Contemplative Interbeing is an experiential education organization that provides opportunities to develop a worldview using a contemplative lens. Contemplation is an alternative way of thinking which is called, by many: both-and thinking, third eye thinking, third way thinking, or non-dual thinking. Contemplation is a different consciousness we call contemplative mind.
What is Contemplation?
Contemplation itself is experiential; therefore, describing it with words cannot lead to a complete understanding of the concepts. Thomas Merton advises, “The only way to get rid of misconceptions about contemplation is to experience it.” That said, we provide a partial description in order to give you a window into the understanding of the contemplation mind (worldview) that Contemplative Interbeing promotes in its educational opportunities.
Contemplation is a special consciousness of the presence of Ultimate Reality that by definition exceeds description and results in a transformation of the subject who receives it. It’s not enough to have wonderful theories about Life, the Really Real, or God. Authentic contemplation radically changes us and our way of living—our politics, relationships, economics. Otherwise so-called contemplation is just metaphysical rumination.
Contemplative consciousness (mysticism) is the knowledge of Divine Presence through experience. It is not head knowledge but heart knowledge, not intellectual comprehension but emotional understanding. It is the kind of awareness that develops between close friends, when one can tell almost instinctively what the other is thinking or feeling.
You are made both of and for contemplation; it is not just the privilege of monks and mystics, saints and prophets, and of the cloistered and the devout, it is the secret longing of your being. You contain the seed consciousness and the archetypal reality of contemplation’s hidden ways. Contemplation is the wilderness of your heart that you discover a Reality beyond every religious form.
The experience of Divine Presence is accessible to us, through contemplation, in the fully actualized depths of consciousness itself. Contemplation is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life and the infused presence of Mystery in one’s inner depth. In fact, contemplation is the intrinsic capacity of each self to touch and be touched by the Source—to know the Source through certitude too deep for words or images. This touching is the mystical heart and every aspect of the journey toward inner discovery and then living its truth.
Contemplation refers to a universal and unifying view of the world. One of the quintessential insights of the mystics through the centuries is that the entire cosmos is Interbeing—all beings are embedded in webs of relationship that are interconnected, interdependent, intersubjective, and constantly being co-created and reinvented. Interbeing incorporates our relationships, and also our collective religious and spiritual inheritance, the whole of humanity, creation, and the cosmos. It extends to the suffering of the planet, wounding of the soul, and violence caused by religious superiority, national self-interest, poverty, homelessness, starvation, and war. Interbeing is a fundamental attribute of consciousness.
Contemplation is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, contemplation affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. Furthermore contemplation is in service of and the means by which we discover the unification of spirit and matter, male and female, intuition and reason, mercy and justice; Interbeing. Contemplation is not a goal to be reached, but the starting point, the power that un-forms and then reforms knowledge, love, and perception.
Contemplation – to live in loving presence with what is
The contemplative mind withholds from labeling things or categorizing things too quickly (i.e., judging), so it can come to see in itself, apart from labels and categories. As the contemplative mind develops, there is no longer a need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, for or against. It just is what it is; an open presence in the world, directly perceiving and lovingly responding to things as they are. The contemplative mind grounds our presence in the real world and is an all-embracing quality of presence, including not only our own inner experience but also directly perceiving and responding to the situation and needs of the world around us. The contemplative mind is in immediate contact with reality, people, and events—as they are—and without an ideological overlay (having your conclusions before the fact).
Contemplation is discovering a way to observe yourself from a distance and learning how to return there in moments of negative—and positive—emotional turmoil, until you can eventually live more and more of your life from the contemplative mind. You will find yourself smiling, sighing, and “weeping” at yourself, more than either hating or congratulating yourself.
This knowing of self must be compassionate and calmly objective, without the need to praise or blame your reaction to it. This takes away your reaction’s addictive and self-serving character so that it no longer possesses you. Now you have a feeling instead of a feeling having you. It gives you a strong sense of “I,” because there is now no need to eliminate or deny the negative; your full self is accepted. Ironically, the truly destructive part of the negative is exposed and falls away now as unnecessary. To see the negative is to defeat it.
Contemplation is meeting reality in its most simple and immediate form. The only way to do that is to change the mental habits of judging, critiquing, and comparing. You do not fully process the moment by judging it, analyzing it, differentiating it; you must use a different processor. Contemplative Interbeing provides the education to help organizations and individuals develop that new processor; the contemplative mind. Every spiritual tradition, at its more mature levels, offers a path to the contemplative mind.
Different spiritual traditions use different words to describe essentially the same change of consciousness that is necessary to see with the contemplative lens:
• Early Christians call it contemplation.
• Buddhists call it meditation, sitting, or practicing.
• Hesychastic Orthodoxy call it prayer of the heart.
• Sufism call it ecstasy.
• Hasidic Judaism call it living from the divine spark within.
• Vedantic Hinduism speak of it as non-dual knowing or simply breathing.
• Native religions found it in communion with nature itself or the Great Spirit through dance, ritual, and sexuality.
• Owen Barfield called this “original participation.”