I’ve been reflecting on my life, my calling, my vocation. Am I called to be a husband? A father? A pastor? A spiritual director? Something else?
Well, all of those things are true, but none of them fully capture what is growing within me – the urge to cultivate a contemplative life.
What is the contemplative life you might ask. I am just beginning this journey so I have far more questions than answers. First, a few things of what it is not.
- It is not a withdrawal from the world – it’s a different form of engagement within the world.
- It is not going off to a monastery to live as a monk – though I have nothing against that. A contemplative life doesn’t necessarily mean you are deciding to live within a cloistered community.
- It is not sitting at home and praying all day. Though it does involve setting up frequent times for silence, solitude, and stillness.
- It is not passive. Again, it’s a very different form of engagement.
What is contemplation then? I love Merton’s quote below:
Cultivating the contemplative life is cultivating an awareness of the sacred in all things, in all places, at all times.
It’s as simple and as difficult as that.
A contemplative life is a life lived to a different drum beat, to a different rhythm. If your experience is anything like mine, you feel pulled (almost sucked) into more. More busyness, more productivity, more achievement, more success. (By the way this is disguised within the Religious world and is often encouraged and rewarded as doing God’s work.) Our western consumerist culture baits us with shiny lures. We often cannot help but bit down hard, only to find that we are then being pulled in and feel entrapped by the very thing we desired.
Jesus said, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Repent really means to see differently, to wake up. For me this has increasingly meant to see the many ways I have taken the bait. I have been pulled into the busyness, productivity, achievement orientation over and over again. Some have suggested that the kingdom of God is a consciousness that is available now. This makes the most sense to me. Taken together Jesus’ phrase means, “Wake up! See Reality and thus the illusions you are living into and change the way you are living because there is a new Reality, a new consciousness, a new way to live that brings healing and wholeness to your life and it’s available to all people right here, right now!”
The more I meditate on this text, the more potent it becomes to me.
The biggest thing I have learned about the contemplative life in the past month is that it isn’t just about contemplative practices, it involves my entire life. It isn’t just adding some practices, it’s about taking up a new set of lenses with which I the world. (Again, repent has connotations of changing the way you see.) It’s a new paradigm.
I’ve been engaging in contemplative practices going on three in a half years now, but I feel like I’m now just beginning to cultivate a contemplative life.
In my next post I will share some practical steps I am taking as I explore this calling live a contemplative life.