Monday, May 25, 2009

Contemplative Thoughts

None of us are completely present. So don’t feel guilty, but do know presence is still the great teacher, those enlightened moments that come now and then. When we are manipulating, changing, controlling, and fixing, we are not there yet. We cannot be present to something and trying to change it at the same time.

The calculating mind is the opposite of the contemplative mind. The first is taught by the systems of our world, the second by the Holy Spirit.

We might consider this prayer to try to draw ourselves into a contemplative frame of mind:

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

-from Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr, OFM

This will give us some idea of the proper preparation that the contemplative life requires. A life that is quiet, lived in the country, in touch with the rhythm of nature and the seasons. A life in which there is manual work, the exercise of arts and skills, not in a spirit of dilettantism, but with genuine reference to the needs of one's existence. The cultivation of the land, the care of farm animals, gardening. A broad and serious literary culture, music, art, again not in the spirit of Time and Life, but a genuine and creative appreciation of the way poems, pictures, etc., are made. A life in which there is such a thing as serious conversation, and little or no TV. These things are mentioned not with the insistence that only life in the country can prepare a [person] for contemplation, but to show the type of exercise that is needed.

-by Thomas Merton. The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation. William H. Shannon, editor (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003): 131.

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