Although I try mightily, I am constantly tempted to stop any attempts at contemplation. This is like a runner who must find a mental challenge, as well as the physical one of running the distance. In one of my Lectio Divina meditations, I found myself thinking about why it is so difficult to focus on being in the presence of God. I think the reason has to do with original sin, the condition in which all humans find themselves. Spirituality is the act of raising us up beyond this natural default of our nature, to attempt to think about invisible reality. Spirituality, much less contemplation, is not natural. It takes work, it demands focus, it requires energy, and not the energy you get from working out at the gym. I think of that when I am driving the five hours (one way) from Tallahassee, Florida to Conyers, Georgia, once a month. My wife keeps haranging me that I don’t need to travel to the Lay Cistercian Gathering Day at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery. I can pray anywhere. Why waste money we don’t have (actually we do). This is taking up the cross DAILY to follow Christ, being tempted that all this God stuff is irrelevant.  Even when trying to move from self to God by using the Lectio Divina method, contemplation is always with its temptations to do something that is profitable, that will make a difference, that won’t take so much wasted time. Contemplation is an illusive treasure and demands my full attention.

Contemplation, in a manner of speaking, is like a diet. Your physician tells you that you need to lose weight. Now comes the hard part. What diet will you choose, or, if the physician gives you one, will you take it seriously? Based on my own feeble attempts to diet, here are some observations of how a diet that applies to contemplation.

  1. I won’t diet unless my reasons for doing it outweigh my reason for not doing it (laziness). Cancer, cardiac arrest, and diabetes are three good reasons for me that outweigh not doing it, and even then, I am tempted to take the low road.
  2. No one should diet by themselves. They need the support from community, family and friends.
  3. I will be tempted, almost every minute, to abandon my goal and eat the forbidden fruit. Makes you sympathetic with Adam and Eve, don’t you think? Doing contemplation is just like that. There is no winning the prize without struggle and practice/failure/practice.
  4. The prize is worth the time you take to master it. Ask anyone who has lost weight and not gained it back; ask anyone who has even come close to catching a glimpse of the love of Christ through contemplation, and they will tell you.
  5. Failure is not a waste of time, when you try so hard. What is real failure is losing your will to diet and giving up totally. Because we exists in a condition of original sin (we have to struggle to do what is right), contemplation is not automatic. It takes work, time, and acceptance of our human frailties.
  6. There are many diets out there, all claiming to be “the one” to save you and help you lose weight. They probably all work. There are many practices out there to help you reach your purpose in life, contemplation being only one of them. To do diets and contemplation justice, you need to perform them consistently and persistently.
  7. . Diets are only tools to help you reach your goal. So too, contemplation is only a methodology to place you in a frame of mind to meet the source of all peace, joy and love. The end is not contemplation but being one with the One.


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