When I first began studying contemplative practices, I thought meditation and contemplation were interchangeable, I mean, both have to do with thinking and reflection, right?
Well, yes, in our day-to-day world we do use them that way, but in Christian spirituality they are very different practices. A very simple explanation might be that meditation focuses you while contemplation frees you.
Think about it like this. . .
When I was teaching myself the homesteading skill of canning, I needed to read the directions and repeat the steps many times to get my jam where I wanted it to be–not too syrupy, not too stiff. I needed focus so that I could understand the instructions and prepare myself for the process of canning.
Once I’d learned those steps, however, I could come right into the kitchen, set up, then can jam without relying solely on the cookbook. It became this lovely place of release–not a necessarily a distraction from things going on in my life, but a freeing of mind, body, and spirit.
Contemplative prayer is very similar. We are not concentrating on a particular instruction or word or object. We are completely releasing those thoughts, letting go of our ego, and reconnecting with the One that created each of us–the One that lives through us in love.
Contemplative practice reminds us that quiet time with our Creator is a necessary part of our faith journey. It invites us to hear that small, quiet voice inside of us that cultivates our spiritual growth and faith in action.
In our busy lives, we lose touch with God in that sense, and we wonder why we don’t hear God.
We’re right. It’s hard to hear God when we are consumed with our thoughts, our wounds, our desires, and our needs. Contemplative prayer centers us and reminds us that we are more than those things, more than our selves–we are children of God called to be light and love in the world.
Contemplative Practice: Centering Prayer