Is contemplation right for me?

Photo: Alex E. Proimos, Sydney

Photography: Alex E. Proimos, Sydney

“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.

 

6 thoughts on “Is contemplation right for me?

    • Hello dear Poppy; what a pleasant surprise it is to find you here late on a Saturday night. And yes, I think I know what you mean about getting started on the right foot with contemplation, meditation and the spiritual journey itself. Before I began my meditative career in earnest way back in the darkened recesses of the last century, I wrote to a distant relative who was a former Zen monk and asked what he thought was a good approach for a beginner such as myself. He just told me to keep a sense of humour above all else. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense at the time, though increasingly began to retrospectively once I’d begun to understand the pitfalls that lay in wait for the unsuspecting.

      I hope to hear from you on your site soon Poppy; and I have been wondering if you are missing “Free” being so far from her currently – assuming you are still on these shores. I shall begin to read your book once I have finished a couple that have been waiting to be read for far too long. To be frank, my site here has been quite demanding of time of late, as the responses to monthly posts have been pleasingly plentiful – a gratifying situation given that I am quite amazed that I get any readers whatsoever to be frank. It isn’t as if I have anything exciting to say about my life, as you do; so every visit is cherished, particularly so from one such as yourself who I admire so much.

      Hariod.

  1. I’m not surprised you have so many folk responding to your site, Hariod; it is like a beacon on a stormy night. I have time to slowly attend to your helpful, skilful prose and brush up on the contemplative part of my own ‘path’. We have so much in common in the way we approach the world! Perhaps there is more chaos in mine, mainly due to the unpredictability of the sailing life and the fickle nature of the elements, but I’m sure that you have pockets in yours, too, equally profound, pertaining to your own story.

    I do hope that you enjoy my book. It is a fast read, for sure, and may not be exactly what you expect; but it is true and reflects very much my own battle to make sense of oncoming middle-age.

    Yes, I am still in Fair England. I am constantly in transit though, youth-hostelling (is that possible for a 57 year old?) sofa-surfing at various friends, and awaiting the return of the sun in the north. ‘Free’ is never far from my thoughts, but I can live without pining for the sea, mainly due to the sheer amount of time I spend out there! A break from the tough physicality of such a life is welcome now and then!

    My blog posts do tend to be less frequent during the Winter months due to lack of appropriate material; however, there is the occasional exception should I be moved enough to comment.

    Keep up the good work – I for one shall be absorbed for the next few months!

    Best wishes to you my friend.

    • Your kind and generous words are hugely appreciated Poppy. When I hit the ‘publish’ button, I feel as if I have just launched my little dinghy out into The Gulf of Corryvreckan, half expecting to soon get swallowed up by the whirlpool of digital spume that is The Internet. Amazingly, the little craft seems to remain afloat and so, after resting awhile upon the breeze, the energies gather for another traversal of the straight. How brave I make myself sound! And yet here I am, using such an analogy to one who does all of this herself, not just in the virtual realm, but in reality.

      Best wishes to you too my friend.

      Hariod.

      P.S. I ordered your paperback this morning so should receive it well in time to make of it my Christmas reading.

      • What a beautiful metaphor, Hariod! You are brave, and Corryvreckan can be minor compared with the potential viciousness of The Internet, right enough; however, your wisdom resonates with truth and probably deflects the negativity that eddies about the cyber space. Truth is truth for a’ that!

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