I firmly believe that contemporary people are quite capable of living a contemplative life. It is a core aspect of our beings and is essential to our natures. Discovering what it means to be a contemplative opens up questions and directs our seeking.
Contemplation is a commitment to living one’s life directed toward the Divine Nature or union with God. For many people, the longing for a contemplative life has been with them for years, but they have not understood its characteristics or how to develop practices because in our culture, contemplative is often associated with monastic separation. I would imagine that many of you, at one time or another, have thought: I would like to be a mountain hermit, or a desert monk, or a meditative master. This desire is the longing for silence and solitude of a contemplative life.
Contemplation is a universal expression of the communion between the deep self and the divine mystery. A contemplative state of consciousness, or state of being, is present in all spiritual traditions in various garbs and by various names, expressed in sophisticated typologies of mystical states: samadhi, satori, nirvana, infused contemplation, liberation, enlightenment. Contemplation is a longing of the self toexperience the Source of all that is. In its most profound nature, contemplation is not an austerity, but a source of nourishment, and love. A true contemplative does not view silence and solitude as a deprivation from the world, but rather as food for the soul.
One of the most difficult of challenges for a person who pursues contemplation is the disjuncture between a worldly and a spiritual understanding of success. In daily experience, we are trained to seek exterior goods, which can become a source of discontent. For the contemplative person, however, fulfillment comes from growing in the spirit, seeking deeper levels of meaning and love, because it is this that is one’s true inheritance.
In this sense the contemplative life is radical because it asks us to question: What is the one thing necessary? What brings true happiness?