Contemplative Practice


Why Practice Contemplation (Meditation)?


          “As revealed in Scripture, God is in the “still small voice,” and so the only form
          of true prayer is the inner listening ear. It is for this reason that the most
          important part of our work in The Infinite Way is meditation
          , because
          no one has access to the inner sanctuary of his being, his inner consciousness,
          except through the listening ear. Meditation is the practice of listening
          for this still small voice, creating within one’s self practically a vacuum
          in which the presence of God can announce Itself.”

          (Joel S. Goldsmith, from Realization of Oneness, p.17; emphasis supplied.)            



We get into a contemplative practice to experience the Oneness that is God.  In so doing, we experience our oneness with God, in God.  In that experience of oneness with God, we realize our true Selfhood, the true Self, to be the very same Selfhood of God — we realize God and we are one.  We practice contemplation for the experience of Self-realization or God-realization.

. . . And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM . . . this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15, KJV)
 

Practice contemplation
for Self-realization
(or God-realization).


Our spiritual practice, i.e., our contemplative practice, is the process by which we progress in our individual spiritual journey. As we work our process, we move along the journey to oneness and wholeness in God. For this reason, our process is very important and key to our spiritual development or mystical unfoldment. Hence, the process must be both right (or correct) and true, i.e., Truth-based.

Paradigm Model for The Spiritual Journey (600x600)

A Paradigm and Model for The Spiritual Journey
(Your process moves you and takes you along the journey.)


Contemplating the letter of Truth in silence eventually allows you to experience the very Spirit of Truth (spiritual illumination through the realization of Truth).  This is the process of contemplative meditation or “contemplation” simply, as it is referred to mainly in the western Christian tradition (“meditation” in the eastern spiritual traditions, by and large).  It is the inner journey in consciousness which the mystic takes through the medium and landscape of the mind. As Joel Goldsmith said: “Life is consciousness, and to be consciously aware of life is to live it.”  This then is the spiritual journey: to become consciously aware of Truth.  This is the mystic’s practice and devotion. This is our spiritual practice.


Practice, practice, practice, PRACTICE.

 

That is how we progress along the mystical path, by doing our spiritual practice, by practicing contemplation or meditation and anything else that may become necessary to prepare us for it.   It does not matter how long or how brief your meditation sittings and contemplative moments are.  Practice as many times as you can throughout your day.  Zen teaches that the true value of our spiritual practice does not lie in reaching the summit of the mountain but in climbing the mountain persistently and consistently.  After all, the heights of infinity do not have a summit.

Here is a very informative talk given by the late Alan Watts on the subject of meditation.

[Acknowledgment to Alan Watts Philosophy for the YouTube video above.]


Contemplation or meditation is very simple and easy.
Keep it that way.


Contemplative practice or meditation, in itself, is fairly simple and easy, and you should keep it that way for yourself always.  Many schools or systems of spirituality complicate the meditation process due largely to the religious setting or cultural background in which they have arisen and against which they are presented and taught.   There is no need to complicate your journey nor to make it harder or more confusing than it appears to be.

Having said that, however, the human condition is such that in our state of humanhood, the mind and the ego often become stumbling blocks or obstacles to our spiritual practice and development.  What may be difficult especially in the beginning is to perform your practice regularly or frequently, and consistently.  The mind and the ego will distract you or even work against you.   But, if you are determined to progress along the path or committed to your spiritual unfoldment and if you are receptive to the inner calling or the promptings of the Spirit, you will soon realize that your spiritual practice has become a very integral part of your way of life. 

The grace with which to live the spiritual life is always there in us, because the Spirit is always within us, because we are always one with God.  We are never separate or apart from God though we may not think or feel it to be so in our experience oftentimes. Remember that our human experiences are not predicated upon spiritual truth until and unless consciousness operates on the basis of the Truth realized.  As you continue the journey, you will undergo a profound transformation in consciousness — gradually over time or even abruptly depending on your unfoldment — until one day, you realize that what seems to have been a mere spiritual practice in awareness is now actually the very life you are living — a mystical life.
 


So, practice, practice, practice, and keep on practicing.

 

 

Hurdles along The Path

Zen Buddhism teaches that there are only two obstacles to enlightenment:

(1)  The Human MIND — our conditioned thinking and conditioned emotional reactions in the mind,
The human mind as an obstacle to enlightenment.and . . .

(2)  The Human EGO — our personal or human sense of a selfhood separate and apart from God.
The ego as an obstacle to enlightenment.

To overcome these seeming obstacles, your spiritual practice needs to address the following major concerns as you journey along the mystical path:

  1. First and foremost at the beginning stage of your practice, is the ability of the human body and mind to relax, to slow down, to detach from humanhood, to release and let go, to quiet down, and to be still enough outwardly and inwardly — enough to sense and become aware of the inner peace and quietness that naturally resides at the center or core of one’s being.

    You need to be able to disengage from “everyday human awareness,” to establish or create what is commonly referred to as “sacred time” and “sacred space,” to prepare the fertile soil of receptivity alluded to by Yeshua (Jesus) in his Parable of the Soils.
     
  2. Then, the human mind (specifically the thinking/intellect and emotional processes of the mind) together with its construct, the human ego, needs to be placed in a state of temporary suspension so that the processes of the intuitive mind can engage awareness actively.  This can be facilitated by contemplating the letter (expressions or statements) of the Truth teaching, correctly understood.   

    Your contemplation engages the intuitive mind or the deep feeling aspect of the mind (allegorically described as “the heart” as distinguished from “the head,” that is, the intellect mind) that is open to the infinite Mind of God (what others call the higher mind, the supraconscious level of the mind, or the Christ-Mind or the Buddha Mind). In the course of engaging the intuitive mind, we disengage from the intellect mind.   Thus, conscious awareness is shifted from the head down to the heart. From a neuroscientific perspective, brain dominance shifts functionally from the left hemisphere of the brain to the right hemisphere of the brain where we can be freed of our everyday human awareness even if momentarily.

Once the intuitive, deeper feeling level of the mind is engaged, the mind opens to the faculties of the Spirit. This shift in mind awareness eventually disposes you to experience the unio mystica or “mystical union with God” (cosmic consciousness, God-consciousness, Self-realization, Christ-Mind, the Buddha Mind, satori, enlightenment, etc.).

 

Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.

 



The Need to Disengage from Everyday Human Awareness

We need to disengage consciousness from the state of everyday human awareness if we are to become open and receptive to Truth, to God, to the workings of the Spirit within. Unless you happen to be one of the exceptional few to whom enlightenment or spiritual illumination has come in a single lifetime purely and exclusively by the workings of grace, the experience of enlightenment or illumination cannot come to an individual whose consciousness is not open and receptive to the activity of Truth in his mind.  In our human state of consciousness, the human mind of thinking and emotions is so conditioned to function based on a material sense of reality, such that our soul senses cannot operate and reveal to us the inner reality of the Spirit at our core of being.  This is the natural consequence of having been born bodily as human beings into the three-dimensional world of physical matter.  

[Acknowledgment: To the SourceOfLightMon for the above video of Thich Nhat Hanh at YouTube.] 

It is from this initial misleading experience of life and of the world that the fundamental error of human awareness has arisen in the human mind (what Christian theology calls original sin).  The error consists of entertaining a sense of separation from God and a belief in the duality of a pole of opposites.  It creates in the mind a feeling of “deep woundedness or hurt” — a fundamental sense of lack and inadequacy, of something basically missing or empty in our lives — from which arises our emotional conditioning, our built-in emotional programs for happiness (unhappiness, actually).  Hence, we keep looking outwardly in the world for the good and happiness that can satisfy us permanently, but we never find it in the impermanence of the world.  This is where spiritual healing and divine therapy, the purpose and function of contemplation or meditation, come in — for the healing of the psyche.

Graphic for Healing thru Spiritual Contemplation

This fundamental error has been carried over and perpetuated throughout the lifespan and development of the human species.  It is the underlying cause for the human condition and all the sufferings the human condition breeds.

The power of God is infinite. Therefore, the afflictions, discords, diseases, and inharmonies, not only of our family and friends, but of the world with which we are so aware, exist in the human scene because we are ignorant of the basic truth that God alone is power. It isn’t your ignorance or mine, personally. It is a universal ignorance which takes over the moment we’re conceived, and it directs our life the minute we’re born. It isn’t your ignorance or mine, any more than the wisdom or power we attain is yours or mine. No, we come into this world ignorant of spiritual truth; we come into this world accepting the powers of good and evil. Long before we understand the meaning of them, we accept them. We become deathly afraid of evil, afraid of falling down, afraid of meeting strangers, afraid of automobiles, afraid of almost everything on the face of the globe, until finally we’re sent to church to learn how to become afraid of God. (Joel S. Goldsmith, The Foundation of Mysticism, 195; emphasis supplied.)

 

It creates a catch-22 situation in which we become trapped and enslaved by the human condition.  It does this by keeping awareness constantly looking outwardly and focused externally, aided by means of the five bodily senses which reinforce the conditioning of the human mind.  The thinking process of the brain or the intellect mind is held captive by this conditioning, and as a result, we are constantly functioning in terms of our everyday human awareness only and thereby living and experiencing life in a restrictive and finite manner prone to lack and limitation.  Meditation helps slow down the rapid-fire activity of the intellect mind which is characteristic of our everyday human awareness, slow enough to enable us to become aware of our thoughts particularly the negative ones arising from error.  We can then control the thoughts we entertain in the mind. Ultimately we allow the de-conditioning of the mind with the aid of the spiritual energy (the activity of grace) that now flows more freely into our experience.

 [Acknowledgment: To the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation for the above video of Eknath Easwaran at YouTube.] 

All methods that lead to contemplation are more or less aimed at bypassing the thinking process.  The reason is that our thinking process tends to reinforce our addictive process – our frenzy to “get something” from the outer world to fuel our compulsions or to mask our pain.  If we can just rest on a regular basis for 20 to 30 minutes without thinking, we begin to see that we are not our thoughts. We have thoughts, but we are not our thoughts.  Most people suffer because they think that they are their thoughts and if their thoughts are upsetting, distressing, or evil, they are stuck with them.  If they just stopped thinking for a while every day as a discipline, they would begin to see that they do not have to be dominated by their thoughts.
(Abbot Thomas Keating OCSO, Intimacy with God; emphasis supplied.)
 

Consequently, we do not benefit from the function of the intuitive mind and the mind’s higher aspects more regularly.  We become so firmly attached to the circumference of our circle of life experiences that we fail to discover and live by the oneness of our inner spiritual life within the circle at its center.

To break free from this human conditioning, we have to become open and receptive to the activity of Truth/God (Its grace) within us

    Learn how to disengage from everyday human awareness.

The important thing to accomplish at this initial phase is to learn how to consciously disengage from everyday human awareness and to acclimatize your mind to the relaxation experience of sitting quietly and passively. By learning to disengage from everyday human awareness and to relax the body and the mind, you develop and cultivate a receptive and meditative state of mind. This meditative state of mind is ideal for the next and more interior phase of your spiritual practice, which is the process of contemplation (or contemplative meditation) where you begin to ponder and contemplate the letter of Truth or the presence of God within you, and ultimately God as your very Being and Selfhood. In this sense, a centering practice is a preparatory step: It prepares you for contemplation.

 
 
Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, more practice.
 
 



Start by Relaxing

Relaxation is the starting point for any contemplative practice.  You cannot disengage from everyday human awareness unless you are relaxed physically and mentally.  Aside from the inputs or demands of sensory stimuli, states of physical and mental or emotional stress keep the brain functioning at a tense mode with its electrical activity on a beta brainwave pattern.  Meditation technically occurs when the brain is on theta brainwave pattern, and to reach theta, the cross-over switch from the beta pattern to the alpha pattern (the state of mind-body relaxation) must first be effected in the mind-body continuum.  Hence, the need to enter into a state of physical and mental relaxation.

Every individual needs to discover the relaxation method or technique that suits him or her. We are each differently constituted physically, emotionally and mentally. And so, we each have to learn what method of relaxation effectively and best accomplishes the singular goal of relaxing body and mind. For some it may be listening to relaxing music or visualizing a beautiful mental scene or picture; for others it might be a sweaty workout at the local gym, running through the nearby park, or just a brisk walk around the neighborhood block; for others it may be a marital arts or hatha yogic exercise, or perhaps a leisurely walk along the beach, a visit to a quiet church or chapel, or a cup of hot chamomile tea; and still for others it could be as simple as breathing slowly and deeply or just counting “one-two-three.”

Explore what works with you and experiment with what can be effective and efficient at any given moment. But avoid substances like alcohol or drugs (prescription or otherwise) to relax your body and mind, for the simple reason that your mind has to stay fully aware and attentive. Avoid placing your body or mind in such a condition that impairs the attentiveness and continued wakefulness of the mind, and this means a heavy meal and exhaustion or fatigue, whether physical or mental, which can make you drowsy and put you to sleep. If you feel sleepy, go take a nap first to refresh your mind and body before doing your contemplative practice.  Be resourceful and creative. Experiment.
 

Here are some tried and proven methods or techniques that are efficient, effective and readily work under most circumstances.

  • Music is a powerful tool for quieting the emotions and the mind, as well as for evoking desired emotional responses.


    More important, music heals — awakening long forgotten memories and releasing the energies with which they are charged.

    Music penetrates the human soul, and it calms whatever emotional beasts lurk in the corners of the human mind. Listening to relaxing music, the kind or genre that soothes your nerves and calms emotions, opens up vast spaces in the heart-feeling level. It disengages and frees us from our everyday human awareness. By doing so, it prepares us for meditation naturally and effortlessly.


    The following are fine examples of the kind of music that can be used in a centering practice leading eventually to contemplation:

  • Brain engagement or entrainment
     
  • The Silva Method of centering (a.k.a. Silva Life System, also Silva Mind Control System)
     
  • Centering practices or grounding techniques that relax you at the same time (There are many books in the market and many available Internet resources on the subject of relaxation, centering, grounding and meditation, that you can explore and try. Some good, old-time favorite reference books are The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson, MD; The Calm Technique by Paul Wilson; and, believe it or not, Relaxation for Dummies, all pictured above.)
     

Find the relaxation method that works for you, which you can work with and live with. Once you’ve got it, you can embark on a regular contemplative practice be it a centering one or contemplative meditation, or both.

 
 
Practice, practice, practice, more practice, and practice.
 
 




Consistency in Your Practice
Although the process or methodology involved may be simple, meditation practice in itself is work, hard work. So, be prepared to commit your time, your energy, and your resources to it. It requires a commitment on your part, and a consistency in carrying out your commitment to do your practice.

Here is what one of my teachers, Eknath Easwaran, said about meditation and its practice.

The principle of meditation is simple: You are what you think. By meditating on words that embody your highest ideals, you drive them deep into your consciousness. There they take root and begin to create wonderful changes in your life – changes you have wanted to make, but have not known how to bring about.

When I talk about meditation, I am referring to a specific interior discipline which is found in every major religion, though called by different names. (Catholic writers, for example, speak of contemplation or interior prayer.)  This interior discipline is not a relaxation technique.  It requires strenuous effort.  It does dissolve tension, but in general, especially at the beginning, meditation is work, and if you expect to find it easy going, you’ll be disappointed.

Meditation in this sense is not a disciplined reflection on a spiritual theme. Focused reflection can yield valuable insights, but for the vast majority of us, reflection is an activity on the surface level of the mind.  To transform personality we need to go much, much deeper.  We need a way to get eventually into the unconscious itself, where our deepest desires arise, and make changes there.

So what is meditation?  It is the regular, systematic training of attention to turn inward and dwell continuously on a single focus within consciousness, until, after many years of daily practice, we become so absorbed in the object of our contemplation that while we are meditating, we forget ourselves completely. In that moment, when we are empty of ourselves, we are utterly full of what we are dwelling on.  This is the central principle of meditation: we become what we meditate on.
– Eknath Eawaran –

 

You become what you contemplate. 

 

Visit Eknath Easwaran’s Web site and learn about his Eight Point Program and passage meditation, his term for contemplation practice or contemplative meditation.

 
Practice, practice, practice, practice, and practice more.

 

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If you are residing in the San Francisco Bay area or visiting, we invite you to attend our weekly group contemplation practice and to fellowship with us.*

Weekly Tuesday Evening Meditation e-FlyerNote:  Click on the poster image above to view a location map online and get directions, or refer to the site map below.  The site is accessible by public transport: the S.F. Muni Transit System bus routes (No. 28) and the “M” line train.
*Love offering basis ($20 suggested amount)


Contemplation Class / Meditation Activities Calendar

 

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The Spiritual Journey
What is The Spiritual Journey which gives meaning and life to our practice and directs and defines our practice?    In an interview for “ONE the Project” film documentary, Abbot Thomas Keating, OCSO, addressed the question of “What is The Spiritual Journey?” Here is his response.

[Acknowledgment: Our appreciation and gratitude to lowellballard for publishing the video on YouTube.com.]
 

Remember the steps we take in going through the spiritual journey, which he outlined in his talk.

  1. Beginning the spiritual journey with the realization (the real interior conviction) that: There is a Higher Power (or God) — an Other. [This is why we disengage from everyday awareness and turn within with the initial acknowledgment of the Divine Presence within us.]
     
  2. To try to become the Other. [This is why we do our spiritual contemplative practice.]
     
  3. Finally, to realize the paradox that “there is no Other”: You and the Other are one. Always have been, always will be. You just think that you aren’t. [This is the spiritual enlightenment or illumination which we experience along the way.]

That is what the journey is all about ultimately — the realization of Oneness.  In this regard, I recommend a Joel Goldsmith book titled Realization of Oneness (pictured above). One of its chapters — “No And!” — is cited by him as an essential chapter for Infinite Way students to know. (Click on the book’s image above to view or purchase it at Acropolis Books’ site.)

The Spiritual Journey as a Comet in Flight

 


Persisting with Your Practice

Practice makes perfect.   Your spiritual practice is the expression of your devotion to God and your commitment to the spiritual journey.  Practice builds you up for the task and activity of contemplation.   Practice opens you to the mystery of Oneness.  Practice enables you to realize the Truth.  Practice opens you to the transforming mystical experience of God.

    Your contemplation practice opens you to the transforming mystical experience of God!

 

From my own experience I say to you, do not be concerned about spiritual experiences or psychic experiences. Do not be concerned whether or not you are having the experiences you’d like to have or think that others are having. Do not be concerned with whether or not you see lights or auras or hear the still small voice — that really is not your concern.  Your concern is what you do day by day in the way of opening your consciousness to a higher development. Your concern must be more reading, more studying, more hearing the Word, more mingling with those on the spiritual path, and above all things, more practice of even the little that you know.

None of us knows too much, remember. We all have one or two grains — not much more, because the spiritual wisdom of the universe has not imparted itself to us as fully as it should, or rather, as we would like it to be and feel it should. And so we are dealing only with very very small bits of spiritual wisdom.  But we can’t increase it by hoping for it, desiring it, or praying for it.  We can only increase it by practicing whatever we know now.
(Joel Goldsmith, 1957 First Halekou Closed Class,
Tape #3, Side B:
“Illumined Mind — Unillumined Mind”; emphasis supplied.)

 

Photo of Joel S. Goldsmith

Your persistence on the spiritual path means that the spirit of God has already touched you.  You have not chosen God.  God has chosen you, and God will not let you go until you arrive safely at home in His bosom.  The constant recognition that the spirit of God has touched you and will not let you go is one of the greatest helps on the way.
— Joel S. Goldsmith —

 

 
You have not chosen God.  
God has chosen you.

 



So, practice,
practice, practice, practice, and PRACTICE.
 

 

 

Portrait of Krishna

Krishna (Sanskriit: Kṛṣṇa),
Avatara of Lord Vishnu

 
Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me.  Thus you will come to Me without fail.  I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 18.65)

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What do you wish to do next on the path?

 

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