10 December 2013

Learning contemplation

Learning contemplation – the practical pathway to insight, wisdom and direction.

Who am I? Where am I going? What is life? These are the 3 big questions that philosophers down through the ages have pondered upon. These days, it is wonderful to know that the age-old techniques of contemplation remain relevant for self-reflection, but can also make a major contribution to ordinary, every day problem solving.

So this week we consider some of the benefits and a specific technique that helps us to learn to contemplate and problem solve more effectively. We will learn how to contemplate what is best to eat - for us and for those we love.

Also to mention that contemplation will be the special focus of our 2014 Pre-Easter retreat, Meditation in the Forest set amidst the delightful landscape of the Upper Yarra Valley, so details of that too. Plus news of the recently completed Mana retreat and a friendly reminder. Our retreats have been fully booked recently, so if you are planning to join us, it will be wise to register soon.

But first to acknowledge the death of that great man who has inspired so many:

Thought for the Day

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear,
But the triumph over it.
The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
But he who conquers that fear
Nelson Mandela

Learning contemplation provides us with a reliable doorway into understanding and wisdom. Contemplation helps us to make sense of our life, our world, and our place within it. Contemplation provides the clarity and insight to make good decisions, and as such, naturally generates the confidence and commitment required to follow those decisions through to conclusion.

Getting to know ourselves, who we really are beyond the obvious facts of name, family status, job, address etc.; getting to know who we really are requires some introspection. For many of us when young, life was full with plenty to do, plenty to occupy us, plenty to distract us.

So for many, it is not until older age that we pause for some self-reflection. True, for many this looking inwards to make sense of life and its circumstances is propelled by the pressures of adversity – major life changes, major health issues.

But for a happier few, maybe it is just that yearning feeling that there is more to life than all that is obvious on the surface. Maybe the recognition of how extra-ordinary it is to be alive, how precious life is, and the resultant urge to make the most of it all.

In truth, it is not just a cliché; what does it all mean?

So when this urge for the search for meaning dawns, how to proceed? Is the answer to read a particular book? Speak to a particular person? Go to a particular place?

Well, all of these things can be useful of course, but ultimately the answers, the truly satisfying answers, lie within. Contemplation provides a reliable means to search for meaning. To seek answers. To find our way.

And while contemplation has been taught in all the great traditions, in more modern times, these same techniques have proven to be highly effective for problem solving.

Speaking personally, contemplation was at the heart of my own recovery from cancer as I faced a myriad of complex questions and difficult choices in my quest for healing. More recently, contemplation has guided me in my personal, family and business life.

While I have written at length on contemplation in several of my books (see below), here is a simple problem solving contemplation practice as a starting point.

HOW TO CONTEMPLATE  - Using the example of contemplating what way of eating suits you best:

1. Identify the issue is to contemplate (e.g. to set dietary goals) and determine to reach a conclusion.

2. Do the research.  Use your intellect. Read the books, speak to the experts, discuss it with friends, listen to tapes.  Ideally make notes.  This person said that, this book the other, etc.  With food it is usually easiest to write lists of the different recommendations.

3. Set a time for the decision to be made. There are two ways to do this. If you were to buy a new washing machine, probably you would wait until you gathered all the relevant information. Presuming you have determined your price range, you could find out the makes and models available and collect all their details within a reasonable period of time.  However, with food you could collect information indefinitely.  So you probably need to say to yourself something like ‘I will collect all the information I can in the next two weeks (choose your own timeframe) and then I will make the best decision I can.”

4. Give yourself time – half an hour to an hour is ideal – and some space – either where you meditate regularly or in any quiet area.  Make sure you can be free from the telephone and other possible distractions.  Take with you any notes you have made and any other material you have gathered.  Also take a pen and some paper in case you want to write on it.

5. Begin by reviewing your research material and in this way refresh all the knowledge you have of your subject. If you do not have all the written material go straight to the next step.

6. Consciously relax your body and calm your mind.  This will be a familiar process if you have some experience of meditation.  The aim is to elicit the Relaxation Response so you are in a better state of mind to progress into the contemplation.

7. Consciously reviewing the facts as you remember them.

So, in our example, you might recall the style of food you have been eating, the broad issues relating to why you are considering changing your diet, what different people have recommended to you, what you have read in different books and so on.

If at any stage you become distracted or your mind wanders off onto other thoughts, as soon as you recognize this, be gentle with yourself and simply come back to concentrating on issues relating to food and diet.

This first part of the process then is clearly a rational, left brain exercise. You actively think about the topic and all issues relating to it.

What happens next, as you continue to concentrate on the topic, is that at some point your mind will automatically shift into more abstract, intuitive, right brain contemplation.  It will be as if all the facts you have been reflecting upon and analyzing, all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as it were, come together and now you can clearly see the bigger picture.  This will give you a new sense of comprehension and understanding and usually leaves you with a clear sense of what to do.  This can all come with a moment of clear insight, almost like an ‘Ah Ha! I’ve got it’, moment of revelation.

The more you practise this technique, the more reliable it becomes.  It is a wonderful and dependable way to solve problems, develop creativity and instigate lateral thinking. As another aside, this is an excellent way to prepare for and complete creative writing.

8. Once clarity dawns, write the insight down. I always do this exercise with pen and paper close by and as soon as the answer begins to form – write it down.

This contemplation technique can be used to address any problem.  It leads to a clarity that is backed by a deep sense of your own inner wisdom.  As a result, the directions that come with it, the goals that emerge from this exercise, will feel very ‘right’ for you.

People often ask me “how can I trust the result of an exercise like this?” Well, if you come out of this exercise with no clarity and are still clouded by doubt; all that has happened is you have spent time simply thinking about the issue. No harm done, but no insight either! The insight we are talking of has as one of its features the confidence of certainty. It comes with a deep inner knowing and no doubt. No one else will need to confirm such an insight for you; it will be easy to feel confident about, easy to commit to and it is highly likely to work well!

Each year, for the Meditation in the Forest retreat in the Yarra Valley, there is a particular theme; for 2014 that theme will be contemplation. So as well as learning and experiencing more of relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, we will explore and practice several key contemplation techniques. The problem solving ones, as well as the ones for introspection such as  “Who am I ?” All accompanied by great food and great company. Deeply regenerative. A treat of a retreat!


Meditation – an In-depth Guide – with a comprehensive section on contemplation

The Mind that Changes Everything – with very practical advise as to how to use contemplation for problem solving

You Can Conquer Cancer – Also includes a section on contemplation

2. CD and MP3
Inner Peace, Inner Wisdom – clear instruction and guided exercises for contemplation

Retreat and go forward

How to increase creativity with meditation


1. Mana Retreat - Meditation Under the Long White Cloud - was a real delight. Great landscape, wonderful staff and food and great company.

It was very inspiring to receive feedback from so many of those attending about their profound meditation experiences. There really were quite a number of major breakthroughs.

2. Be part of a world record celebration
A reminder from last week of the intrepid marathon runners. Janette and Alan are very close now to setting an almost unbelievable world record – 366 consecutive marathons!!! Here are details of where you can catch up with them

Friday December 13, 2013 7:00pm: KINDNESS HOUSE, 288 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

21 or 22 DECEMBER 2013 Details to be confirmed

31 DECEMBER 2013 Federation Square; Details to be confirmed

1 JANUARY 2014 Stiggants Reserve


Their website is www.runningrawaroundaustralia.com

3. Apologies to those of you affected by the tech glitches of the last few days. The first occurred when the system we use to send out emails was upgraded by the parent company, transforming something that has worked well for 3 years into something "Better" that is very twitchy! So pardon the extra email copies and the blank if you received either. Hopefully, we have the difficulty sorted.

Then this week's blog suffered from me attempting to send it with difficult internet connection issues. It should all be working OK again now. Computers certainly offer the odd prompt to remember our stress management skills!

No comments:

Post a Comment