Welcome to M3’s very first guest post. MJ Logan has been haunting M3 for quite a few months…nearly since the beginning. If you have not been to his place to check out the Saturday’s Sunshine adventures or the Monday’s Muse, you should be
ashamed of yourself in for a treat when you get to the end of this post. MJ is going to take you away. Enjoy the trip!
Contemplation. In a historical sense, it refers to prayer or meditation and its origins are definitely religious in nature. Templus has its root in Latin and refers to the place consecrated before building an altar. To contemplate literally means to cut out, or set aside a place for worship. Modern day contemplation can be a religious experience, without any religious context at all.
In ancient times, contemplation was accomplished by exiling one’s self from society and thus, purge the everyday noise from the mind. Plato did it. Jesus did it. So did Mohammad and many others. The concept of fasting in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights comes to mind. Maybe God gave the Israelites 40 years of contemplation in the desert.
Modern contemplation is the concentration of thought on various aspects of an idea or concept. To contemplate requires concentration while relaxing your mind at the same time. If you’ve engaged in free thought or stream-of-conscious thinking, then you have a good idea what contemplation is, but maybe you haven’t reached the place where that level of thought lies. Contemplation is worthy of exploration because it engages your best thinking, frees you from the world, and delivers you answers if you’re willing to listen to yourself.
You probably won’t find it easy the first few times you try it. The worldly distractions of phones, music, TV, the hustle and bustle, the rat race; everything in our modern world demands our attention and not for later or some other time, but right now. Answer this text message, check email, post to Facebook, oh the news is coming on and… You get the idea. You have to put all those things aside for a time.
And please. Don’t tell me you can multi-task and contemplate, unless you’re engaged in some mindless, repetitive task that you’ve done for years like turning upside-down widgets right-side up on a conveyor belt. Even then, contemplation is more of a distraction than a thought process, although for those practiced in the art, contemplation is probably within reach.
Choose Your Need
We all have thoughts and ideas that need exploration. Without expression, we humans are unable to complete a thought. Creative folk know this well. They put words on paper, bring a thought alive on a canvas, or carve magnificent things from wood or stone. Contemplation is a form of expression; it expresses your thoughts to yourself.
Choose an idea, something that is important to you, that thus far, you’ve been unable to withdraw a satisfactory conclusion to fruition within yourself. The very act of choosing what to contemplate is the beginning of the process.
Pick a Place
Go somewhere. Leave the phone and the tablet at home or in the car or somewhere. Leave the world behind and get somewhere you don’t often get to. Someplace you’re alone or will be left alone. Someplace without distractions. Don’t take anything with you save some water, appropriate clothing, and yourself. Choose someplace quiet. Quiet is important. It allows you to hear yourself think. When was the last time that happened?
I prefer outdoor contemplation, although I’ve contemplated in many places, both indoors and out. The forest is best for me and if I need answers, there is where I go.
It sounds boring, but clear your mind. Don’t think about emails or television shows or Facebook. They won’t help you contemplate. Think about the silence (you’re in a quiet place, right?) Then listen past that silence to the background noise of the world. If you’re outdoors, listen for far off birds or the rustle of a squirrel in dry leaves. Indoors, perhaps it is the whisper of air coming from a vent or the hum of something far off. Listen to those sounds and think about them and where they are coming from and how they affect you.
Once, I found myself in the woods in early December, far from town and the snow was falling. I sat and listened and at first I heard nothing. There was no breeze, no birds or animals making any noise. Just me, the folding camp stool I carried and the forest. I sat there, listening to nothing and then I did hear something. Something I’d never heard before. I heard the snow falling. Not a driven snow that makes noise that is easily heard, or a heavy snow that thumps itself into the ground with each softly falling flake. No, I could hear each tiny, dry snowflake whisper as it touched the ground or a tree or even me.
It doesn’t matter what the subject of your contemplation is, the sounds are a part of it because they are a part of the world and the world is a part of your contemplation. Think about this because it does matter. Everything matters in a small way. A pair of birds once passed so close to me, I felt the rush of air from their wings on my cheeks and in my hair. They were small things, but they affected me if only for a moment.
When I contemplate outdoors, I hear the birds in the background noise of the world and often think about those two particular birds and the rush of air and the feather-brush tease of a wingtip on my cheek. How do the bird songs or the rustling squirrel or peeping spring frogs affect you? What do they bring to mind?
Slowly, the sounds will fade from your thoughts and the subject of your contemplation will come to the forefront of your mind. Give those thoughts the freedom to express themselves. Don’t try to direct them at first, just let them flow and the world around you will fade from existence. If you start to drift too far from your chosen course, bring yourself back by directing your thoughts. Follow them logically, in sequence from beginning to end.
What conclusion do you draw?
Sometimes, the need for contemplation isn’t satisfied the first time you seek answers. You must come back again and again to find the answers within yourself. Often it isn’t that the answer isn’t there, it is listening to the answer from within yourself that is the problem. Trust in yourself and give yourself the freedom to contemplate.
Don’t expect thunderous revelations. Look instead for the tiny whisper of your inner voice. The same voice that talks to you in sleepless nights, in the car on a lonely road, or under the tree amidst falling autumn leaves. Don’t look for trumpets heralding the answer; listen to the voice of a cricket change to the voice of reason within your mind.
Find that voice within and listen to it. Truly listen because that is you, the real you. The you that lies beneath the facade the rest of the world sees. That voice, that tiny voice smaller than the voice of a cricket, that is the voice of your mind, the place you can find the answers to many of the questions in your life. I promise you, if you let that voice talk and truly listen to it, the experience will change the way you think.
Have you ever contemplated in a place where the world faded from thought and the answers came clearly? Was it the physical location you were in or that place in your mind you traveled to that provided the answers? If you’ve never truly contemplated, will you try it? If you are familiar with contemplation, do you prefer to contemplate indoors or out?
Answer MJ’s questions and then take a moment to slide by his place to check out the goings on…which are often and fun! Give a big round of virtual applause for MJ Logan for the first M3 guest post! I hope everyone is enjoying their break from the usual on M3.
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
Original Contemplate text and graphic Distractions (c) MJ Logan 2012
Other images compliments of Wikimedia Commons
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