everywhere when you open yourself to them. That’s the trick of it, really. Open yourself to everything, and everything opens itself to you”.
Photo Credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger