The Art of Contemplation

The Art of Contemplation

An article by Regina Dawn Akers

Contemplation is the art of going beyond the mind’s understanding to another understanding, understanding that clearly transcends the mind. Some call it realization.

If one is identified with the mind, wisdom-realization may have the feeling of coming from beyond “me.” One may give credit for the wisdom to Holy Spirit, Jesus, Buddha or some other symbol of transcendent wisdom. If one is not identified with the mind, wisdom-realization feels like home, like Self.

When I was first guided to write “The Holy Spirit’s Interpretation of the New Testament” (NTI), I was given instructions about how to do it. One very important instruction was:

“In order to understand the symbol, one must accept the Love of Christ. One prepares himself to accept that Love by recognizing he does not understand the symbol, and then he asks for understanding. By opening up to receive understanding without judgment, he opens up to accept the Love of Christ. With that Love comes Christ’s knowledge, for they are the same and inseparable. Then the meaning that is beyond the words is understood as a Light that shines for all who look to see.”

There are two main points about receiving in this paragraph:

1 – In order to receive wisdom, I have to realize I don’t understand.

2 – In order to receive wisdom, I have to be willing not to judge what I receive.

These were important instructions to move me completely beyond my ego, including my spiritual ego, so that I could receive spontaneous enlightened clarity without blocking it with what I think I already know and without blocking it with what I think it should be.

Whenever we contemplate anything, we receive the most if we are willing to be completely open and non-judgmental. If I think wisdom should sound like A Course in Miracles or Mooji or Thich Nhat Hahn or anything else, I block wisdom somewhat. If I think it should tell me something specific like “You are awareness,” I block it somewhat. If I think it should use certain words or shouldn’t use certain words or should be poetic, I block it somewhat. Anything I think I know gets in the way of completely open spontaneous receiving.

Sometimes when contemplating, the flow of wisdom begins on its own, spontaneously. Sometimes the flow of wisdom begins as I focus on an inquiry. For example, as I write this, today’s Awakening Together daily quote is:

“Who cares if you’re enlightened forever? Can you just get it in this moment, now?” ~ Byron Katie

If I am contemplating that quote, I might ask myself, “Am I over concerned with enlightenment? Has that become an obstacle for me? In what way is that an obstacle?” And then I use looking, not thinking or analysis, to see what the answers to these questions are. As I see through looking, wisdom that is perfect for me on this day arises.

Or I might ask myself, “What is ‘it’ when she says, ‘Can you just get it in this moment, now?’” And then I remain open. I don’t use thinking to try to figure it out. I just stay with the question, open, waiting for an answer to come. If my mind starts to think, I ask the question again. I wait in the stillness of the open question.

Sometimes when wisdom begins to flow, it isn’t immediately brilliant to me. The first few words that appear may seem uninteresting or unorganized. I remember I’ve promised not to judge what comes, and I start writing whatever comes. This seems to open the flow more, and soon I have perfect wisdom for me now.

When we sit down to contemplate, it is best if we have no expectations about what we will realize or receive through contemplation. The mind needs to be totally open. Our expectations limit us.

For example, maybe for the last 2 or 3 days I’ve had insights about my attachment to the body as “me”. That doesn’t mean that the theme of realization today will continue on that track. It may switch tracks entirely today. I don’t want to block today’s gift of grace with an expectation of what that gift is supposed to be.

Or maybe the theme of grace is repeating itself again and again. Maybe the mind sees this repetition as monotonous. Maybe the mind thinks that if “I am doing this right, the realization should be completely new and deeply profound each day.” But what does the mind know? Is it the wisdom teacher? Is it grace?

It is best to let go of all expectations and be open to whatever comes without judgment.

Another block to receiving wisdom through contemplation is thinking I understand or thinking I already know. For example, if my practice is contemplating a quote, like the quotes from “The Seven Steps to Awakening” or the Awakening Together Daily Quote, I may sometimes come across a quote that is easy to understand. Maybe the quote is short, simple and clear. “I get it,” mind says.

Well … that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to be gained through contemplation. Joseph Benner had realization after realization, resulting in a book called “The Impersonal Life,” through contemplating one short quote continually. The quote: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Consider this story on contemplation by William Samuel, written in his book “The Awareness of Self- Discovery”:

“Once, in China, I was given a simple verse to read and then to give my interpretation. I was ready to give an answer immediately but was informed that I had twenty-eight days to think about it. ‘Why so long?’ asked, I, with the usual impatience of a Westerner.

“’Because nothing has been read once until it has been read twelve times,’ was my answer. ‘Read and reread.’

“I did. Twelve times twelve to make twelve readings … and I heard a melody I could not have heard otherwise. Since then I have known why it is that certain lines in the Bible (or any other book) that have been read countless times will one day, upon just one more reading, suddenly take on a grand new significance.

“So reader, with a very gentle touch, read and re-read. If you are earnest, and act with the earnestness you are, one day when you least expect it, you will hear and feel your Heart within complete [the] words without.”

Sometimes we may be asked or guided to contemplate a quote we do not like. Maybe it uses words or symbols we do not like. Maybe we don’t have any mental understanding at all and we feel frustrated about that lack of understanding. Maybe we don’t like the source of the quote; maybe we have judgments against the person who spoke or wrote the quote or maybe we have judgments against the scripture or spiritual path the quote comes from. Any judgments we have about the material we are contemplating can get in the way of receiving wisdom. If we have any judgments about the material, we serve our self best by being willing to look at our judgments and let them go.

Contemplation is not an activity of the mind. Contemplation is a doorway to transcend mind. One may need to be patient or one may need to be willing to accept something that comes fast and unexpectedly. One may need to be willing to write in a voice that seems very different and unfamiliar, or one may need to be willing to receive clear ideas through an easy thought stream that sounds very much like “me”, or one may need to be willing to accept what is realized spontaneously with no words or thoughts at all. Maybe your clarity will come through picture-images in your mind’s eye or through a dream as you sleep.

Contemplation itself cannot be taught. It is something one realizes from within and through experience. However, it may be helpful to read how some contemplation masters describe contemplation. You can read a few of those pointers under “How do I contemplate?” at this link.

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