Contemplation

Introduction
Contemplation is the long, slow practice of seeking God, building a relationship with him, and experiencing our essential oneness with him. The easiest way to begin is by spending short periods of time alone, in stillness and silence.

The contemplative process works by helping us to know ourselves more deeply, so we can be completely honest with God. Without such openness, there can be neither intimacy, nor unity.

Raw materials 
Throughout our lives we experience a continuous stream of information arising spontaneously from our bodies and minds. This flow includes sensations, thoughts, emotions, memories, fantasies, temptations, visions, dreams and nightmares. During contemplation, these conscious, subconscious, and unconscious manifestations of the inner self inevitably continue to emerge.

Although these impressions may distract us, they should never be seen as intrusions into our silence. Rather, they are the precious raw materials through which we learn about ourselves. Only by becoming aware of these “treasures hidden in darkness” can we come to know ourselves more fully, and thus be able to share ourselves more completely with God.

During contemplation, many of the issues emerging from this inner information flow will need only brief acknowledgement, whilst others may prove more challenging. It can therefore be helpful to have a sequence of approaches for handling them.

Step 1: Observing and letting go
The most basic task during contemplation is to become aware of our sensations, thoughts and feelings, observing and acknowledging them as they rise into consciousness, but not engaging with them. It may help to remember that God already knows all about them.

Despite our best efforts, these experiences will repeatedly distract us from a steady focus on God. Each time we realise our minds have wandered, we recognise this, let the matter go, and return to silence. This patiently-repeated process of observation, acknowledgement, and letting go, is the bedrock of the contemplative process.

Step 2: Sharing and discussing
When we find we are unable to let an issue go, the way forward is to tell God all about it straightforwardly. We can then discuss it with him, listening to his guidance. This process often enables us to identify the best course of action to take. It may help to jot this down, so we don’t have to worry about forgetting it. Using this approach usually makes it easier to set the issue aside until we are ready to act. Meanwhile, we can return to contemplation.

Step 3: Accepting and embracing 
Sometimes, despite following the first and second steps, we will still be unable to let a matter go. This generally indicates the seriousness of the unresolved concern, which will need attention both within and beyond contemplation. However, there is no need to break off our focus on God. Instead, we accept and embrace the matter as best we can, silently sharing it with God, and making no further effort to resolve it, or to let it go. Afterwards we can begin the process of praying about it, talking it over with those we trust, or seeking therapeutic help, as appropriate.

Honesty
By using these three approaches appropriately and regularly during contemplation, we gradually come face to face with many hidden (often unpalatable), aspects of ourselves. This enables us to share ourselves more honestly and fully with God. Of course, God already knows everything about us, but because he delights in our freedom, he waits patiently for us to draw nearer to him.

Oneness
However, God’s love for us is so great that he doesn’t always wait. Sometimes he runs to meet us, taking us in his arms and kissing us, as we experience and share our essential oneness. After enjoying this closeness for a while, we return, joyful, awed, and more enlightened, to our daily lives.

Conclusion
During contemplation we use our awareness of the information emerging from our conscious, subconscious and unconscious minds to share our deepest selves with God. This process of learning and sharing continues until the very end of our lives. Then, still, silent and alone, we seek him for the final time, in the shadow of death; and this time, when he welcomes us, there is no need to go back, for we will remain wholly one with him, absorbed into his great Spirit for all eternity.

References

Introduction
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me (Jeremiah 29:14; NLT).
Keep on seeking, and you will find (Luke 11:9; NLT).
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35; NIV).
When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10; NIV).
Be silent before the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NIV).
You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Raw materials
I will give you treasures hidden in darkness (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).

Step 1: Observing and letting go
You know my thoughts (Psalm 139:2; NLT).
You know my heart (Jeremiah 12:3; NLT).
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely (Psalm 139:4; NIV).

Step 2: Sharing and discussing
“Come, let’s consider your options” says the Lord (Isaiah 1:18; NET).

Step 3: Accepting and embracing
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord! (Job 1:22; NLT).
Is not all human life a struggle? (Job 7:1; NLT).

Honesty
O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you (Psalm 69:5; NLT).
The Lord must wait for you to come to him (Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

Oneness
While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

Conclusion
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).
The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NLT).
God is spirit (John 4:24; NLT).