One of the most loving and powerful things we can do for ourselves is develop a consistent contemplative practice.
The phrase contemplative practice may sounds religious or mystical to you, and it can be both of these things, but don’t worry: even if you are not religious and do not practice any faith, contemplative practices are still for you and can become an extremely meaningful and empowering part of your life.
What are Contemplative Practices?
Contemplative Practices are activities or habits that help us connect with the the spiritual part of us and become more compassionate, creative, wise, and loving versions of ourselves.
If the word spiritual makes you nervous, don’t worry. It is possible to think of the spiritual part of us in both religious and non-religious ways.
If you are not religious, you can think of the spiritual side of us as the place where our potential lies. It is where the seeds of goodness reside, waiting for us to develop them. It is also the place that contains the roadmap to our highest self, which is the self we develop when we consistently act from compassion, creativity, wisdom, and love.
If you are religious, you can think of your spirituality as all of these things and also as the light or image of God in you, which is truest thing about you.
Human beings possess a mind, body, and emotions, and all of these parts of us are good. When we nurture all three aspects of ourselves, we become a more fully alive, resilient, and loving version of ourselves.
Therefore, one of the most important goals of contemplative practices is to help us nurture all these parts of us and to make peace with them.
What are Some Specific Examples of Contemplative Practices?
Any action that nurtures your mind, body, and emotions can be a contemplative practice. However, throughout history, contemplative practitioners have developed a collection of practices that seem to be especially helpful in nurturing our spiritual dimension.
For example, here are some of the activities contemplative practitioners, both religious and non-religious, often use:
Loving kindness meditation
Spending time in nature
Reading spiritual literature or sacred scriptures
Attending vigils or gatherings for social justice
Attending synagogues, meditation gathering, churches, or mosques
Why are Contemplative Practices for Everyone?
Contemplative practices can be practiced anywhere, and they are for everyone. Each of us has a mind, body, and emotions, and we all need guidance in nurturing all these aspects of ourselves.
Too often we tend to focus on just one or two aspects. For example, in trying to earn a living and stay on top of life responsibilities, we may over-focus on our bodies.
If we are academics or tend to overthink things, we may over-focus on our minds.
If we have really powerful emotions (which can be both a wonderful and a difficult thing), we may over-focus on our emotions.
It is understandable that we become overly focused on certain aspects of ourselves sometimes. However, focusing too much on one aspect for too long can cause imbalance and suffering.
In addition, we may have been taught to be ashamed of parts of us–like our bodies or our minds or our emotions. When we feel ashamed of a part of our self, we may ignore it, hate it, shut it down, or try to destroy it. Of course, this also causes us pain and suffering.
Contemplative practices can help us understand that all parts of us are good; that they need to be nurtured; that they belong together; and that the healthier they become, the more powerful we become.
This beautiful nature art is courtesy of my friend, Annemarie.
At this point, the benefits of contemplative practice may sound a little abstract, but there are many practical, day to day benefits contemplative practices bring.
How Do Contemplative Practices Help Us?
Contemplative practices can decrease anxiety; improve focus; build compassion and tolerance for ourselves and others; foster creativity; decrease stress; nurture our health; connect us with each other; connect us with something larger than ourselves; deepen our wisdom and understanding; connect us with the Divine (if we believe in the Divine); and help us understand how to work for a better world together. (You can read about this here and here.)
Getting Started with Contemplative Practices
In the coming months, I am going to be developing the Contemplative Practice section of my blog and write posts about different practices.
In the meantime, you might enjoy these posts:
This is also one of my favorite articles on contemplative practices, and you might enjoy it, too:
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