“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.” Meister Eckhart
We live in a world that values action. Indeed some things don’t require much thought, but that is not what I am writing about. Some people are more prone to contemplate and consider the value and intent of actions than others and yet, it is essential for all of us to consider the value of our beliefs and our actions.
Contemplation and Prayer
Renowned theologian, Richard Rohr suggests that contemplation is actually a form of prayer—an opportunity to ponder the essence of life. In fact, as I was researching this topic I discovered that Webster’s first definition of contemplation referred to spirituality, saying that contemplation is a “concentration on spiritual things as a form of private devotion.”
Perhaps faith traditions might be much better off if it’s greatest adherents spent more time in contemplation than in acting in defense of their particular religious beliefs.
However, contemplation extends far beyond spiritual considerations. It involves deep thought about who we are, how we act, whom we love, and what we believe.
My fear is that contemplation is a lost art in our day of sound bites, entrenched political and religious positions, and our entire of view of life itself. Rarely do we actually consider the merits of those that believe or behave in ways contrary to our own. Judgment seems to take precedence over contemplation and judgment leaves no room for mercy and understanding.
I Could Be Wrong
I have a different point of view that begins with the one basic presupposition: “No matter what I believe, I could be wrong!” I dare not think that my views of life are the only right ones. I have very strong beliefs and act according to my belief system. And yet I am always exploring deeper truths and positions that differ from my own. I research, talk to people, and watch YouTube/listen to podcasts (my new addictions).
Please don’t confuse contemplation with meditation. Where often the goal of meditation is the release of all thought to get to a space of uninterrupted peace, while contemplation is quite different. It is the intentional bringing to mind a subject and intentionally reflecting on what we know and don’t know about the subject.
I have a question: When was the last time you sat in a chair without a book and simply “pondered” something very important in your life, for between 15 minutes and 1 hour?
Let me give two very brief examples from my life. Currently I am pondering (read contemplating) two very different subjects. The first is the state of our national mess we call politics. I have two choices: (1) Listen only to the people I agree with or (2) actually spend time listening and reflecting on the ideas of the other side. Take Donald Trump. I use YouTube and spend 15-30 minutes daily watching both MSNBC and Fox News. Boy. Talk about two very opposite opinions about the same subject and materials. And I contemplate the differences. Unfortunately, so far this one has led to nothing but more confusion. But I refuse to give up.
The second is much to deep to explain in a brief blog. It is all about the most important event in the study of Christianity—the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Is it an individual or universal/corporate event? I’ve even broken out my old Greek New Testament to try to understand this well.
The bottom-line of both these examples is that, in addition to the research, I have devoted literally hours thinking about it. I have hope to come to a conclusion on the latter. But the former is a terrible mess.
Contemplation is a Gift
Thinking is one of the key attributes that make homo sapiens different from all other species. My encouragement is to give yourself permission to devote time to contemplate what you believe, who you love, and how you will act.
Think About It
Even If It Hurts Your Brain
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