A Personal Comment on Contemplation

Various distinctions are made between meditation and contemplation. For me, the distinction is found in the difference in focus that one holds in the practices. In meditation (discussed in another post), the focus is holistic and attention to objects within the holistic focus is avoided through relaxed concentration on the whole or what I have called elsewhere, a perceptual or sensory gestalt. How to do this has been described in another post.

Contemplation, on the other hand, has a particularized focus that through relaxed concentration on the object of contemplation seeks understanding or insight. When I do this I select something that I want to more fully understand intuitively. This is a right-hemisphere way of gaining knowledge. Because it calls on intuition, contemplation cannot employ reasoning or analytic thought, which are the most common approaches one tends to take when trying to understand something. However, these cognitive processes are a function of the left hemisphere, which when activated suppresses right hemisphere functions.

Thus, a focus that seeks intuitive understanding or insight must be a light focus in which an image, word, phrase, situation, etc., are held in awareness but nothing more. Just awareness without thinking. Once in this state, one simply waits patiently for a thought or image to spontaneously arise. When something arises, hold that in awareness in the manner previously described. Wait for another spontaneous thought or image to arise. Continue to repeat this process until you sense that you’ve reached the end of the process, especially if you feel that you’ve accomplished the understanding that you wanted. You might think of this process as a version of free association.

Since meditation has some overlapping similarity to contemplation, it would not be surprising if one were to have flashes of intuitive insight during meditation. I have had this happen a number of times. What spontaneously arises for me is usually in the form of a brief aphorism whose meaning I sometimes don’t fully appreciate. In such cases, I employ contemplation as a way of gaining greater understanding of what arose. The following are examples of aphorisms that arose during meditation:

1. Ego’s resistance to Being blocks Self-realization.

2. You are Love’s body. (This one resulted in a poem, Love’s Body.)

3. Unconditional Love dissolves the attachment of ego to judgment.

4. Being trumps doing.

5. Pursuit of experience is avoidance of Presence.

6. Ego is the mask God wears while pretending to be you.

7. Compulsive thinking is cognitive avoidance of being Present.

If any of the above aphorisms are vague or meaningless to you, consider using the aphorism as a focus for contemplation. Follow the guidelines provided above for your practice or, if you already have a contemplative practice, follow that protocol.

Many of the poems that I have written have had their origin in contemplation with the goal of intuitive understanding. The skeleton for a recent poem came about through this process. In my reading I have come across the word “Emptiness” many times. From the context it was clear that the writer did not mean “empty” in the usual sense. So, I did a contemplative session on “Emptiness” using the process described above. The result was a poem, The Ground of All Being.

Leave a Reply