Going Within – Contemplation

Key Concept

The intention of contemplation is to help you quiet your mind and to allow your thoughts to grow. It can be used to consider any and all, aspects of your life, but will be used here to help you become mindful of the transition you are facing. We would hope that you will make it as much a daily habit as brushing your teeth.

Objective

After completing this module you will have developed some ability to “quiet your mind” and be able to observe what patterns and beliefs you live by.

Going Within

In our busy working lives we give little attention to our feelings. “There is a job to be done – so let’s get on with it!” As you go into retirement and as you get older you can take some time to connect with your “inner self”

  • Feeling a call to give back - we were helped on our journey through life; how can we support others on their journey?
  • Making a choice – to sit back and enjoy the fruits of one’s labours, or to choose to continue to grow, develop and contribute to the world,
  • Facing a struggle - with growth comes struggle! We have to face and deal with our fear of rejection, our laziness, our procrastination and our loss of faith in our relevance in a changing world.
  • Developing humility – in recognising the mistakes we have made, in accepting responsibility and in forgiving ourselves for those mistakes, we gain humility. We accept that we don’t have all the answers and we open ourselves to a different way of being in the world.
  • Accepting - a time to enjoy the vibrancy of life, to stop worrying. We are no longer Ego driven and can open more doors by listening than by telling.
  • Serving – living one’s life with a sense of purpose. We see the need for Elders in the big things, but we often overlook their role in the small day to day challenges – supporting our families and our community, listening to and providing a sounding-board for, the ideas of the young, offering a shoulder to cry on.
  • Surrendering - to mystery and awe. A time to pay attention to the greater world around us – its beauty, diversity and abundance.

 

Introduction to Contemplation

Preparation

  • Choose a quiet place where you will not be disturbed
  • Get comfortable cushions, easy chair, comfortable clothes,
  • Sit comfortably - not too comfortable; you need to stay awake
  • Get in the mood candles – it can be useful to gaze into the flame and incense engages all the senses

We will assume that you have found a quiet place to sit where you will not be disturbed for the next 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure you've got somewhere comfortable to sit – a full lotus position on a bed of nails isn't necessary.

If it suits you, you might find it useful to burn a stick of incense. You might also find a candle useful – again to set the mood, and many people use staring into the flame a good way of clearing their mind of clutter and noise.

For a moment or two, be aware of your body and how nice and relaxed it feels. Let any thoughts or noise in your head quieten and fade away. Now, picture yourself at a beautiful calm place. It might be on a beach, with the waves running gently up the shore. It might be in a forest, next to a gurgling little stream. It might be on a mountain top or in a rose garden – anywhere, that for you, represents calm and beauty. Become aware of this place – the trees, the grass, the sound of the water, the smells, the sound of the wind, the song of a bird. Allow yourself to build the picture.

This is your Quiet Place – the place you can come to anytime you are feeling stressed, where you come to think, where you can come to give yourself a break for a minute or two.

Now think of the things that you are grateful for – for your health, for the friendships you have, the beauty of sunshine through the leaves of a tree, the sound of kids laughing.

Think of one thing that you are particularly grateful for today. Give thanks for that thing!

Each time you wish to quiet your mind, to “do some thinking” follow this pattern and make it a new habit.

A Basic Guideline : Meditation vs Contemplation

Meditation

There are many misconceptions around meditation. A good system to begin with is called "insight meditation". It is based on bare attention - it requires one to remain present to what is happening around one, but giving it bare attention. This guideline is taken from an excellent guide to meditation, Tranquil Mind by Rob Nairn (ISBN 978-09585057-8-9) 

  • Sit comfortably and ensure that you will not be disturbed for the next 15 mins. In a relaxed way, focus your attention on your breath as it passes in and out of your nostrils. Do not alter or manipulate the breath in any way - you are simply using it to focus your attention. (Like a cat watching a mouse-hole, there is keen attention, but it knows what else is going on around it.)
  • Before long your mind will wander. When you notice, recognise that you were "thinking" and return to the breath.
  • Meditation is a state, not an activity.

Experience what Meditation feels like – just stay mindful on your breathing and allow you mind to clear. At this stage, if you can hold a clear mind for more than a couple of seconds you are doing well. The chattering monkeys in your head are not easily stilled.

Contemplation

Contemplation is more active. It is an opportunity to seed your mind with an idea or problem and then to let go. You don't actively think; you just let the idea dwell on the borders of your awareness. If you notice yourself actively thinking, you will also notice that you have taken control rather than just letting the idea go where it wants to go. If you find your thoughts have taken off into some other issue, gently end that thought stream and re-seed your mind with your chosen idea and again let go.

In the beginning there will be a tendency for you to "take control". A good way to get an idea of how Contemplation works is to seed your mind just as you are dropping off to sleep. Tell yourself what outcome you would like from the "seeding" and then, when you wake in the morning ask yourself to recall the outcome. Sounds strange but after a couple of false starts you will find that new creative ideas emerge from the "seeding". You can then use Contemplation at any time.

  • For each of the 4 Contemplations that follow, seed your awareness with the theme of the exercise. Each time you become aware of taking control, acknowledge that you are "thinking" and allow the theme to return to the borders of your awareness.
  • At the end of the time you have allowed for the Contemplation, take a moment to write in your Journal. Just start writing, you will be surprised by what comes up as you write.

 

Transition Contemplations

Choose a quiet time of the day and repeat each Contemplation for a week. After each Contemplation, write a brief note in your Journal on what came up for you. Sometimes ideas will build on a previous day’s ideas – other times completely new unrelated thoughts will come to you. The only thing that you have to do is to let the thoughts be – don’t try to direct or control them.

 

Let’s start this Contemplation series nice and gently.

Consider that our understanding of how the world works is sometimes incorrect, but for convenience we accept that incorrect information and live our life as if it were true.

Become aware of Sunrise. Find an elevated position on a mountain, a tall building or a place on the beach, or out in the open - a place where you can watch the full sunrise. The name suggests that the sun rises above earth's horizon; consider that that is not true. From your vantage point you are watching the horizon dip into the path of the sun. To all intents and purposes the sun is fixed in space - it is the earth that is rotating - around its own axis and around the sun. Get in touch with the implications of this different viewpoint.

If you can, watch the "sunrise" over a period of time - ideally a year, but for a month or two. As it moves North / South consider that that isn't true either. The sun's movement is due to the tilt of the earth's axis. So again get in touch with that viewpoint.

Become aware of the Stars. Get out of the city or the town you live in and go out into the country - far away from the lights. Look up into the night sky. Even if you have no idea which star is which, take in the sheer number of stars. Pick up a few of the brighter stars and the patterns they create. The sky looks like a flat palette with stars painted on it. Consider that the nearest star is 4 light years away (Light travels at 300 000 kms per second - so multiply 300 000 by the number of seconds in 4 years - that's how far the nearest star is.) Most of them are millions of light years away. Allow yourself to float up into the sky and "feel" the distances out there.

If you can, spend the night under the stars. In early evening become aware of where the Milky Way is and where the star patterns you have seen are lying. Then throughout the night watch as the Milky Way rotates through space, and moves. Consider that this is also not true. The Earth is spinning through space and it is this spinning that makes it look like the stars are moving. Again, get in touch with this new viewpoint.

Become aware of the Moon. Build a relationship with the Moon over a full month. Every evening be aware of the position of the moon as it moves across the sky. Be aware of the phases of the moon. We refer to them as New Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon and No Moon. But what causes the different phases? What is the relationship between the Moon, the Sun and the Earth that gives us the different phases? Is it the Moon that is changing or just our perspective?

 

If we accept these simple "un-truths" imagine how throughout our lives we have taken on beliefs about how the world works, about who we are, about society’s “rules” of what is right and wrong and then, how we have moulded our behaviour to fit in.

Sometimes (often?) those beliefs and rules haven't worked for us and it’s important to re-evaluate their relevance to us as mature adults.

Discussion Assignment – The Universe around me

If information we have come to accept about something as fundamental as sunrise is not true, what have we come to accept about ourselves and our place in the world that is also not true? That we are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, clever or stupid, that this is right and that is wrong, that we are enough or that we are not enough? That this religion is right and that is wrong, that this skin colour is good and that is bad?

What patterns and beliefs do I live by – how could I live differently?

Repeat this exercise every day for a week – it’s important to get the “feel” of sitting quietly and observing your mind. At the end of the week complete the assignment.

Discussion Forum

Next module : My Mind and Interpretations

Things happen – how we interpret what happens is what is important. Where in your life can you change your interpretation?

Next Module