Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Contemplation: A Catalyst for Compassion

Courtesy of Google Images

Reaching deep within, observing the slow unfolding of  ego's heavy and awkward garbs that cling fast to Self's inner light, I burrow deeper beneath layers of my consciousness, towards the center. Flooding my sense of awareness is the realization that there is truly no beginning or ending to God. There is no place where He is not. No heart where the spark of His light does not dwell.  He is All. God is in everything and everything is in God. Acts 17:28  "For in him we move and have our being."

Meditation creates within me an increasing empathy for both humans and non humans.  Integrating it into my spiritual disciplines has brought out the light within me that allows the deepest recesses of my consciousness to unfold like a flower, opening up in a capacity of love, compassion and awe for all that is around me that I had never experienced before. I am starting to see God in everyone and feel I am beginning to relate to these words from spiritual leader and writer Eknath Easwaran:
"Whenever you look into another person's eyes, remember that you are looking into a city where the Lord dwells- and remember always that our arms and hands were given to us for others' rescue, not for their ruin."

In some of the dialogue I've had with others there have been individuals from the Christian perspective that bring up the criticism that meditation is a selfish pursuit. That it is focused too much on dwelling on one's self, on one's own personal encounter with God while leaving the rest of the world out of the equation. The argument is that meditation keeps us from actively manifesting the will of God out to others in the world.  I can't help but view this argument as a substantial misconception towards the practice of meditation and one in which history points very clearly to the contrary.  For some of the world's greatest contributors towards peace and the service of others have also been some of the world's greatest mystics. A mystic is one who seeks to encounter God experientially through means of contemplation and meditation.

 Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assissi...and the list goes on and on...all emphasized charity and acts of service to compliment contemplation. In fact, as I mentioned from my personal experience,  moments in meditation often spur on the sense of interconnectedness and a deep feeling of empathy and compassion for others. This is a common experience for one who meditates. From a Christian perspective,  we are "filled with God" to overflowing so that His love, His compassion, His Kingdom, might overflow through us into the world, through acts of service and love.

St. Teresa of Avila, one of the world's greatest Christian mystics, was also an active advocate of service towards others. She sought to inspire people to spread Christ's love and compassion throughout the world. She didn't see it as an option but a calling for all of those in the body of Christ.

You Are Christ's Hands

"Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now."

St. Augustine of Hippo viewed both the spiritual discipline of meditation and service towards others as essential in the life of a Christian.  "No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God."

If ever, in these modern times, one was to give proof of contemplation's role in being a catalyst for the involvement of  charitable pursuits and social justice, it would be through the Quakers, one of the most contemplative sects branching off from Christianity.  Quaker meetings, or services, are held in complete contemplative meditative silence. This relatively small religious organization has allowed the impressions of universal empathy and compassion that they have received deep within them through meditation to become catalysts for helping make this world a better place.
Quakers formed the backbone of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War,  risking life and limb to bring thousands of slaves to freedom. Quakers, like Susan B. Anthony, rose their voices against the oppression of women in the women's suffrage movement which lead to the confirmation of women's rights in this country. They have worked hard for prison reform and have time and time again stood as  conscientious objectors towards war, advocating peace,  realizing that violence only breeds more violence.  Far from hiding themselves from the world and being driven by a sense of narcissistic ego to dwell upon their individual selves and merely pursue states of spiritual ecstasy, Quakers have plunged boldly into some of the darkest corners of society unabashedly allowing light to blossom.

Eknath Easwaran, in his book Original Goodness, brings up the truth that we cannot bring effective change towards peace, social justice and the cessation of the suffering of others without bringing change within ourselves first. When we do begin, through the means of meditation, to lose our selfish desires and attachments towards superficial and earthly things we begin to put others first more and more, not because we feel we have to, but because we truly feel led to. And love begets love. When we experience more love within ourselves and express it outwards, others catch quite readily onto it, becoming inspired themselves. Love and positivity are contagious.

" As our desire to draw closer to the Lord within us deepens, it draws self-centered desires into it like tributaries into a great river. The power of that love swells until it becomes cataclysmic; we begin to inspire other people through the transformation we have wrought in ourselves." ~Eknath Easwaran

It is my belief that contrary to some of the criticisms towards contemplative prayer and meditation, in that they keep the believer from manifesting God's Kingdom out to the world, that these practices actually lead the believer into experiential contact with the Kingdom within, creating a reaction in which the impulses to love and perform acts of love are irresistible. Mystics from all traditions, like Gandhi and Mother Theresa have all mentioned that love and service begin at home. Easwaran furthers that in the quote above by pointing to the truth that it ultimately begins within ourselves and spreads outwards.  Meditation is a beautiful and transforming tool to help prepare and aid us in acts of charity and service.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the Comments section. Thank you!


  1. Hello.
    Very interesting & enlightening post.
    I agree love & positiveness are very much contagious.
    Thanks for sharing & visiting. Your comment is appreciated.

    For ref:
    Eleven Roses And You

  2. Yes, I say meditate away! Teresa de Avila was an incredibly spiritual, woman who was passionate about life and contemplation. Meditate naysayers, be quiet :-)

  3. I love your definition of "mystic" and pointing out the misconception toward meditation. Meditation often clears the way for others. Sure, it takes some time alone to look at oneself and soak up the silence and the immediate world, but I've rarely gotten up from a meditation practice without feeling a bit more helpful than I did before. It provides perspective on life.

  4. Andy , thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts :)

  5. Thank you Pam! Yes, mystics like St. Teresa, are very inspiring. I love reading their works. Thank you for your thoughts :)

  6. JR, "It provides perspective on life." It sure does! And I can identify with seeing definite benefits after meditating as well. Feeling more at peace, more compassionate, more patient. I see the time it takes to meditate as an investment towards cultivating a greater awareness of God and allowing that to help renew and strengthen me so that I can approach situations with more mindfulness and love.

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  7. A beautiful post Jessica..And I have always been a great believer and follower of Gandhi and Mother Teresa.
    A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
    Mohandas Gandhi

  8. This is a truly wonderful and profound reflection Jessica.

    I was struck by the words you used: Contemplation - catalyst - compassion. While digging deep into this, the Spirit led me to this ~ Con-templ-atio (to be with someone inside the Temple) and Com-pati (To 'suffer' with). In both situations, one is not concentrated on himself/herself. There is always the 'presence' of the 'other'.

    I do believe that the love one experiences from that upward relationship(God)is also the fire that fuels and diffuses love sideways (towards our neighbors). Love cannot be kept for ourselves. It always seeks the good of other people.

    Thank you for sharing concrete examples to this post. I heard of the Quakers from you. Ghandi and Mother Teresa's lives speak loudly of what they believe in.

    This book on Original Goodness is bringing you further into deep contemplation :)...loved it.

  9. Beautifully expressed, as always, Jessica!
    And, yes, we must spend reflective time with our God in order to do His will, to be His hands and feet in this broken and hurting world. Those who scoff at meditation and contemplative prayer, I believe, have never tried them and are speaking/criticizing out of their lack of understanding.
    Before I undertake writing a devotion, I must read the scriptures appointed for the day, allow God to let one speak to me personally, then ruminate upon that verse until creativity pulses in. That's become my way of "meditation" and it has certainly brought me closer to the Father and opened my eyes to the needs of others in this world.
    May God continue to bless and keep you!

  10. Meditation to me was something i would fight with... literally until I went for Vipassana and it change my attitude completely.
    It has taught me to be patient with my mind and to gently give it the permission to pause now and again...
    A very positive post Jessica. Thank you

  11. Jessica - I agree with you completely - all the great saints of the past and of our times too were contemplative...I cannot help but quote Thomas Merton here: “All Christian life is meant to be at the same time profoundly contemplative and rich in active work… It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives. In doing this, we act as co-workers with God. We take our place in the great work of mankind, since in effect the creation of our own destiny, in God, is impossible in pure isolation. Each one of us works out his own destiny in inseparable union with all those others with whom God has willed us to live. We share with one another the creative work of living in the world. And it is through our struggle with material reality, with nature, that we help one another create at the same time our own destiny and a new world for our descendants.” - From Love and Living

  12. Loved this post of yours Jessica.There are many ways to search for god and everyone has their own individual way of doing so, as long as we find him by whatever means

  13. Alpana, thank you for stopping by. I loved the Gandhi quote you shared :)

  14. Melissa,

    "I do believe that the love one experiences from that upward relationship(God)is also the fire that fuels and diffuses love sideways (towards our neighbors). Love cannot be kept for ourselves. It always seeks the good of other people."

    I couldn't have said it better! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I always love hearing your reflections. :)

  15. Martha, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experiences. God's inspiration that you receive in your meditative moments on scripture shines through in your morning devotions. I always enjoy reading them :)

  16. "No man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due his neighbor; nor has any man a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God."
    Your qoute of Augustine sums it all up very well.
    Those who neglect one side of the coin in deference to the other have forgotten that word that Elton Trueblood called "the holy conjunction," the word, "and."

  17. I still battle to meditate. I cannot mediate for longer than 5 minutes. It is something that I have to work on. Thank you for sharing this, Jessica!

  18. Savira, thank you..I'm really glad you enjoyed the post and found it positive :) Thank you for sharing your experiences with Vipassana meditation, I have really been inspired by that form myself :)

  19. Corinne, great Merton quote...thanks so much! I always appreciate you stopping by :)

  20. Rimly, so true. The paths are many, all that is required is a sincere and seeking heart :) Let's all thirst for the divine and be refreshed in His living waters.

  21. Michael ,
    Thank you so much for stopping by. I loved what you had to share regarding what Elton Trublood and the "holy conjuction". ~many blessings

  22. Nelieta...meditation is never easy! ;) The great thing is, is there's so many different contemplative paths that one can take, that compliment different personalities. Like mindfulness walking, the saying of a mantram or chanting, journaling...If you're interested in checking out some of the many different ways of cultivating an inner awareness of God within, check out the diagram on this post :)


    ~many blessings

  23. You know I believe in meditation. :)

  24. Amen sister! Well said. We have the mystics of old, the contemporary saints, and our own lights to shine in this dark, dark world.
    Below are the words of Mother Teresa, put to music. Be blessed.

  25. Rachel, I definitely do! Thanks for stopping by :)

  26. If meditation is "selfish," then God is counseling selfishness when he commands Joshua to meditate on the Law of Moses -- and so is the psalmist in Psalm 119. Meditation brings us into contemplation, which is the state in which we soak ourselves in God himself. Since God is an other-oriented being, we become other-oriented ourselves. Activists like me need to practice the disciplines of meditation and contemplation. To put it in another way: The more I grow in my activism, the more I must be a contemplative. Activism without contemplation is like a baby in a womb without an umbilical chord.