Most of us are familiar with the word “meditation.” While it is no stranger to western philosophies and traditions, we usually associate it with religious practices from eastern cultures, Buddhism and Hinduism especially.
There is a form of meditation in both cultures that is often overlooked.
We usually associate the word with thoughtful concentration, but it’s far more than that. Contemplation is a valuable tool for discovering deeper truths about ourselves and the world in which we live.
It’s etymology holds quasi-religious overtones. “Con-templation” means bringing your thoughts or questions to a symbolic “temple,” a special place or frame of mind to help unveil hidden meanings. Realistically, it means opening our minds’ receptivity to revelations provided by our unconscious as it relates to the universe we are part of.
Let me explain.
What distinguishes us from other known species is our capacity to use reason. We are “homo sapiens,” which means intelligent or wise hominids. Greek philosophers considered the excellent use of reason to be the distinguishing trait of what it means to be human, something that human nature strives to perfect. Our quest for Truth comes from that.
Unfortunately, we cannot always find the deeper meanings of Truth. And when we do, our limited minds have trouble grasping the full depth of their meaning.
This is where contemplation comes in. While we can never understand Truth in its fullness, we can still find or formulate answers that are “reasonable,” and therefore important. Indeed, our pattern-driven minds push us in that direction.
When accumulated facts and theories fail, we turn to our sense of reasonableness for answers. This is where contemplation helps.
We cannot remember everything we learned in life, especially things we drifted away from over the years. What we did learn from the past, however, left indelible markings in the structure of our subconscious, comprising the intellectual and psychological foundation upon which our intelligence stands. The results are unique for every person, depending on background, temperament, education and experience.
While we cannot remember each detail that formed our individual perspectives, impressions still serve as the building blocks, integrated with all the rest. It is possible to access them to a degree, as any psychologist will affirm.
Have you ever experienced the answer to a question spontaneously jumping into your mind seemingly from nowhere—even days later while you were thinking of something else, or not thinking at all?
This is your subconscious responding to your inquiry (somewhat slower than an internet browser, but far more complicated). It is not so much retrieving a memory that is instantly available, but rather mining valuable information that was already digested and integrated into the whole. The results can be very creative. This is where artists and writers find their creativity—relaxing their thoughts and listening to the deep wells of their being.
When it comes it seems like a whisper from the Muses, or a revelation from above, which is how people often considered it. Nevertheless, it is you. And it is a tremendous resource with which we should all become acquainted.
When we contemplate, we try to access this inner resource. We bring our concerns, metaphorically speaking, to the central holy place, or “temple,” of our being. We lay it before the oracle of our subconscious, quiet our obsessively busy minds, and then wait for a response. It may not come right away. It may not come at all. But often it does, and the results can be remarkable—taking threads from these forgotten memories and combining them with insinuations others.
This dynamic provides what we consider the mystical dimension of our individual quests. It is a source of creative knowledge uniquely our own. We access it by tapping into the foundational bricks and mortar of our psyche and collective consciousness at the same time.
The more we do this, the easier it gets. And best of all, each discovery adds to the extension of the next, far beyond where you could reach otherwise.
Try it sometime. Quiet your thinking brain and listen, with calm expectation, to what your subconscious has to offer. It helps to do this in the presence of nature, suggesting that the universe is somehow part of this dynamic, but I digress.