5 min read

Prompt 41: Contemplate

Contemplation is a part of every spiritual tradition and philosophical school of thought - so why do we let it become crowded out in our busy lives?
Prompt 41: Contemplate
Photo by Christian Kielberg / Unsplash

When I first began reflecting upon the idea of a 'find your spark' project I came up with 'Four C's' of finding your spark:

  1. Chasing our Curiosities
  2. Engaging in Creative pursuits
  3. Making and developing Connections with others
  4. Making a Contribution to the benefit of others or the greater good

I came up with this little list as a result of reflecting upon where I'd previously found my spark - but I wasn't sure if they were universal or just for me.

So with the help of my friend Kelly, we started a Facebook Group to test the theory with a little experiment.

Photo by Alex Kondratiev / Unsplash

We invited our friends and their friends (200 or so people) to join in a month-long challenge where we asked participants to reflect each day on the question:

What gave me energy today?

Each participant committed to putting aside a few minutes at the end of their day to ponder that question and to note down anything that energised them - then they shared it in the group.

Our hope was that we'd begin to see some patterns in what made sparks fly for people.

At the end of the month, our four c's were confirmed - but there was also a 5th!

Participants in the challenge reported that putting aside a few minutes to 'contemplate' and 'reflect' upon their day seemed to energise them.

Here's what one participant shared with me (shared with their permission):

"Darren, I just wanted to thank you for this month of contemplation.

Taking your simple question, 'what gave me energy today' was a game changer.

Putting aside five minutes at the end of each day helped me notice so much about my life that had previously passed me by because I never took the time to look for it.

I noticed things about my family, my neighbourhood and myself that I'd never have discovered without the simple practice of stopping and paying attention.

My only regret is that I had not developed this practice years ago!"

The 5th C became 'Contemplation'.

Life Tends to Crowd out Contemplation

This week life got really busy at our place.

A woman uses smartphone while sitting with children, working mom
Photo by Vitolda Klein / Unsplash

Summer school holidays ended, and our three boys went back to school - and while that means a quieter work day for me, all of their extracurricular activities have started up again.

Dad and Mum's taxi service has gone into hyperdrive.

When life gets busy, it's easy to let things that we know are important slip.

One of the things that I find hardest in busy periods is putting aside a little time to be silent, still, and to contemplate.

Contemplation gets crowded out - and I know I suffer as a result. As the participant in our past project shared with me - so much tends to pass us by if we are not intentional about looking for it.

There's a reason contemplation has been a part of every spiritual tradition and is a part of all philosophical schools of thought.

So, this week's prompt is a timely reminder for me - but I hope it is for you also.

Chase Contemplation

Solitude over the lake
Photo by Joshua Earle / Unsplash

Contemplation comes in many shapes and sizes, and what works for me may not work for you.

In fact, what worked for me ten years ago doesn't work for me today! We must adapt our approach to finding what works for our life stage.

The key is to be intentional about it, as it tends not to happen unless we put aside time.

β€œA person* must find time for themselves.

Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful, we find others spending it for us. . . .

It is necessary now and then for a person to go away by themself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of themselves, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?' .
If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one's timeβ€”the stuff of life.”

― Carl Sandburg (edited for inclusiveness)

What Works for Me

I'm someone who needs a little structure to my contemplation. That's why a question like 'what gave me energy today' is often a good starting point for me.

I also find that recording my contemplations in some way is helpful - so journalling has typically been a part of my practice.

If you use this image, we’d appreciate a link back to our website www.quotecatalog.com.
Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

For me, spiritual practices have also been important. Prayer and meeting regularly with a small group of friends to discuss ideas of faith and spirituality have been part of my contemplative journey.

More recently, Yoga has been a good chance to look after my physical health and make some space for meditation and contemplation.

I'm also someone who finds that getting input from others can be helpful in sparking rich veins of contemplation. So I try to read or listen to meaningful books, poetry, podcasts, music that inspire me, etc.

Woman reading a book with tea and flowers.
Photo by Thought Catalog / Unsplash

This year I've also found that writing a weekly prompt has been a wonderful way to contemplate. I've found the rhythm of choosing a theme for each week, reading about it, and then reflecting upon how I will write about it a very contemplative exercise.

"What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action."

― Meister Eckhart

What Works for You?

These are some of the ways I've built contemplation into my life - but I'd love to hear what practices you find meaningful and helpful.

Perhaps it's:

  • Going for a walk
  • Reading or writing poetry
  • Reading or listening to a book (or podcast)
  • Spending time in nature
  • Reading and reflecting upon a spiritual text
  • Listening to music
  • Creating something or appreciating what others have created
  • Taking time to sit still in silence
  • Breathing exercises
  • Doing a gratitude journal
  • Intentional remembering
  • Meeting with a counsellor, spiritual director, coach or mentor

Or maybe it's following along with a crazy Aussie on his year of prompts! Every prompt this year is my attempt to give us all something to contemplate.

The list could go on.

If you'd like to add yours, please do so in the comments below so we can all learn from one another.

"The Contemplation of beauty causes the soul to grow wings."

― Plato