Why Bother To Contemplate?

Why Bother To Contemplate?

My personality does not lend itself to sitting still. Though I am enthralled by nature and its beauty, you won’t find me lingering too long in its loveliness, instead, I move through it. Sometimes the colors of a sunset are astounding, a moon rise incredible and misty mornings mesmerizing. But I don’t stop and stare too long at the scene. I am too busy. I can say though, I am getting better at noticing, pausing, and appreciating the beauty presented in front of me and when I do, I am rewarded. 

Pressing Pause

It is difficult not to notice the loveliness of where I live. I am surrounded by mountains, trees, plenty of unobstructed sky and animal life. Commuting to or from work, my eyes often scan the panoramic view of the lake or gaze up into the sky to spot an eagle. Yet, to really drink in, fill up and find nourishment from nature and its beauty I have to begin with my eyes closed. 

Some years ago, I was dissatisfied with my way of praying. It was as though I was speaking into dead space. I wanted answers, but Nobody was giving me any. When my prayers left my lips, my heart still felt burdened. In essence, I was having one way conversations with myself and unable to give myself any solutions. 

Then, a friend invited me to a contemplative retreat at a monastery and I accepted. I did not know anything about monasteries or contemplation, yet her invitation resonated with my need and I went. Contemplative prayer is not the same as navel gazing, nor is it the impossible practice of emptying one’s mind of all thoughts. The simplest form of contemplation is to be still and know that God is God. It may seem simple, but give it a try and you will find it hard. Just when you settle into sitting still, you will think of the things you should be doing. Just when you think that God is God, you begin rehearsing the conversation you think you need to have with someone. To be still, to know beyond any doubts God is God is not something that comes natural to any of us. But when we practice, we are rewarded. We become a little more tuned into receiving. 

When I begin my day with my eyes closed sitting still even briefly, while reminding myself that God is God, then I can drink in, fill up, receive, appreciate, and accept the beauty surrounding me. 

Why bother to contemplate? It is worth taking a few moments everyday to remind ourselves that we are not in charge. When we do, our load leaves us and we are open to the beauty around us. 

Why Bother Being Receptive?

Why Bother Being Receptive?

It has been said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but sometimes, it is  difficult to be the recipient of  a blessing. Accepting a gift, a compliment or a favor tends to make us feel uncomfortable, indebted or undeserving. Yet, accepting acts of kindness, good words from others or an unexpected gift with graciousness is to bless the one who gives it.

        Open Hands Open Heart

I am not sure where the tradition began, but I was taught to never return an empty dish to its owner. For example, while growing up, it was not uncommon for a neighbor to leave a bowl of berries or green beans from their garden on our front porch. When returning their container to them, it was customary to fill it back up with something. Homemade banana bread, cookies or even a bag of chocolates fulfilled the unspoken expectation of returning the dish properly to its owner.  To give it back empty would have been uncouth. 

On the other hand, to receive with an open heart and open hands, without wondering what to give back in return, is a new, ongoing, and necessary practice for me. Accepting a gift from the giver with a simple thank you does not seem quite enough. Yet, if I feel indebted to return to the giver something of equal or greater value than what they gave me, then am I receptive to their blessing?

When my mother-in-law passed away last winter, a coworker gave me a hug, a beautiful flowering plant and a sympathy card. What would it have looked like if I had taken out my billfold to pay her for her act of kindness? I believe she would have been offended. To receive is to accept. To accept is to be grateful. Being grateful, I believe, is the blessing we give to those who are giving. 

I often compliment a friend of mine for her courage and stamina. She has endured more physical and mental trials in her life than anyone I know. At first she doubted my words, ignoring them as though they were not true. Being complimented was foreign to her, accepting words of affirmation was even harder. But I did not give up on giving and now, she has become receptive. My heart is blessed when she responds with a grateful and genuine, “thank you.” 

I cannot keep score of the many times I’ve been aided by friends and frankly, I do not want to keep score. Being receptive to someone’s goodness and kindness does not entail keeping a running tab. Being receptive means accepting with a grateful heart and open hands.

Why bother being receptive? It is worth it to practice accepting. Being grateful is the blessing we give to those who are giving. To try and repay a blessing would be no blessing at all.