by Cindy Klassen
Contemplative living used to be such a vague hazy kind of topic. In some respects, that’s why it’s so tantalizing. Today, this is a lifestyle I need for quality of life to be present; I need to navigate through the haze to the core of Spirit and my humanity.
This paper comes from my thoughts, feelings and experiences and I do not assume I represent anyone else but myself.
I think every human being has a contemplative seed inside their spirit. I think every human being is searching for how to nurture and grow that seed, even though it is formless, it’s movement is felt but indescribable until one steps outside him/her self to see inside. The seed is living, poised for germination, calling out to be noticed and tended to. I think the seed is that small place where God exists in every human being whether they are a Christian or not, whether they have accepted salvation (knowingly or unknowingly) or not.
Contemplative living starts with awareness. The story about the monk asking Buddha what he is; “Are you an angel?” He replies;”no.” “Are you a god?” He replies; “no” “Are you a saint?” He replies; “no.” I am awake.
I AM AWAKE shouts at me. “Wake up” haunts me when I get so busy that I’m blind. Wake up and take time. These two principles are primary for me to tend to God in my life and me in my life.
The time I spend with Him is precious in that it brings me to a place of being one with Him. My favorite discipline is silence. I try to spend time at the beginning of every day in silence, even 10 minutes somehow keeps me awake. In the unfolding of the day I am more capable of looking at things calmly and realistically. No matter how stressful things can get I find I don’t “lose it” as much or as extremely as I would without silence.
Wake up – means notice Beauty in all her works, notice Power in the storm and in forgiveness, feel Love as He invites me to be with Him, there is warmth and peace with Love.
Every aspect and event and person in my life has His signature written all over them. I need to wake up and see and hear and enjoy. There is so much fun to be had. There is so much Presence to bask in. There is so much music and laughter and sorrow and joy to hear and feel and share.
Be intentional, take time every day to notice, make time to be attentive, even fleetingly to greet Beauty or Love or Power or Gentleness or Wisdom or however He shows up with a thank-you, I’m glad you’re here. These small moments have a huge impact on where I think and live from. My being and thinking seems to flow from my center rather than my head. It’s almost as though I am softer, more gracious and positive about situations and in interactions with others. I “see” goodness better.
In silence and solitude I feel Presence in and around me, I feel Love warm me and point back to me my presence. Even though I keep noticing and releasing thoughts I feel Love stabilizing me in this space, holding me firmly, allowing me to relax and be. These times have taught me very much about be-ing with Love. I learn I am wanted and received joyously, I am accepted with my bad habits, poor choices, all my truth – pretty and ugly, known and unknown (to me).
This is a time for me to offer up my true and false self for Lover of My Soul to be with. Again I learn I am received joyously, with out stretched arms. How absolutely wonderful to know this Love, even with my limited capacity to grasp the depth of Him for me. I do know this depth is real, and it is for me to enjoy as much as I am able, and I know the more I enjoy the more I want and am able to enjoy.
Contemplative living does not always feel like anything other than ordinary. It’s a lifestyle that invites spiritual awareness into the ordinary as a reminder that it “is”. Life does not always allow us to take time for the experience. Sometimes Presence keeps a distance even when we do take time. Teacher and my faith are at work during these times.
The struggle is an opportunity to increase depth in my relationship with God, to strengthen my bond with Him. When Presence enters into my awareness, I am usually parched and starved for His energy to begin moving again. I have known He is near; I have not been able to enter into communion with Him until He allows it. I trust Him in this. I worship and wait during these times through music and continuing to be the me He created to the best of my ability.
My day usually starts with about 10 minutes of silence, some greetings( thank-you, I’m glad you’re here moments) throughout the day and reflection at night to see what I missed. I’m always amazed at how frequently God has shown up during the day. I also spend a lot of time reading spiritual books by a wide variety of authors and religious backgrounds. My week consists of an added small group discussion around one of the disciplines. My year would have 2 retreats scheduled if possible. Of course spiritual direction plays a vital role in growing spirituality in my life. Another way for Wisdom and Insight to affect my life.
Contemplative living also has a social responsibility component to it. Some practices I am partaking in are recycling; I am financially involved with local organizations like Youth for Christ and the Counseling Center, also with Amnesty International. I recently emptied my closet of about 50% of my clothes and donated them to charity, my kids did the same. Our new policy is if you haven’t worn it in the last 4 weeks it goes out (seasonal clothes being the exception).
Gardening has become more important. I feel connected to Beauty through looking after and experiencing plant life in all it’s variety of color and structure. I enjoy being involved in nurturing and encouraging life and growth as a gardener and even creator.
Somehow all these ordinary things have long lasting impact on me as both a human and spiritual being. The mystery is that subtle changes continually work themselves into my being, like a seed slowly swells and germinates, takes root and reaches for the sun. These changes are noticeable but slow. They are real and with reflection and remembering I will see where goodness has grown in me.
This is the quiet part of my life, yet it’s the most exciting! There is always an adventure around the corner, even during those times I worship and wait, I do it with anticipation because I know He’s got some revelation for me, some new discovery to be made, new people in my life and on it goes.
There is also the reality of pain in my life. Usually it comes in the form of ego shrinking but it is necessary. Revelation often results in understanding where this has happened and why it happened. I used to get all defensive and angry when ego shrinking took place, I wish I could tell you I never do that, I can tell you I do less and less of that and the sting is short lived. I can move on more quickly and not hide from people because of pride.
There are so many ways I have begun to morph; I have so much morphing to do but Gentleness makes it acceptable. When I write morphing what I mean is shedding the false self and all it’s defenses and misconceptions. Discovering my real self is really a lot of fun and it’s so freeing!
The practices of Contemplative Living nurtures and grows that small seed in me to become a strong healthy creation ready to trust Creator in everything He invites me to do. The disciplines open my eyes to see the ways He is with me, the places we have already gone and hopes for places we will go. Contemplative ways have brought me life and joy in a real way, not only in experience but also in my “knowing” He is here with me. This sounds so minimal but for the Omniscient one to be with me personally is life changing stuff. It’s like being the guest of honor at the greatest banquet in the history of the world, and the greatest world power placing me in that high place of honor. Who is man? He/she is the beloved and God shows it. I may never have accepted this invitation to the banquet had I not begun contemplative living. What a joy and a blessing. I am truly grateful!