We can be contemplative. We can be active. But, sometimes the bridge between the two is obscured by our doubt that we cannot be both. I know it is confusing, but we can be a contemplative in a world of action. 

The other day I asked someone how their actions reflected their contemplative nature. That was a deer in the headlight moment. They froze up. So, I thought maybe they didn’t quite understand the question.

What does it mean to be a contemplative in a world of action? 

At times being a contemplative who actively engages the world seems contrary. I mean can you be a contemplative and still be engaged in the world? Of course.

How does a contemplative interact with the world? Does it mean the you’ve got to show up at demonstrations, loudly proclaim your views on social issues, be an extrovert who wants to save the world? Maybe. Probably not. It all depends upon how you live from your contemplative spirit.

What is a contemplative anyway? 

To be a contemplative is to be aware of the presence of the Sacred in your life. It is to live from that awareness. There are two aspects to this awareness: meditation and contemplation. 

  • This is not the meditation where you sit in silence for a certain amount of time. This kind of meditation is focusing your awareness on the Sacred as it manifest to you. It is an ongoing stance or way of noticing the world. 
  • Contemplation is a quiet listening to the Sacred. By quiet listening, I mean that you are open to what the Sacred is saying to you. You may hear words, feel sensations or emotions, notice thoughts, hear the words of another, nature, have an inner knowing…the list is endless. Contemplation is a focusing of your attention inward to listen to the voice of the Sacred.

You act upon the meditation and contemplation when you are in relationship.

How do you live contemplatively? 

To be a contemplative means that you live in relationship. If you think about it, everything you do is in relationship. Margaret Wheatley said, “relationship is all there is.”  

There are four core relationships: with yourself, with others, with all of Creation, and with the Sacred. In each relationship you are open to the presence of the Sacred as you engage in meditation and contemplation. Let’s talk about each of these relationships. 

Relationship with yourself: What is your commitment to you? How do you live authentically when things are in balance? How do you navigate through the messiness, the uncertainty to your true self? How is the Sacred helping you with this navigation? 

Relationship with others: How do you show up in relationships with other people? These can be with family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, community, and even strangers. How do you use your awareness of the Sacred and quiet listening to actively engage others?

Relationship with all of creation: What is your relationship with all of creation? This includes the natural world and human made. Do you show reverence and respect or something else? How do you engage creation as part of the Sacred?

Relationship is with the Sacred: I see this as the thread that weaves through your other relationships creating the tapestry of your life. 

How does the Sacred call us to action?

I do not believe that the Sacred calls us so far out of our comfort zone that we are unable to actively engage others. No, I believe that the Sacred wants us to begin where we are when we actively, contemplatively, engage others. That doesn’t mean that the Sacred doesn’t use our relationships to grow us into those places that scare us. But, that growing is usually gradual. Getting to those scary places takes time. 

Being a contemplative in a world of action means showing up in the way that you are called to show up. Through meditation and contemplation, you decide what that means. You attend to those moments of meditation and contemplation and then act upon them. 

This might mean showing up at a demonstration or loudly proclaiming your views. It might also be teaching, making prayer shawls, being kind to strangers, opening a door, giving a compliment, listening to a friend, helping someone in need. The list is an endless as our opportunities to be contemplative are. 

Being contemplative is a lived experience

For you see, being contemplative is what I call a lived experience. You focus your attention on the Sacred manifesting in your life. You quietly listen with the whole of your being. You discern how God is calling you to act in this world. And, you act in ways that feel right for you in that moment. There is no wrong way to do this. There is only your way and my way of being contemplative. 

There are no hard and fast rules on being a contemplative. Anyone who shares their internal life with the external world is a contemplative. As a contemplative, the only thing you do is to focus your attention or meditate, and quietly listen or contemplate in order to follow the guidance of the Sacred.

I hope that you understand what it means to be a contemplative and how you can actively share yourself in this world. 

Curious to learn more? Join Limen Place, a creative contemplative community of people just like you! 

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