Traveling back to Earth, having just walked on the moon, Apollo 14 astronaut, Edgar Mitchell had an experience for which nothing in his life had prepared him. As he approached the planet we know as home, he was filled with an inner conviction as certain as any mathematical equation he’d ever solved. He knew that the beautiful blue world to which he was returning is part of a living system, harmonious and whole—and that we all participate, as he expressed it later, “in a universe of consciousness.”
Contemplative practices are counter-cultural. Broadly defined, contemplative practices, are more than the stereotype of prayer of a religious nature or meditation within an eastern tradition. Contemplative mind-body practices cultivate a focus on experiences, ideas or situations that act to remind us to connect to what we find most meaningful.
Contemplative practices are widely varied. I included an illustration below from the center for Contemplative Mind in Society that visually expands contemplative practices; for instance: various forms of meditation; focused thinking or brainstorming; time out in nature; writing; performing in the arts; contemplative movement in active, physical practices like yoga or tai chi; and silent practices like mindfulness and prayer of course.
Some people find that rituals rooted in a religious or cultural tradition sooth their soul. Not all practices are done in solitude. Groups and communities engage in practices that support reflection in a social context.
We may each benefit by a contemplative practice.
The Tree of Contemplative Practices
Click to enlarge: The Tree of Contemplative Practices
From the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society…
Historically, contemplative practice has been taught by the world’s spiritual traditions. However, in the last three decades, the fields of psychology, medicine, and education have recognized that contemplative practice can contribute to well-being and maturation. As a result, health professionals and educators have been teaching contemplative practices in ‘non-religious forms’ that can be used as a resource for resilience by agnostics and atheists, as well as by people with a spiritual or religious worldview.
There are two major types of contemplative practice:
Contemplation of behavior: When stressed out, angry, or afraid, we tend to become reactive. In such moments, we often act impulsively, in ways that harm ourselves or others. Contemplative practice teaches us to examine and change these destructive forms of behavior.
Elevation of awareness: The stress of daily life is like a sticky spider’s web. It ensnares us. It prevents us from experiencing the beauty that surrounds us, our capacity for love and compassion, and the presence of a transcendent dimension in life. Through meditation, prayer, the arts, and observation of the natural world (and many other techniques), contemplative practice can help us restore our ability to rise above our anxieties, and to perceive life’s mystery and beauty.
The links below offer some examples of contemplative practices: