“I’ve heard a lot about mindfulness lately, and want to explore awareness and my mind”
Contemplation, meditation, mindfulness practices – these are all very much the currency of those who we might think of as ‘spiritual non-theists’. In other words, those who aren’t specifically set against theistic ideas and religious cosmologies, but nonetheless know it’s not for them. They just don’t want to get involved in belief systems, groupthink or anything which can’t be verified in direct personal experience. They’re people who like to be guided by their own lights.
So how does such a person know if contemplation is right for themselves? After all, it’s a commitment both in time and application – commodities no one wants to expend wastefully. In answering this question, it’s right and proper to reiterate a caveat similar to that expressed in the disclaimer section, and which I trust was read when first visiting this site. In short, this means it’s a thoroughly good idea for us to take on-board the two following principles:
“I’m just concerned I might waste time doing something that I’m not really suited to . . .”
Firstly, it’s a personal decision of commitment. This means it has to come from within us, not as some off-the-shelf answer to life’s problems that we picked up, or worse still bought, during a casual browsing session. Still, casting around for sites on contemplation and meditation, we may see which ones seem to resonate with our own character type. My own inclination, as you’ll see on all the relevant pages, is to eschew the exotic and fanciful; though that may be just what you want . . .
Having made the decision to commit, we then dig a little deeper – here or elsewhere – and perhaps read a book or two. When we finally make our decision, we accept fully that it’s our own, that we ‘own’ it. It’s only by accepting a like responsibility ourselves that we act with the necessary so-called ‘purity of heart’ and sense of personal commitment such that any contemplative practice may unfold beneficially. This whole thing has to come from within; that’s how it’s sustained.
“I don’t really want a teacher or a rigid system to follow, yet I’m bound to need some guidance”
Secondly, there’s a cautionary note: The world has no shortage of individuals who claim to have all the answers, and will reveal them to us – for a fee. It’s a bit of a minefield. Some of this problem stems from the fact that contemplation and meditation is frequently linked to religious cosmologies, to unverifiable belief systems or to a hopelessly wishy-washy and materialistic New-Ageism. And some of the problem is down to human nature, to a hopelessly misguided self-belief.
There are plenty of charlatans and many more who think they can help, but really they can’t. They may have a slick spiel or patter, but that’s it, mere empty words – froth. It’s one thing knowing all the right words to sound convincing – as many do – but it’s another thing altogether to have lived those words in actuality. A good rule-of-thumb, and one which I’d urge you to adopt, is to avoid anyone imposing a fee or even remotely appearing to instruct for the purposes of self-aggrandizement.
“I feel I need some practice of mental culture; so many people say it’s helped enormously”
Given all of the above, then we come to the old saying: ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. In the final analysis, we can only know within ourselves whether the time is right to practice contemplation by giving it a try. So no matter what is said here, or no matter how convinced we may be from the content of this or another site, it’s only from direct and personal experience that the correct answer can be gleaned. I hope the time is right for you, as contemplation truly can enrich life.