are words of God,
His music, His
Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps
Every act reveals God and expands His being.
I know that may be hard
All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth
Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent
for a while,
worlds are forming
in my heart.
(C)ontemplation is . . . awakening, enlightenment, and the amazing intuitive grasp by which love gains certitude of God’s creative and dynamic intervention in our daily life. . . contemplation is a sudden gift of awareness, an awakening to the Real within all that is real. A vivid awareness of infinite Being at the roots of our own limited being. An awareness of our contingent reality as received, as a present from God, as free gift of love.
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
One definition of contemplation by Carmelite William McNamara I find helpful is a "long loving look at the real". Contemplation is long and slow, it takes time and cannot be rushed through. It is a loving look, we gaze upon the world with eyes of compassion and in the process discover our own heart awakening and new worlds being formed there. Contemplation gazes on the real which is not always beautiful or pleasing. The real is the heart of things below the surface. The contemplative sees suffering and brings deep compassion and awareness.
Contemplative practice and rhythms invite us into a deeper way of life, one in which less becomes more, and the goals are slowness rather than speed, savoring rather than productivity. Contemplative ways of being call us to resist the busyness of the world and to invest our identity in being rather than doing.
At the heart of contemplative prayer is an encounter with the Holy One who the mystics across traditions tell us dwells in our hearts as a "living flame of love" (John of the Cross). Contemplative living is about relationship and extending that infinite source of compassion within us to self, others, and creation.
Abbey of the Arts offers resources for those longing to live as monks in the world -drawing primarily on the contemplative practices of desert, Celtic, and Benedictine monastic traditions, as well as Buddhist and yogic paths, the Abbey offers a variety of classes, books, and articles to support you in living with more presence in your daily life.
For further reading and reflection on contemplative living, stop by these articles: