Here are few modern synonyms for the word COMTEMPLATION: indifference, lethargy, detachment, aloofness, and emotionlessness. Not too exiting!
Its etymology sounds also pretty dull: 1200, from Old French contemplation itself from Latin contemplationem (nominative contemplatio)
“act of looking at”
Act of looking at. No wonder why our analytic, discriminative and judgmental Western mind sees the act of contemplation as passive, dull, boring, unintellectual if not stupid.
The real meaning of the act to contemplate is in fact quite the opposite. Contemplation has a profound spiritual root which originated in the beginning of religions thousands years BCE. Contemplation is still an integral part of any spiritual activities in our Oriental religions. It was also a common practice within monotheist religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism before loosing its relevance. Centering prayer is a common act of daily deep contemplation found mostly among Christian Orthodox.
The practice of contemplation is an important spiritual activity in Zen Buddhism.
In fact meditation is by itself an exercise of deep contemplation having 4 focusing components:
- Our posture: sitting or walking.
- Our breathing as mind anchor.
- Our incoming thoughts then
- Back to our breathing.
Contemplation is simply “to be one with” or “to be thoughtless with” without the use of any analytic, discriminative and judgmental mind and without any specific feeling. Contemplating a flower is to be one with this flower.
Easier to say than to do since during contemplation our mind feels very frustrated for not being involved in the process! In fact during a perfect contemplative state one should try to become almost “mindless”. This is why contemplation like meditation is a demanding exercise whereby the mind will do anything to distract us by shooting ongoing thoughts.
To contemplate something is to be a camera taking a picture of it with a long long pause. The object is inside the camera and both become one. There is no editing from the camera since it is without thinking
Suppose you look at the sky and contemplate this little cloud for 1 or 2 min. Try not to analyze its color, shape, direction, speed, changes, etc. No judgment, non thinking .This is a great way to practice mindfulness meditation & mind control.
Beside “looking at” contemplation may also include our 4 others senses:listening to a sound….touching, smelling and tasting.
Contemplation is part of our Mini Meditations that we talk about before and that we can practice during the day.
Ven. Ji Gong Sunim. June 16th 2015.