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Meditation & Contemplation

Initially, we might think meditation and contemplation are one and the same, because in meditation, we sometimes end up in a state of contemplation.

If we do end up in a state of contemplation, technically, we’re not meditating anymore, because the essence of meditation is the absence of movement. Meditation is stillness and silence.

In the Zen tradition for example, practitioners practice a form of meditation called Zazen. In Zazen, there is no mantra and the focus is on the breath, to start at least. As Zen practitioners progress in their practice, the focus on the breath slowly dissolves, and what's left is a focus on pure being. In this state of effortless being, practitioners begin to sink into silence, or into the void as they call it in Zen.

In the void, one finds absolute silence, and in this space, the mind is no longer present, and all that is experienced is pure consciousness. Or better said, all that remains is consciousness, and it knows itself. The experience of no experience, pure consciousness.

On the other hand, I think contemplation is what comes after meditation. Contemplation is exploring and better understanding the void, or pure consciousness.

Contemplation is an art because to be able to explore, feel and express pure consciousness, we must move away from self-centered mind consciousness, or ‘becoming’ consciousness, and relax into the creative aspect of our being. So we shift from becoming, to simple being, and in being, creativity flows. The Sufi’s for example, deeply explored this space as they wrote poetry that came straight from the source. They mastered being, and in being, created beauty, contemplative beauty.

That's how I think both practices differ, one comes after the other.

What follows is my evolving understanding of how each practice works.

In meditation, we try to find stillness and silence. We do that by observing thoughts and emotions, and eventually letting go of them. The better we become at letting go, the less they show up. So we’re essentially practicing detachment or surrender, and detachment is our gateway to silence.

It’s a long road to stillness and silence, but also, the lack of both does not mean our practice isn’t being done right. Its okay if we continue to confront an active mind. What we do in this case is we keep meditating and with the passage of time, become better at letting go. This is bound to happen as this is the natural cycle of the practice and psyche.

So let's say we sit for an hour, and we continuously experience thoughts and emotions. If we learn how to let go of them, and remain passive or accepting to whatever shows up, well then we’re practicing meditation as it should be practiced. And thought will eventually be seen for what is, just another object, like a cloud passing by. It's like we're in the observer seat, watching a movie (thoughts) while knowing what’s being projected onto the screen is not who we are. I am not the thought; I am the observer of the thought, and the thought has no power over me. I am the subject, observing objects, and as the subject, I remain unaffected and at peace. Peace is actually my natural state.

Simply put, meditation teaches us how to observe, detach and surrender, and as a result of that, we begin to better understand who we are, beyond the façade of the mind.

And beyond the mind, contemplation begins. That’s why contemplation can be considered a form of art, an art that requires the highest levels of creativity.

The source of all art, as you know, is beyond the mind, so contemplation, is a form of exploring the source out of which all art is created.

Exploring this aspect of our being is no easy feat, it requires every ounce of our entire being, fully invested is the only option. And it takes time, dedication and practice to reach a contemplative state, or non-practice actually, because what is beyond the mind cannot be understood or reached by the mind. One must surrender the mind to the observer of the mind. This truly is creativity as its best because we're learning how to sink deeper into the source. We gently let go, and surrender into the presence of being.

So within this creative presence, within the here and now, we design techniques that allow the mind let go of itself, and as a result, we begin to explore the deepest dimension of our being. We sink into pure consciousness, and by sinking into consciousness, we experience pure being. In being, contemplation begins to happen by itself. And in this place, or space, there is only grace. Grace is where creativity begins, and never ends. Contemplation is an endless way of being where we continuously refine, and redefine.

Dead Sea, Jordan.

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