On Contemplative Prayer (Deep Thought and Reflection)
Contemplation happens to everyone. It happens in moments when we are open, undefended, and immediately present. —Gerald May
Even after some 30 plus years of transformational practice, my tendency in most situations involves varying degrees of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am, and have been, for most of my life, far better at judging and analysis than being fully present in compassion.
To sustain nonjudgement is my New Year’s practice.
It’s important to admit that most of us start from a calculating stance. Our false self controls much of our reactions.
On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and present,” I can begin with an open mind and open heart. Most of the time, however, I GET there later, and even END there. When it is later, it is only through reflection, and usually forgiving myself for being so calculating in an earlier situation or interaction.
My True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of my Separate Self. It is an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on some form of daily prayer. Without the practice of contemplative prayer, we can assume that we will fall right back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile smaller self.
If you only have one prayer in the day, make it “thank you.” —Rumi
My first look upon a situation, or another human being, is seldom compassionate. My smaller self is too busy weighing and feeling: “How can they be so ignorant?” “How will this affect me?” or “How does my self-image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This stance often leads to an implosion of self-preoccupation that prevents communion with the other, or with the moment. In other words, I first feel MY feelings before I can relate to the situation or the emotion of the OTHER.
I imagine that enlightened human beings posses a capacity to continuously sustain a gaze of loving kindness, of compassion, upon their fellow human beings. Since this is near impossible for us normal folk, the best we can do is to do our best to practice daily the art of “forgiving ourselves for when we know not what we do” and thus connecting compassionately with the other. This is quite difficult, as it requires us to be in an “undefended” state. It is only from that state that we can immediately (or at least more quickly) stand with, and for, the other, and for the moment, experience that compassion.
I have spent much of my life getting to the gaze of compassion. By nature, I have a critical mind and a demanding heart, and I am generally impatient and still carry residual conditioning that limits an ongoing joy and celebration of the glory of creation.. I am now learning that the practice of solitude and silence (which has always been difficult for me) is the key to living a liberated life of compassion.
Creating more time for stillness, and looking at life from the place of divine intimacy (sympatheia) is my practice for the New Year. More particularly, my intention is to look compassionately upon those who I judge as ignorant, those who are suffering. This is my intention – to continue merging my critical thinking with my compassionate heart, and to see with the eyes of compassion which always moves me to act for peace and fairness.
“The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.” ― Meister Eckhart
“Meditate often on the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. For in a sense, all things are mutually woven together and therefore have an affinity for each other—for one thing follows after another according to their tension of movement, their sympathetic stirrings, and the unity of all substance.” —Marcus Aurelius, Meditations