Too often contemplation is equated with passivity or personal transformation. However, the mystical tradition offers a different perspective. From the depths of contemplation comes renewed action. Meister Eckhart states that “What we have gathered in contemplation we give out in love.” Constance FitzGerald, OCD, says “…contemplation is not a validation of things as they are…but a constant questioning and restlessness that waits for and believes in the coming of a transformed vision of God….a new and integrating spirituality capable of creating a new politics and generating new social structures.” See https://iccdinstitute.org/alert-to-the-stirring-of-god/ for more information.
This is the understanding of contemplation that has informed all of the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Dialogue‘s (ICCD) work since the beginning in 2002. Most recently, in exploring how do we respond to what is happening in our time from a contemplative heart, there was an “Aha” moment. It came for me with recognizing the connection between acting from a contemplative heart and acting out of second tier consciousness as put out forth in Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi).
Although SDi may not be familiar to you, I hope over time it will be. The entire Enter the Chaos section on the website is to offer explanations and insights into the three main areas of the ICCD program, Enter the Chaos: Engage the Differences to Make a Difference so that more people can learn and apply these important insights. These areas are contemplation, evolution and spiral dynamics integral.
Contemplation is critical to one’s evolution of consciousness and to the capacity to imagine and put into action new ways of being and acting. Contemplation is a form of prayer. When one thinks of prayer one often thinks of saying a prayer, words recited quietly or out loud. Words are the way we assign meaning to reality and to what happens in one’s life. Words are created within theological and philosophical constructs that reflect worldviews and belief systems which shape the way one thinks.
As one’s consciousness develops on its evolutionary journey new words, new understandings of how to make sense of reality emerge. In many cases the old words don’t work anymore. This can be disconcerting as one tries to squeeze new insights into old language.
This is most challenging when it comes to one’s experience of Divine Mystery and one’s attempts to give words to the experience. Even when imagination is used the images, symbols have also been forged in specific worldviews.
There comes a time when words are not helpful. In the Christian tradition prayer without words is called contemplation. Contemplation draws on the mystical understanding of ‘apophatic’ or objectless awareness. It is a silencing of one’s mind and emotions so that one drops deeply into the Divine Presence dwelling within oneself.
Over time the ongoing contemplative practice transforms oneself. From the depths of contemplation comes a new way of being and acting. This transformation needs to be translated into behaviors, reflecting new worldviews.
It is at this depth where deepened contemplation can integrate with SDi second tier consciousness to offer guidance in how to respond to what is happening in our world today.