The Resting Lady (Image: S.J. Wickham)
MOWING the lawn, and it strikes me! I’m praying contemplatively. Let me explain. But before I do, let me tell you what Richard Rohr, renowned Catholic mystic, considers is contemplative prayer: non-verbal communion with God. That’s it. It can be considered God-mindfulness or God-consciousness. But there is more to contemplation.
Contemplation so far as prayer is concerned is a frank mind with the absence of thought. There are two concepts.
The first is absence. No thought of past or future. Nil. The present cannot be a thought, it is merely experienced. It’s why taking a photograph ruins the moment — because the taking of a photograph requires thought. But at least with the photograph we can enjoy contemplation of the moment as a glimpse of the past. So being present is simply experience enjoyed thoughtlessly by the mind. Absence can only be procured when we deal with repetitive thoughts of past and future. Thirty seconds of absence between lapses into thought can build to minutes with practice and discipline.
The second is frankness. Thoughts pop in; intrusions of past traumas and experiences and future hopes and fears. The mind trained to contemplate is instantly aware of those intrusions and expels the thought, letting it go. The mind says those words, I don’t need you, I choose to let you go. The frank mind suffers cognisance of the truth, of course. It sees the berating, lazy, fearful thoughts and is humble in accepting itself as frail.
My experience of mowing the lawn taught me how instinctively I move into contemplative prayer. God was communicating with me as my mind rested in automatic pilot mode. One simple example is through suggestion. I was given a verse from the Bible (Job 1:21) related to something I am presently studying. It’s the weirdest thing to become aware that you’ve been praying contemplatively. I wasn’t thinking of my own volition. Just mowing the lawn without thinking — enjoying that experience. God gave it to me as He roamed within my mind. God also gave to me suggestions for loving action. These were not thoughts; they came and went as a wafting breeze and prayerfully I guess I hoped to remember them.
The mind is fallible. There is preoccupation with past and future, whether they be ten minutes ago or to come, or ten years. Contemplation is the ridding of the mind of these burdens.
To be emptied of mind but open to God is an achievable and bliss-filled state of mind; a beautiful thing to practice and master.
A Guided Meditation – guided by Someone Else
Say the words in the following lines with a long pause between one line and the next. Focus on your breathing… safe, calm, relaxed, loose of muscle, tight of mind:
Be Still and Know That I Am God
Be Still and Know That I Am
Be Still and Know
… be still and silent of mind (the best you can) for ten minutes.
Up your practice to thirty minutes, which may take two years to accomplish.