Updated: May 3
Beginning Contemplation Contemplation
This beginning course in Contemplative Prayer aims to teach fundamental theories and practices of Contemplation. Christian Contemplation is a form of Prayer or meditation in which a person seeks a direct divine experience.
Yet, to experience the divine, one must feel genuine love for the divine. You can't meditate on Jesus and feel his love if you don't love him. And if you don't love him, you probably doubt he loves you. So you start by establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ.
First, you must believe that Jesus died for your sins and genuinely repent. You must believe this with all your heart and mind. Second, you need to be baptized, ideally by immersion. Then you need to proclaim Jesus to another publicly.
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Mark 16 NIV
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NIV
Next, it's about getting your heart right. You need to accept that you have been forgiven. You can't think that you are unworthy. That could negate God's saving Grace. Is Jesus's sacrifice greater than your sins? Yes, it is!
God has justified you, meaning "God looks at you as if your sins never happened." If you genuinely integrate God's saving Grace into your whole being, you will grow in your Love for Jesus. There will be a day when you have matured as a Christian when you know Jesus loves you unconditionally. When that day comes, Christian Contemplation comes alive.
Step One – Breath Awareness
With Beginning Contemplation, I suggest contemplating for approximately ten to fifteen minutes daily. Start by breathing into the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, and exhale to the count of 4. Repeat and focus on the air going in and out of your nostrils.
You do not have to concern yourself with unwanted thoughts overly. Gently detach from unwanted thoughts without judgment and return to feeling your breath. When you contemplate, you don't have to silence all your thoughts – which is problematic. As a beginner in Contemplation (Course 101), you must gently detach from unwanted thoughts and return to your breath.
Step Two – Contemplation
Next, after approximately 5 minutes of focusing on your breath, open yourself to God. Contemplate God in any way that is comfortable for you. Just remember to engage your feelings. Father Thomas Keating explains the objective of Contemplative Prayer succinctly:
Contemplative Prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them. He goes on to say that it opens our whole being to God.
If you have unwanted thoughts, use Father Thomas Keating's "Centering Prayer" technique. You think of a word or two that YOU relate to. For example, you could use Abba, Father, Lord Jesus, Peace, Love, Holy Spirit, etc.
For example, say I have been focused on the breath and the feeling of my breath at my nostrils for about 5 minutes. I then start to contemplate God. I might think about my love for Jesus with my whole being. I might think about a Scripture Verse. Now, I visualize Jesus with whatever image comes to mind. I hold this visualization for at least 30 seconds. Then I VISUALIZE AND FEEL.
If my thoughts interrupt my feelings, I think of my "Sacred Word." By thinking of my sacred word, I gently interrupt unwanted thoughts. Now I return to my focused VISUALIZATION AND FEELING OF JESUS.
I repeat this process for about five or more minutes. Father Thomas Keating devised the 4 R's to help you deal with unwanted thoughts, feelings, or emotions.
· Resist no unwanted thought.
· Retain no unwanted thoughts.
· React to no unwanted thought.
· Return ever so gently to the sacred word.
Christian Contemplation is very easy as compared to "Eastern Meditation Practices." We start by focusing on our breath; then, we transition to contemplating God in any way we choose. When we experience unwanted thoughts, we gently think of our "Sacred Word" for a few moments and then refocus on Contemplating God.
This process is not complicated and is very rewarding. Additionally, you don't need to make this practice overly formal. You can do this while walking in nature, lying in bed, etc. You can contemplate wherever and whenever you desire – any time, day, or night. And the only bad Contemplation is one that you don't do.
"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10