#27: The Contemplative Life

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,


William James taught: “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.”


I find this a positive message because I have proven that it is true for myself. Attitude seems to be everything.


It goes back again to how we create the world we experience. If it is raining I might call it lousy and if it is sunny I might call it beautiful. Either way, we could change our perception to one of joyful acceptance of whatever the weather offers us.


How does my attitude hold me back? How does your attitude hold you back?


Do you whine or do you celebrate? I tend to be a whiner, but I make efforts to change this default emotion to one of gratitude. Life is life and what is going to happen is not largely up to me. But I do know that whining is not going to help. In fact, it only makes things worse.


One of the best ways I have found to change my attitude is a regular practice of contemplation. What is that exactly? I don’t know of any definitive “answer.” But I do know it means living an inner life and not being stuck in only my outer life.


A contemplative life is a meditational life. Meditation may be one of the best ways we have to rewire our brains. Negative thoughts are a habit we learned from those around us. However, we can choose to let go of the beliefs that hold us back from becoming who we could be with the right attitude and practice.


Aristotle taught that “contemplation is the highest form of activity.” For me, this means that the most important and active part of my life is actually an inner job rather than an outer one. I need to determine what I want to give my time and attention too. Meister Eckhart taught, “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”


If we want to change our outer lives, then, it seems, we need to focus on changing our attitude. This is not easy, which is why it is called a practice rather than a goal.


Is my life a reflection of my attitude? I think so. Am I outer driven or inner driven? I think fear comes from the outer world and loving and peaceful experience from our inner world.


There is little to no support in our society to have a strong inner life. We must make this a choice, a vow even.


Thomas Merton wrote is Seeds of Contemplation: We have the choice of two identities: the external mask which seems to be real...and the hidden, inner person who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth in whom he subsists” (295).


To the Contemplative Life!


Apophat


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