Thursday, December 10, 2009

I am dead wrong

I am wrong.

It is quite rare that I'd readily admit that. Reluctantly maybe but this time I am dead wrong.

To my shame, I am wrong about what contemplation is. How basic can you get?

I suppose it is how we, or maybe it is just I, learn language. We listen, we understand, we learn, we speak. And I never did check out what contemplation actually meant. To me, it is always a synonym of meditation. Now this word "meditation" is another ballgame altogether. So to set things straight, when I use the word, meditation, in general, without tagging any explanation to it, I clearly mean Christian or Biblical meditation, not New-Age, i.e. I meditate on the Word of God, mulling and ruminating on it over and over again. And this I equate to contemplation.

Several people already told me that I am a very contemplative person and I readily agreed with them.

But now that eureka has happened, i.e. I finally realised what contemplation is, I am absolutely NOT a contemplative person.

I have found out contemplating to mean that "one has stopped 'doing' anything and is simply present to God, and God is present to that person. In contemplation, one no longer thinks, meditates, reflects or speaks, but is 'all ears' in an ambience of love, a simple 'being with' the God of Love." (Source: here).

There is absolutely NO WAY I can do that. My mind is ever busy thinking and musing, there is no stopping. The only time it is not "doing" anything is when I am sleeping, and even that, when I am not dreaming. And even if I am not thinking, the mind will be set on whatever I am physically doing at the moment, be it eating, driving or brushing my teeth. I don't even stare into space without thinking.

So the next time you tell me I'm contemplative, I'm going to violently refute you. So there!

But ... is there anything wrong not being able to contemplate? Okay, maybe I am exaggerating. I suppose I do become still in short spurts at certain times, but even that, I am not contemplating, i.e. I am not being mindfully "present" to God. I am simply not thinking.

So ... is there anything wrong to not being able to contemplate?


p/s Upon checking the dictionary, which I should have referred to in the first place, I see that the definition given to "contemplate" is quite similar to that of "meditate". Looks like we are all pretty confused. And looks like I am not all wrong, or am I?


  1. There is a lot of confusion in the article by Robert A. Jonas. The words 'prayer,' 'meditation' and 'contemplation' are not used with precision and sometimes used interchangeably. One glaring error appears early in the article is that he equate lectio divina with prayer. There is also confusion in the way he uses apophatic, kataphatic, via negativa, and via affirmativa.

    The Empty Bell approach that he advocate may not work because there is no middle path between via negativa, and via affirmativa.

    In contemplation one has stopped “doing” anything and is simply present to God, and God is present to that person. In contemplation, one no longer thinks, meditates, reflects or speaks, but is “all ears” in an ambience of love, a simple “being with” the God of Love.

    "doing" here does not refer to the active life (which we are living) but in seeking God. Simply contemplation is awareness of God's presence. You can be running a marathon and still be contemplative.

  2. I thought of you when I wrote this, telling myself I must go read your various posts on Lectio Divina. I will be doing a paper on Meditation - between Christian's and Buddhism's. I have not really gone into the latter and the former is already confusing me :) I should keep it simple though and define the former as Biblical meditation though I should also discuss the historical aspects of it, including Lectio Divina.

  3. You give one so much to think about.

  4. This was very interesting!!! I always thought they were similar but I'm not real good about studying everything out as you are.

    I like you NEVER have a blank mind. I've read that men are more capable of going into a "nothing room" in their minds. Don't know if that is truth or not either. My husband seems to not think or contemplate as much as I do.

    Very interesting thoughs !!!!! (thinking) for me at this early a.m. hour!!

  5. I'll have to look up these words, but I've always used "contemplative" to describe a thought-filled person and "meditative" to describe a state of emptiness or at least a finely focused version of contemplative.

  6. "'all ears' in an ambience of love"

    LOL.. sounds a bit new-agey to me.

  7. S.Etole,
    Not so often anymore :)

  8. I've read that men are more capable of going into a "nothing room" in their minds.

    Really?? I don't think my husband would agree. I think his mind is quite full but on quite different things - i think he is more into how things work and how things should work, compared to my why things work and why things should work.

  9. Missy,
    Yeah, me too. I think it is still used quite loosely and contextually, both the words. Especially when meditation is used in a new-age or Buddhist way, it would mean amongst other things, focus on nothing.

  10. KB,
    LOL ... now "new age" is an entire confusion altogether.

    When the New Age movement was undergoing a lot of criticism back in the 90s, I was quite confused what it actually represent. You need to understand that we in Malaysia live in a multi cultural environment and we are used to Chinese traditional medicine and practices and are aware of what our Hindu and Buddhist friends practice. So it is nothing "new" as such and suddenly these are labelled New Age.