What is Contemplation?

Following in the tradition of the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross, and Thomas Merton, contemplation is a practice of letting be so that the contemplative becomes increasingly more mindful of the stirrings of God within the soul and in the world. Another way to put it would be to suggest that contemplation connects you to your authentic self, the self that is intertwined with God. Both as a practice and as a way of being in the world, when we are contemplating, we practice deep listening that emerges from stillness (or quieting the mind). As a form of prayer, it is predicated upon silence (allowing God to speak to us in the silence of our hearts) as opposed to us telling God what we want or desire. This communication begins by becoming attuned to our breath, the very life force that God breathes into all sentient beings. (When we are attuned to our breath, we are mindful of God’s breathing into and through us, so that when we breathe, God breathes). Reading contemplatively involves reading and listening slowly, meditatively, and with reverence, being mindful of the presence of the Word (Logos) in all words. Through this way of reading, we allow the Logos to speak to us, to come to our assistance, to help us articulate the questions that we need to ask so that the answers are those that we need to hear. Ultimately, in contemplation, we can practice the presence of God, allowing God to heal those aspects of our life that might need care.

Ian Edwards

Director, Duquesne University Counseling and Wellbeing Center

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