A Weekly publication of The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Direction, and Soul Care
Hi Everyone, I pray blessings upon you, that you are experiencing the presence of God in every moment of your days. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak in your heart.
In The Awakening letter we use the term contemplative quite often. I am often asked what it means to be contemplative. Over the coming four weeks we will take a look at four important aspects of contemplation, beginning this week with “What is contemplation, followed by contemplative listening, spiritual direction and contemplative listening and finally, developing a contemplative ear. Each of these consists of outtakes from The Awakening Institutes eleven week study experience titled “Contemplative Listening.” 1 This week we begin with…
What Does It Mean to Be Contemplative?
I would like to open with a brief prayer.
Dear Lord, Help us to contemplate your Presence and to hear you in our lives. Help us to move beyond simply thoughts about you into a deep abiding experience of You, and us in You. Lead us to a place of deep contemplation as we listen for your Presence in, though, and around one another. Lord, help us to rest where your light embraces our light in love. Help us to be spontaneously aware of your voice in the silence of your abiding Presence. We pray all these things in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A contemplative is a person who is either trained or naturally endowed with an ability to pay close attention to God in their midst. At its center contemplation is interior silence that opens one’s spirit, soul, mind, and body to union with God. The stance of contemplation is to be open, non-judgmental, non-defensive and in the moment. The contemplative lives from a non-duel perspective where everything belongs and everything is sacred. The contemplative moment is a moment where we become immersed in the reality of God’s presence, with no need to explain, describe, or understand; God’s presence just “is.” Jesuit theologian Walter Burghardt called contemplation “a long, loving look at the real.” The contemplative moment is a moment of letting go; not pushing away, but simply self-emptying. In this kenotic moment we become more and more aware of God’s presence. Contemplation is a gift, by God’s grace, that is available to all people. Everybody has contemplative moments. This is due to the reality that everyone is created in the image and likeness of God. In other words there is a light within every human spirit that is receptive to the light of God. Thomas Merton when speaking of contemplation said.
“The union of the simple light of God with the simple light of the human spirit, in love, is contemplation”
New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 292
We are not to try to summon up contemplative moments as much as we are to become aware of them as they present themselves. This awareness can be developed by training our spiritual senses to be listening and alert. Contemplation, in fact, is both the cause and the result of our work to develop listening hearts and minds. As we intentionally turn our attention to God, and begin to contemplate God, God will bless us with the grace to hear and thus to enter into ever deepening levels of contemplation.
“Simply stated, contemplation is a way to listen carefully, incline our ears, and come to a deeper awareness of God.”
Jean Stairs, Listening for the Soul, pg. 38
Therefore contemplation is not something we strive for, or to grasp in some way, but instead is already something we possess. The journey to contemplation always ends up in the same place in which we started albeit with a new awareness. This is a journey to our innermost selves where God dwells. But it is nonetheless a necessary journey, along which we jettison the things that block our awareness of Emmanuel, God with us. In other words…
“Contemplation is simply a way to be in touch with this God who already dwells in the inner core of our being.”
Jean Stairs, Listening for the Soul, pg. 43
1 For more information on our eleven week “Contemplative Listening” study/experience please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.theawakeninginstitute.com