Contemplation

Mar 25, 2019

 

In stillness and quiet our souls emerge as the place where we rest in God; this is called contemplation, just being in the presence of God. There are, of course, all kinds of spoken prayers, petitions, the Lord’s Prayer, institutional prayers, but contemplation is a whole other category of prayer. In a sense it is the global approach to prayer, it takes our whole being to sit/stand/walk in contemplation. We have to set aside our thoughts and emotions to focus on His presence and our own presence in the sight of God’s presence. And there in His presence, there is no time or space for to-do lists or any pressure to be anything but a child of God. There we are alone in God’s presence. In the stillness. In the peace and quiet.

 

And how our souls love that place! There is peace and quiet and stillness alive with all that there is in the universe. And just you and God. and all the spaciousness in the world!

 

The tricky part about contemplation is that first we have to tackle our engagement with our mind’s repetitive thinking. These thoughts were set early in our childhood and are full of commands, “You should ……!” or “You have to …….!” or “I must ……!” and other thoughts like these.  Our minds are set on making up for the things we felt guilty or shameful about from our early childhood, but the solutions are no longer relevant in this time. So, we must step back from their influence and power over us and become observers of them, but not engaged with them at all in our emotions.

 

To be an observer of your thoughts means to know who the sources of” the shoulds” are—your father or mother or teacher or close relative and to know that you have been driven by them since your early childhood. One of the best ways to get to know how each of us thinks is to do the “morning pages” suggested in the book, “The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. If you will spend up to 20 minutes every day for three months doing what is essentially a mind-dump. You are simply recording the thoughts that are running through your head without stopping to think about them at all or without editing them. You will come to know the essence of your habitual thinking, the louder voices in your head and be able to identify the source of what you think.

 

Without becoming an observer of your thoughts, you will forever be driven by them. And you will not be able to be quiet enough to enjoy sitting in the presence of God. For that is the great benefit of becoming an observer of your thoughts—you can sit in God’s presence happily AND no longer be driven by the thoughts AND you can begin to hear God’s “still, small voice”[1] speaking directly to you. When the old thoughts arise you could welcome them back as an old friend—after all they’ve been with you all your life! Or you could just observe what might have triggered them this time or just be even as they are thought. To be an observer means that they no longer have any power over you at all.

 

Then you are ready to really engage in Comtemplative Prayer or another form of meditation. You can enjoy this present moment or the next without being influenced by what has happened in the past or without fear for the future. This is freedom, pure, unadulterated freedom from the most seductive things in our lives—those early thoughts. Try it, you’ll like it!

 

The most riveting, defining book on contemplation that I have every read is Martin Laird’s book, “Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Spiritual Practice of Contemplation.”  Contemplation is variously described as resting in God’s presence or meditation or reflection, but it is the heart of Christianity, in which Jesus is leads us to the presence of God. What He modeled during His lifetime here was nothing else but resting in God’s presence, consulting Him always and doing and teaching what He was led to do. He often went off by himself to just be in His presence. Laird’s book is a great guide to how to approach contemplation in which we increasingly rest in the presence of God, letting Him lead our lives and guide us in all things.

 

Contemplation includes faith in God put into practice, sitting quietly in the stillness of His presence, hearing the “still, small voice,” although you can learn to hear it in the clamor of the day, just being. And then it fuels all kinds of actions, attitudes, healings and more that lead to our purpose and fullness of who we were created to be.

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Questions to ponder over the week: Do I seek God’s presence regularly? Do I feel called to try it out? Am I comfortable in my own skin, with my own thoughts or do they drown out God’s “still, small voice? What would be my first step towards resting in God? Where do I most experience God in my life, in nature, in prayer? where?

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Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who rest in His presence, who seek time with Him regularly. May be depend on God in everything.

 

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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life.

 

[1] 1 Kings 19:12

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