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What are the basics of contemplation? Login/Join 
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I am developing lessons with guided meditations, training Christians in meditation. I am at the point of turning the lessons from meditation to contemplation and would like advice if anyone has any to give. If you were going to instruct someone in contemplation who knows nothing about it, what would you see as the basics that that person should be taught?
 
Posts: 10 | Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario | Registered: 15 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Crystal,

That is an interesting question and my first response is that I look forward to what others say.

I'm reminded of Paul's notion of "peace that surpasses understanding." I see meditation as developing understanding and contemplation as "the peace that surpasses understanding" -- a gift of sheer grace. You can work to make yourself receptive, but you cannot make it happen.
 
Posts: 455 | Location: Baltimore | Registered: 23 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi Crystal and am happy for you to have joined us Smiler Ryan gave you good sound advice. Feel your way around the board and hopefully some posts by our other members will be of help as well. Let go- and let God!. Books and mentors can be a guide, but for me it was love and more love for God. I was totally emptied of everything else including all I ever thought, or had known before. Good luck!.
 
Posts: 571 | Location: Oregon | Registered: 20 June 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hello Crystal,

You might find this helpful: http://www.prayeroftheheart.com/POHPractice.html

Blessings,
Tate
 
Posts: 77 | Location: South Carolina | Registered: 18 July 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Only in brief, if one is defining contemplation as meditation with a purpose, I would suggest you have them contemplate what is happening in their experience that may need change. Then, starting with awareness of their physical response to the external reality, begin tracing that feeling to its origin or source experience. Some may require an intermediary for help in reframing the cause and effect relationship between the original imprint and the present experience which a group sharing could facilitate. Ultimately the stimulation of contemplation is the growing awareness that reality shifts as we gain deeper knowledge of self.
 
Posts: 12 | Location: Traveling | Registered: 30 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thank you, Mystic's Maze. But remember, we are talking about beginners here. People for whom even the word has to be explained. People who have trouble just with the paragigm shift to being from doing for God. We're talking the nursery school of contemplation, whereas I'm thinking your answer is more high school level.
 
Posts: 10 | Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario | Registered: 15 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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And thank you to Tate for the website http://www.prayeroftheheart.com/POHPractice.html.I have worked with what I found there and have managed to work it into some of my teaching. I would recommeng this website to any who are relatively new to contemplation.
 
Posts: 10 | Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario | Registered: 15 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Perhaps contemplation cannot be taught at all. As for "meditation with purpose" - what is the purpose? Your desire for the object of God?
 
Posts: 26 | Registered: 26 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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But, really, there are no "basics of contemplation". Humility, Faith in the darkness. Stripped of images. Patience in the waiting. And wait.
 
Posts: 26 | Registered: 26 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I certainly agree with you luxnatura. Read my earlier post, let go and let God. Contemplation is a pure gift given when and as God chooses. We cannot make it happen nor teach another.
 
Posts: 571 | Location: Oregon | Registered: 20 June 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Here is an apt quote, a seed, from Thomas Merton:
quote:
How many there must be who have smothered the first sparks of contemplation by piling wood on the fire before it was well lit. The stimulation of interior prayer so excites them that they launch out into ambitious projects for teaching and converting the whole world, when all that God asks of them is to be quiet and keep themselves at peace, attentive to the secret work He is beginning in their souls.

The secret of interior peace is detachment...You will never be able to have perfect interior peace and recollection unless you are detached even from the desire of peace and recollection. You will never be able to pray perfectly until you are detached from the pleasures of prayer.

There is a kind of crude materialism in religious life which makes sincerely holy men believe that abnegation means simply giving up things that please the five exterior senses.

Of course we have to be detached from gross and sensual things before the interior life can even begin. But once it has begun it will make little progress unless we become more and more detached even from rational and intellectual and spiritual goods.

For the way to God lies through deep darkness in which all knowledge and all created wisdom and all pleasure and prudence and all human hope and human joy are defeated and anulled by the overwhelmeing purity of the light and the presence of God...

Beyond rational temperance there comes a sacrificial death which is on a higher level than mere virtue or practiced discipline. Here the Cross of Christ enters into the life of the contemplative. Without the mystical death that completely separates him from created things, there is no perfect freedom and no advance into the promised land of mystical union.

But this 'death' of sense and of spirit which brings the final liberation from attachment, is not the fruit of man's own ascetic effort alone. The Dark Night, the crisis of suffering that rends our roots out of this world, is a pure gift of God. Yet it is also a gift which we must in some degree prepare ourselves to receive by heroic acts of self-denial. For unless it is clear that we mean seriously to undertake a total renunciation of all attachments, the Holy Spirit will not lead us into the true darkness, the heart of mystical desolation, in which God Himself mysteriously liberates us from confusion, from the multiplicity of needs and desires, in order to give us unity in and with Himself.

And so the true contemplative life does not consist in the enjoyment of interior and spiritual desires...True contemplation is the work of a love that transcends all satisfaction and all experience to rest in the night of pure and naked faith.
 
Posts: 26 | Registered: 26 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Two months later, I am still considering Luxnatura's answer and the concept of detachment. I have to say that this is extremely hard for someone from an evangelical background. It all sounds so incredibly passive. But I have a feeling this isn't about passivity or ignoring the needs of those around us. So I have a question:

How do you detach and not become passive, lost in your own interior world? How can you be evangelical and contemplative?
 
Posts: 10 | Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario | Registered: 15 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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That's a rather deep and complicated quote from Merton, to be sure. Maybe this reflection on attachment and non-attachment would be more helpful.

Detachment doesn't mean you renounce desires, only that you hold them before God to see which out of your various desires and options to pursue God might be calling you to follow. Obviously, we can say that following desires that lead to sinful actions is not God's will. Beyond this, we strive to be honest with ourselves concerning what we desire and why, ever-attentive to the direction of God, which is not always easy to discern. If there is no sense of God leading in any particular direction and the desire is not sinful, then one is free to do as one chooses.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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My name is Roger and this is my first time posting to this group. I am looking forward to getting to know you all and to learn from your sharing. Thank you for letting me become a part of your group. I was just reading Phil�s last post and followed the link to his page on Recognizing Attachments. This subject of desires and freedom from the downward pull of desires, or detachment, is a subject in which I am keenly interested and I thought I might share a personal perspective with you which I think is relevant to it, though it may not initially seem so.

Several years ago I was sitting at the table in my kitchen eating an apple following some quiet meditative time. When I finished it, while thinking about a bible passage I had been reflecting on, I cut into the core with a paring knife where I found a small handful of seeds and placed them on the table in front of me. Once I shifted my attention from the bible passage I had been meditating on to the seeds in front of me it occurred to me that, in a sense, what I was looking at was the orchard within the apple I had just eaten. I was intrigued by that thought, by the rather mystical notion of an orchard within an apple. Probably because it reminded me of the Christ within me. It also, not too surprisingly, reminded me of the story in Genesis 3 where Eve was tempted by the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit, an apple like the one I had just eaten.

I think that one of the most fundamental truths of human nature is that we hunger and thirst. We want. We need. We desire. All too often, in fact, life is about reaching out and taking what we want from it, living according to our own selfish needs and desires, rather than God�s will. From this perspective it has occurred to me that life could fittingly be described as a partaking experience, one�s life in the world being viewed simply as one�s response to that for which we hunger and thirst. The all-important question is, though, do we partake of the forbidden fruit, living contrary to God�s will and, therefore, in a state of separateness from God, or do we plumb the very core of our beings in accepting the divine invitation to partake of a oneness and unity with the Christ who dwells within us all?

In the last several years my spiritual life has been about partaking of the Presence of the Christ in me. In solitude and stillness, beyond the reach of the mind and senses, in the sanctity of the holy of holies within me, rather than simply encountering Christ, I drink from the cup of His Presence in me. This thirsting for and drinking in and tasting of the Christ in me is the antithesis of satisfying worldly desires. The former leads to freedom and transformation, while the latter ultimately leads to attachments, compulsions, and addictions. More importantly, the cup of Christ�s presence is offered as a purely unwarranted and undeserved gift. It is by divine invitation only, so to speak. Drinking from the cup of human desires, on the other hand, is something that we tend to expect and demand from life. We reach out and take it. It is about separateness and alienation, while the cup of Christ in me is about oneness and union. One brings with it the curse of death, while the other brings with it the promise of eternal life. One is about the state of sin, while the other is about the state of grace. In the final analysis, then, what this tells me is that my life will either be a blessing or a curse to me, depending on how I perceive and identify that for which I hunger and thirst.

Thanks again for allowing me to join this discussion group.
 
Posts: 52 | Location: London, Ontario, Canada | Registered: 17 July 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Welcome, Roger. That's a wonderful introductory post from you, pointing out some of the basic issues in the spiritual life, especially that of the "two ways."
quote:
One brings with it the curse of death, while the other brings with it the promise of eternal life. One is about the state of sin, while the other is about the state of grace. In the final analysis, then, what this tells me is that my life will either be a blessing or a curse to me, depending on how I perceive and identify that for which I hunger and thirst.
In a nutshell . . . Smiler
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil, many thanks for your explanation of detachment and action of July 14th. That makes perfect sense to me, although challenging in terms of it's me who's responsible to hear God for what I'm to do and not necessarily my church leadership. On the other hand, it's also very encouraging in that I don't need to be driven to exhaustion by everyone else's expectations (I am a recovering codependent), but can trust that God will give rest as well as work and I don't have to apologize for that. I have also downloaded the material from the link you gave me and will have a close look at that.

And hi to you, Roger. I very much enjoyed your input. I have been meditating on the same sort of thing but from a different point of view. The burden I tend to bear in prayer for the church is for the healing of her wounded. I am one of the severely wounded who has journeyed into healing. I have ministered to others. And I tend to be a burden-bearing intercessor with a special bent toward the mentally and emotionally disturbed. I currently have been walking alongside a friend as he confronts the emotional and sexual abuse of his past. He is in huge pain. It is hard for me to tell him (as it was hard for me to be told in my own journey) that he needs to hold to his resolve to no longer run from his pain and push it down, but to embrace his hurting self and hold that pain in the presence of God while he grieves the hurt and lets it go to the Father. As you put it, choosing for union rather than separateness -- God's healing and not his own approach of denial and suppression. So I very much enjoyed the thought of looking at the orchard in the apple. For people in pain because of severely dysfunctional backgrounds, if they see any goodness at all, it is just small seeds. They then think they're pathetic. But perhaps if they saw the orchard that God sees in those seeds ...?
 
Posts: 10 | Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario | Registered: 15 April 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hi I have just joined so I hope this isn't of topic. I am living in Japan and am finding the question of contemplation and meditation very important at the moment. I was brought up within a liberal christian family (meaning my parents were open to allowing me the freedom to find The light of Jesus for myself). Its been a long journey, one in which I became very intrigued by meditation and spent a lot of time in my teenage years exploring buddhism as I found the practice of meditation very practically helpful. At this point I have had some very beautiful and personal experiences of Christ which started me re-evaluating my understanding of what Christianity is. I have just started a Zen calligraphy group and am enjoying getting back into meditation (we are doing some Zazen work in conjunction with tai chi exercizes for calligraphy) but having talked to some of my more mainstream christian friends I guess I have questions about whether Zen practices and christianity are compatible. As I have no one who seems to have interests in both these areas id welcome comments, feedback advice etc.My current feeling is that chi is a natural energy and I am not trying to control it more become aware of it and be more present to my daily reality...thankyou
 
Posts: 2 | Location: Japan | Registered: 24 July 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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The hebrew word used for "Meditation" in the bible is Hagah.Hagah has to do with a group of activities: one is to think upon or ponder, then it involves muttering the Scriptures to oneself.

In Hindu meditation, the person is instructed to make his mind blank. This is however, not the biblical meditation. It is true that temporary peace is obtained during Yoga, but as someone said in here, God has to offer "peace that surpasses all understanding" and not a counterfeit peace.

Therefore, the biblical meditation is to be ON THE WORD/LAWS OF GOD. That is, instead of letting your mind go blank, you fill it with God's Word, and that is to say with God Himself. The other kind of meditation, opens doors to seducing and deceiving spirits.

Contemplation is involved in meditation.
Do visit my website: www.touching-world.co.nr
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 05 May 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sid, I think the Lectio Divina process that has been recommended gives priority attention to Scripture. It would be a mistake, however, to equate the presence of the Word within with words. . . . not that you're exactly saying that, but the options here aren't letting one's mind go blank and reading/reflecting on Scripture. Contemplative silence is neither of these, but is a resting in the Word beyond thoughts and intentional acts. We've got quite a few threads on this if you're interested in this topic.

P.S., how about a link exchange? See http://shalomplace.com/place/six/guestbook.html and follow the Add link? I use only email submissions now since the spammers messed up my script.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dear Phil,

I do believe in being still in the Presence of the Lord. But even there, you fix your thought on Him, and not make it go absolutely blank. I haven't come across a verse in the Bible that tells us to practice this. However, I have heard of cases where such meditation was practiced and the end was destructive.

The Lord bless you with Himself :-)
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 05 May 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Sid, there's a Psalm verse that reads "Be still and know that I am God." Also, Jesus speaks of "abiding in Him." Then there's the contemplative tradition of the Church.

Contemplation is not about making one's mind go blank, but about resting in the awareness of God's love. Sometimes there are no thoughts, but there is conscious awareness and not a blank state.

Are you familiar with the mystical tradition of Christianity?
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Phil, I had had a long conversation with the follower of Pentecostal Church. Although I admire their resoluteness on Christ almost all of them I spoke with don't appreciate the mystical tradition of Christianity. For me it is chocking that Christian mysticism including contemplative prayer, which I think is a crucial part of Christianity, is missing in their Church.
 
Posts: 340 | Location: Sweden | Registered: 14 May 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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You got me all wrong, Phil. I wasn't speaking against contemplation. I was saying "Being still in God's presence is part of meditation. The hebrew word is inclusive of this.". I was speaking against the wrong kind of meditation, as some one in here put up something on Japenese meditation. There are times, I stay still in God's presence letting the Spirit flush my being, but there my thoughts are on Him.

I hope, I made that clear. :-)
 
Posts: 33 | Registered: 05 May 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Right, Sid. And it bears mentioning that the Church has condemned the type of mind-blanking methods you've alluded to, which are considered quietist. Basically, what this is about is a confusion between contemplative silence and the kind of mental vacuity produced by certain meditative methods. In an over-reaction to quietism, however, some have even come to distrust authentic contemplative graces -- e.g., as Grace mentioned above. It sounds like you're on to the distinctions, here.
 
Posts: 7539 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 09 August 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Roger:
[qb] Several years ago I was sitting at the table in my kitchen eating an apple following some quiet meditative time.. [/qb]
Hi Roger,

Several minutes ago I was finishing an apple, a tart one grown near here where the apples are just starting to come in season. I very much enjoy not only apples but the history of apples including the great apple saint, Johnny Appleseed. I researched his life and even visited his grave in Fort Wayne Indiana. The best account of this apple history in the chapter in Botany of Desire on the theme of intoxication -- apples in Johnny's day were mostly preserved as cider, hard cider. Perhaps I digress.

As I was finishing the apple and putting it down on the table beside me, I read your beautiful introduction. Welcome, Welcome.

God is good, so good, beyond all our efforts to imitate. And the goodness of God is the only true satisfaction for our deepest thirst. When we drink from that well, at some level, we transcend the cycle of thirst/satiety/thirst/satiety... we thirst no longer.

This forum has been a help for me in finding people who can appreciate some of those secrets of the Christian tradition. I hope it will be for you too.
 
Posts: 455 | Location: Baltimore | Registered: 23 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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