The word "contemplation" has different meanings to different people. In religious careers, contemplation means something very different to the person with this as a vocation then it does to the ordinary person. It probably means different things to different "ordinary" people. What I'd like to do here is assign a "definition" that fits perfectly with an alcoholic like me.
CONTEMPLATION: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, asking only for knowledge of His will for us and the Power to carry that out.
Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it? After reading a bunch, speaking to folks in the vocation of "religion", and praying, I couldn't come up with a better definition for the word "contemplation". This works good for this alcoholic. I have a Step, a "spiritual principle", and a "tool" in my recovery toolbox, and it is a single simple word. Well, relatively simple.
It's been taught to me that contemplation is a "two-way street". It's the process of communication between the "mortal man" or "man of time" and his/her "Eternal" or "Immortal" God of their understanding. "Prayer" and "Meditation" can be different things or the same thing. For me, when I meditate, I am engaged in a prayer. It becomes a process or one part of another thing. The process or prayer is something I call "an approach" to God. After I make the approach, something happens. Based on faith, I trust that God will recognize my approach to Him. Just the single act of recognition can be a response, or it can be more.
It is what I do with the "response" to my approach that is "meditation". What I do with the response becomes a spontanious "act" of my will. So prayer and meditation is an "action", an act of my free will.
When I meditate, I take the "response" I understand from God, and I "reflect" upon it. I "try it on for size". I attempt to visualize myself putting the response into action in my daily affairs. Or I think about the response to gain a better understanding of it. I recall past experiences in my life and in my learning that I begin to associate to the response. Lets take an example.
I make the approach to God. My will makes it known to my conscious self that I would like to approach God, to "seek" His presence. It's like going to visit a friend or relative. I prepare to visit which can be simple or elaborate. Some people put on their "Sunday Bests" when they go visiting (if you're from the South, you know what I mean).
Before I approach God, part of my getting ready to "go visit" is taking off my shoes. Don't ask me why I do that - it's just something that came from within me - I'm guessing it's a way I show respect. Another thing I do when I have the time to make a "planned visit", and this is also "getting ready" or "prepared" to go visiting, I'll burn sage which is a part of my relative's traditions. There are many other "rituals" that can be done beforehand or "to prepare", but they all point to the simple task of "getting ready" to go visiting.
Then I set out on the approach. I can be verbal or silent, but what I do first is just like when I go visiting. I sit pretty still in the "car" as I'm travelling, and when I get there, I get out, walk up to the porch and knock on the door. For me "the car" is my "God chair". For some it can be at the foot of their bed, or on their knees. Sometimes I close my eyes and literally visualize a short journey through a quiet wooded path, or at a bench near a lake. I let my senses go, because I have all this energy anyhow. Sometimes I can smell the greenery or feel a cool breeze. I try to sit still and enjoy the sensations.
After a time, I arrive at my "Friend's" home and I complete the approach by knocking on the door. Then I wait for His response. If it is early morning, I've got used to Him asking me to "be still", so when I approach, I already know what His response has been in the early morning a number of times. What do I do now?
I think about the words "Be still". The specific words I call to my mind is a simple sentence that many of you have read: "Be still and know that I am God". If my mind wanders off to driving into work, a traffic jam downtown, or the hundred different things I have to do at work, I just return to that simple sentence with my eyes closed and nothing before me. "Be still and know that I am God". Sometimes I say the words out loud - they have a certain rhythym almost like the beat of a drum. I let the words repeat, or I might just return to the words when I get distracted. After a time of maybe 3-5 minutes, I can close my eyes, and all I see is black which is exactly what I want to do. I have made the approach, and I'm still and in His presence. Remarkably, there is nothing on my mind - then I smile. I know God likes it when I smile. So the whole visit is off to a great start.
I feel "welcome". What was that? I had a feeling. I felt welcome. What does that mean? That was a response to my approach. It's as if God Himself answered my imaginary door knock and said "Welcome". Then I take that response "welcome" and I reflect on it. What is "welcome"? I think about how I feel when I welcome a friend into my home. I think "It's good to see you". I think about how it feels to have God tell me I'm welcome in His presence. I think all about the response "welcome" in every single imagineable way. What am I doing? I'm meditating on the response, which was the feeling of being welcome. That can go on for a short time, or a longer time.
But eventually, the "distractions" of my world will again creep in. If time allows, I go back to "Be still". I can repeat it or just think about the sentence "Be still and know that I am God."
So what I have done here is take a set of words that I have understood God to have spoken to someone somwhere, and I have made them a point of focus. I "visit" these words in the morning meditation to get rid of my distractions and to become "still". Because these words are very meaningful to me, unlike a "mantra", they are comfortable to return to - they're like "old friends". I don't have to repeat them over and over, like a mantra. I can think about them or speak them at any time.
I call these words "sacred words" because I use them exclusively in making my approach to God as I understand Him each morning. Whenever I'm needing to meditate in the morning, my "sacred words" are there for me to focus on. But they also serve a "double duty".
Not only do I get rid of distractions with the sacred words, the words themselves have a spiritual meaning that my subconscious mind absorbs. I'm reminding myself there are many times that I can be still and take in the many different expressions of God as I understand Him. Over time, this brings me into closer conscious contact with my Higher Power. I learn about things that my soul wants to "be still" for, such absorbing the beauty of a particular flower in my flower bed when it first blooms, or when it blooms profusely. That flower is a perfect example of a living thing doing exactly the thing it was created to do - and that is God's Will for that flower.
So the first part of meditating for me is to find a "sacred word" or a couple "sacred words" that are reminders to me in a number of different "sensual" ways of my God as I understand Him. I use these words to get rid of outside distractions when I make the approach to God. I go back to these words after I ponder the "response" I get from God when He acknowledges my presence.
For me, this served as the "beginning" to another form of meditation I know as "Centering Prayer" or "Contemplative Prayer". Learning and using "sacred words" was like a baby step for me in learning how to meditate.
So, if you're ready, go ahead and seek out your own action to take along this path. "Seek" out some sacred words and see if they help you. Don't be shy. Or if you have a special way of getting into meditation, share it with the rest of us.