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Contemplative Prayer - Part 1

Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened.
Jesus of Nazareth

Load the ship and set out. No one knows for certain whether the vessel will sink or reach the harbor. Cautious people say, "I'll do nothing until I can be sure". Merchants know better. If you do nothing, you lose. Don't be one of those merchants who won’t risk the ocean.
Rumi


Introduction

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.
Aristotle

That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.
Edgar Allan Poe

Contemplation has been practiced by humanity throughout time. Have you ever gone outside on a clear night and stared in awe at the stars that light up the dark sky. Have you experienced walking through a rainforest and become transfixed on the natural beauty that surrounds you. Has there been a time when you look at a loved one, perhaps a partner, child or parent and been lost in a sense of their sacredness. These are experiences of contemplation; a glimpse into that deep well of silence that exists at the centre of all of us. The common factor in all these experiences is that our mind temporarily shuts off and time is seemingly suspended. It is as if we are aware of something in a much deeper way than is possible through our external senses.

Contemplative traditions have arisen within in all religions throughout the ages dating right back to prehistoric times. Mysticism is the term often used to describe the practice of attaining spiritual knowing of truths, which transcend ordinary understanding, or intimate union of the soul with God. This is what the Buddha called enlightenment.

As you begin to practice contemplative prayer you will experience many challenges but eventually, with time, practice and, most important of all, Divine grace, you will experience pure stillness; of mind, body and spirit. At this junction you will encounter the Source of all and how you look at the world around you will change. As a result you will change. In doing so you will walk in the footsteps of many men and women throughout history who have discovered and tapped into their divinity within.

You don’t have to be a Christian to practice this form of contemplative prayer. Remember the Divine Source of all things works through all people and traditions who sincerely seek and practice good.


Contemplation, what is it?

It is important to distinguish between meditation and contemplation. When meditating, you construct a mental framework or scene which you enter as you leave the world. Essentially you invite God into that place as you take God’s hand and lead him into that space. In other words, you are in control of the whole process.

In contemplation, the dynamic is reversed. You make the decision to waste time with God and ask him to take you by the hand. In essence, you say to God, I am giving you 20 minutes of my time, do what you like. In this scenario God is in control of the process.

I find it helpful to use the symbol of a circle with God at the centre and you on the outer edge. In meditation, you take God from the centre and lead him to the outer edge of the circle. In contemplation God takes you by the hand and leads you from the outer edge of the circle to the centre. The centre of the circle is where the divine lives within you; the outer edge of the circle is where you function on a day-to day level. If you like, the centre of the circle, is your spiritual being, the edge of the circle is dominated by your mind and emotions.

Thus the art of contemplation is a process of surrendering to the Divine. This act of surrender ultimately does not occur through your own will power and efforts but is a gift from God. It is a grace.

It will be like nothing you have ever experienced before. Once you reach pure silence, and its twin stillness, for the first time, you will never forget that experience and you will seek more of this state; a state which cannot be described by words and is pure gift.


Benefits

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.
Meister Eckhart

As you develop a daily habit of contemplation and it becomes part of the rhythm of your day, you will notice changes begin to happen in and around you.

Inner peace. Initially, the outer circumstances of your life may not alter at all, but in the midst of these you will begin to sense an inner peace growing within you. Things that previously would have evoked your anger, irritability or frustration will no longer do so. How you respond to your outer circumstances will change.

Energy. Another common fruit of contemplation is an increase in personal energy levels. This occurs because your life energy (also called your Vital Force or Chi) becomes more centered rather than being diffused in many directions and wasted. Instead of reaching the end of the day with your ‘energy tank’ on empty there is still ample fuel left in the tank.

Balance.  As you practice daily contemplation, you will often achieve more in a day than before, but with seemingly less effort. Most contemplatives that I know of are actually very busy people. Your recreation time will become richer and refresh you more deeply. A true balance in your daily life will manifest which wasn’t there before. You will understand that there is more to life than getting up in the morning, going to work then getting into bed at night exhausted.

Healing. As people tap into that divine centre within them on a daily basis, often they find their health will improve both emotionally and physically. Stress, anxiety, depression and even physical ailments can significantly lessen or even resolve altogether. The practice of contemplation will empower you to begin living as a whole person, maximizing health on all levels, spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.

External changes. Over time, circumstances that surround you will begin to alter. As you give out a different energy, a different energy will return to you. You will start to resonate with a higher energy as you tap into Divine energy each day. New people and circumstances will enter your life that match-up with this divine energy.

Ego vs Spirit

If in thirst you drink water from a cup, you see God in it. Those who are not in love with God will
see only their own faces in it.
Rumi

All of the above benefits are fruits of contemplation. They are wonderful gifts from God to you. But true contemplation is not about seeking rewards or benefits. It is fundamentally an act of surrendering to God, the Divine Source of all that is, with no expectations or pre-conceptions. This shifts contemplation from a self-centered to a God-centered practice. This is where true, deep, lasting change and growth will happen. Yes, all the fruits will come to you, but you will live an inspired (in-spirit) life not ego-centered life.

Welcome the fruits of contemplation into your life as the wonderful free gifts they are from an abundant, unconditionally-loving God, but don’t make them the central reason for practicing this art. The paradox is the less you seek these fruits, the more they will come into your life. The difference is that they will come to you free of ego attachment.

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Guest Tuesday, 17 July 2018

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