Friday, December 16, 2011

What is a Contemplative?

I sometimes refer to myself as a contemplative. What is a contemplative? I am not an expert on contemplation but here's my perspective. People who know me well know I am very introverted and introspective. I think you can learn to be contemplative but some personality types seem to be naturally contemplative. I hesitate to call it a skill but as a behavior and a way of being one can practice it even if it does seem to go against your nature. In all the major religions there are contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person or one who goes to church every Sunday. In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe. The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane. It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also be willing to stop and smell them. It's being present to life in all its details. Some call this mindfulness. For those who are spiritually inclined it can also be about awareness of God's presence in life. Perhaps you have read the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew Scriptures. He had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a duel. To make a long story short, Elijah’s God won so the guys that lost ran Elijah out of town. He hid in a cave on a mountain. There was thunder and lightning and earthquakes and all that kind of scary stuff but God was not present in them. Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze. Elijah hid his face for in the gentle breeze God was present. The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present. If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities. I don't think you can truly be a contemplative person if you are running through your life like your hair is on fire.

1 comment:

Hermit of Bardstown said...

Fantastic entry, Michael. You have said it all in only a few words.