In this section we will begin to do some Contemplative Prayer exercises.
 
There are also some practical ideas to help you embark on a lifetime practice of Contemplative Prayer.

Going Deeper

Wow! That's beautiful!

Learning to Contemplate can be difficult but there are also times when it comes natural to us.
 
I wonder how many times we have gazed silently at a beautiful landscape. We gaze with a sense of awe and wonder as the scene  seems to resonate with something inside us. At times like this, people often think, "There must be a God to have created all this!" There is something about nature that seems to to touch us in a special way. It is quite helpful to realise that this is contemplation, and it is as natural as breathing. We just need to encourage it!

To Do

List and describe some of the times this has happened to you. Think of as many descriptive words as you can to describe your feelings. Maybe you could also include a drawing or photographs to help recreate the atmosphere.
If you are not the 'spiritual type' just write about what you enjoy. All forms of wholesome pleasure is God given.

Wow! You're beautiful!

Lovers often lapse into silence when words fail, and without knowing it they become completely absorbed in each others company. Silence is an important part of relationship, and listening to another is an important aspect of an intimate relationship.

 It is no wonder that Contemplatives often see themselves as lovers of God. It has often been described as 'Beholding the Lord' or gazing upon Him and enjoying Him in the way that Lovers do. It is in fact prayer or worship without words! A Biblical example of this type of love is the relationship between the apostle John and Jesus. He was described as the disciple whom Jesus loved, and countless Christians and mystics down the ages have followed his example.

Contemplation can therefore be viewed as spiritual wonder and is ultimately about the awareness of life, not about living in monastic orders.
Many equate the source of life with the sacred, and contemplation has been described as the realisation that that the essence of life within us comes from an abundant source. The contemplative seeks to focus on the presence of God within in order to relate more profoundly to him. When we sit in silence we are not just refraining from words but tuning in to the presence of God. The presence of God within us is a source of creativity, love and power. It brings refreshment and strength. Words, knowledge and symbols express inadequately the nature of God. The Bible only give us clues as to the nature of God. We can only approach him in silence.

Practical Steps

Contemplate the Beautiful things in Life

Imagine a scene or situation that suggests to you something of the love of God. This will be something that is special to you. Meditate on it and enjoy thinking about it.

Here are some possible examples

  • A beautiful scene
  • A member of the family
  • A beautiful meal
  • A work of art
  • A piece of music
  • A scientific fact
  • A flower

in a simple way you are beginning to Contemplate on something that suggests to you the presence of God. This kind of contemplation is also beneficial to our state of well being and guards against depression. Try it on a regular basis and I am sure that you will find yourself becoming more positive

Developing the contemplative approach to life.

In the film Forrest Gump, his girl friend asks him if he was frightened in Vietnam. He goes on to explain that it was not so bad and describes the moments in which he notices the intense beauty of the countryside in which he finds himself. Contemplation in its simple form is a way of life that can be developed even in the most difficult of circumstances and helps us to be positive even in the midst of evil
 
When you have done this, spend some time trying to tune into the presence of God within. In order to do this you will need to block out any distracting thoughts and begin to enjoy the stillness.
 
Above all be patient with yourself. It takes time!

Still Deeper...

According to traditional teaching on Contemplation there are different levels of Contemplation. We can be content to skim the surface or we can go on to deeper levels. From personal experience I have found that pressing on isn’t easy, but it can deepen our spiritual life in many profound ways.

In the practical archaeologists have learned to look beneath the surface. These Roman remains in Vienna were excavated by people who are trained to look beyond the obvious and note the clues which suggest that something of value lies beyond the surface.

These treasures lie underneath the modern city of Austria.

In the early stages of contemplative prayer we can get in touch with our natural feelings and experience a certain amount of refreshment. However the person who desires to connect with the divine will push beyond the surface and seek to enter further into the stillness.

This stillness has been referred to by Merton as the ‘deep I’ of the spirit which is in tune with God. The ‘I’ is the essence of our being that cannot be developed or perfected. It is the core of our being and is often discovered when we contemplate the presence of God within. In simple words there is sense in which we are all made in the image of God and contemplation can help us become aware of that.

Discover the still point

The task of the contemplative is to discover the divine or hidden interior dimension that underpins the physical world in which we live. We all intrinsically believe that there is more to life than we can feel, hear, touch, see and smell. Through contemplation we develop the ability to discern the interior dimension, a bit like the prophets in the Old Testament.

According to Thomas Merton the interior life is blocked by our habitual way of life, all concentrated on externals. This physical mindset expresses itself in the way that we understand our relationship to the world and our self image. Life is fragmented and our self image changes according to circumstances. If we have just got a new job it is high but if we have recently been made redundant then it is low. These things are natural. However self esteem may also change according to where we are. It may be high at work or when we go shopping, but low at home when relationships are tense. Our life is very much centred on externals and is therefore very flimsy. We cannot depend on life going well for our sense of self worth or self esteem and I am sure that we have all experienced times when life is a pig.

Merton says that if we are to be free from these external influences we must open up an inner freedom and vision, which is found in relatedness to something in us which we don’t really know. Traditionally this dimension is called God and he is the root of our being. “In Him we live, move and have our being.”

What is the purpose of the pursuit of God in the silence?

Over a period of time contemplation changes our awareness of reality by making us more aware of the spiritual dimension. Rather than reacting to the surface events that are around us we begin to view things a little more objectively and see them as part of the bigger picture.

Has this made you hungry for more? Visit
 
"The World Inside Bookshop"
 
There are some excellent books available.They have been specifically chosen to help you develop the Lost Art of Contemplative Prayer.

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