I can explain to you what I know about contemplative practice that comes from the Cistercian spirituality of the monks and nuns from the year c.1090 AD in ninety seconds. However, it takes more than a lifetime to know, love, and serve God using that interior approach to loving others as Christ loved us.
This is a contemplative way of thinking, of acting, of loving, of praying which stresses seeking God internally in silence and solitude, using prayer and work, but always in the context of the gathering of community.
Erich Fromm, in his book, The Art of Loving, makes the case that love is not a natural product of being human but must be learned by doing. He goes on to suggest that there is authentic love and unauthentic love and that we must work to cultivate this most precious of human qualities.
I have tried to encapsulate a definition of contemplative practice as I know it to be from the Lay Cistercians, only to realize I can’t fit anything into such a tiny hole. All I can do is describe it as I know it today.
MY REFLECTIONS ON THE LAY CISTERCIAN WAY
The Center for Contemplative Practice uses Cistercian spiritual tools and techniques to enter the place where no one wants to go — the inner self. The Art of Contemplative Practice is a mindset that chooses to see reality in three’s: the physical universe, the mental universe, and the spiritual universe. This is the divine equation that enables humans to use science, philosophy, religion, and spirituality to ask and answer the six questions each person must resolve to move from dissonance to resonance in life:
What is the purpose of life?
What is the purpose of my life within that purpose?
What does reality look like?
How does it all fit together?
What does it mean to love fiercely?
You know you are going to die, now what?
It is only with the spiritual universe that these six questions may be answered, the divine equation. The spiritual universe is available to all but requires a choice to enter. The answers to these questions come from God and are the opposite of what the world says is important. The physical and mental universes ask the questions but the spiritual universe provides the answers, but ones you might not expect. Not everyone gets this divine equation correct. The measuring stick for truth lies outside human reasoning to encompass the ontic possibility of the manifest ability of all beings. Access to this truth is free to everyone but requires the key. This key is the Christ Principle, that from which and into which all reality emanates, the God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Human reasoning cannot unlock what cannot be conceived. Faith informed by reason allows humans to die to self in order to discover the Mysteries of Faith while one earth and so pack for the journey to tomorrow.