CONTEMPLATION & RUNNINGApril 5th, 2015
~~ CONTEMPLATION .... MINDFULLNESS IN MOTION ~~
The Cambridge Dictionary, hailed as the most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English, defines "contemplation" as "serious and quiet thought for a period of time. It is good to stand at lakeside, and to be lost in contemplation. In prayer time, it is good to spend some time in silent contemplation, and make it a practice eaqch and every morning. Contemplation brings a calmness ... and a peace.
There are manyways to practice contemplation .... Buddhism, Sufism, Anthroposophy, Judiasm and Christianity. Any of these are ways of practicing contemplation, which can be profoundly transformative. As our culture, and in the world in which we live, we live in unprededented times that cause us to live with psychological, spiritual and ethical stresses and pressures ... and they should not be underestimated as they can be immense.
One of the catch phrases that speaks to me, as I practice contemplation, is one that speaks of "mindfulness in motion". As a runner, many of my runs these days, as I run alone, along the Niagara River, or among the trees and on trails that criss-cross the Niagara Enscarpment, seeing the vineyards, apple, pear and peeach orchards on every side of the road, and even in people's back gardens, Saint Catherines is known as the Garden and City .... and right now it is starting to awaken from its winter slumber and new growth can be seen sprouting ... yellow flowers dot a as yet, lifeless lawn, but the birds are singing high in the branches of the trees, and the Canada Geese can be heard high in the sky, and turkey-vultures can be seen gliding on the warm breezes, looking for something to dine on .... all of these and more, the water is back and the canal is ull to the brim and the ships, while still making their way through ice, are once again traversing the great and wonderful canal, the great water highway .... all these are there and lend themselves to mindfulness in motion and a source of contemplation ... assisiting in some serious and quiet thoughtfulness as I run among the things of nature.
Gracious Creator, grant me the discipline to go outdoors,
Help me to see, and appreciate nature's wonders and more.
Help me, Lord, to see the greening of the grass, hear birds who sings,
Help me, Lord, to be mindful, to feel the comfort that nature brings.
Help me Lord, to look at around, smell the roses, flowers on the ground,
To appreciate trees as we breathe together, a new friend to be found.
Help me, Lord, to express what is in my heart, to contemplate hill and dale,
To spend time with you O Creator, in prayer, to breathe deeply as I Inhale.
Of field and meadow, forest, mountain, sun and moon, of rivers, lakes and sea,
Teach me, Lord, how to contemplate it all, teach me to relax, to rest, to just be.
~ the running rev ~
Since retiring, I have had time to read, research, and contemplate something that has been dear to my heart. It is the Art of Contemplation. As you might expect this contemplative reflecting is from a Christian perspective, where contemplation has been practiced for centuries, and most likely since people began to practice what was first known as 'The Way' which ushered in the Christian faith, which is often depicted as a 'journey' or 'pilgrimage'. For me, each run is a journey or pilgrimage. I simply love those long distance runs, by myself, and to which I have added a small camera to capture those moments of comfort and contemplation that nature brings .... and they are often surprising in their beauty causing me to stop more than I did when first starting out as a runner. I have learned, you might say, to stop and smell the roses.
For Christianity, though it has aquired many other meanings in recent history, and perhaps particularly more so in the first decade of the 21st century, the word "contemplation" had a specific meaning for the first 16 centuries of the Christian era. St. Gregory summed up this meaning at the end of the 6th century as 'the knowledge of God that is impregnated with love'. For St. Gregory, contemplation was both a fruit of reflecting on the Word of God in scripture (Bible) and a precious gift of God. Gregory referred to contemplation as "resting in God." See http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/christian-contemplative-tradition
In this "resting" the mind and heart are not so much seeking God, as beginning to experience what they have been seeking. This state is not the state of all activity, but the reduction of many acts and reflections to a single act or thought in order to sustain one's consent to God's presence and action.
Contemplation then, is God;s gift. It cannot be acheived of our own will. It is the opening of the heart and mind, one's whole being, to God. It is inner transformation. It is divine union with the Creator of the universe.
Christian contemplation is different from the sytle of meditations performed in Eastern religions such as Buddhism for example, which suggest approaches that seek to disengage the mind, while Christian Contemplation's aim is the opposite. Christian contemplation's aim is to fill the mind with thoughts related to God as Creator, and other Biblical narratives, which seek to show, not how we seek to know God, but rather how God, the Creator of all things, seeks to know us .... individually and in personal relation. Christian Contemplation seeks to stimulate the mind with thoughts that have a deepened meaning and aims to heighten that personal relationship based, not on our desire to know or love God, but rather, on God's desire to know and love us.
One of those Scripture passages that gives me pause for contemplation ..... for serious and quiet thought is Psalm 139, a text that began its life as a text of Judiasm, adopted and brought into the Christian faith, as Christians sought to understand the relationship of Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, but also believed by Christians to be the God in human flesh .... a thought in itself that ought to fill the mind! Listen to the words of the Psalmist in the first part of Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
As I practice contemplation, practicing mindfullness in motion, I eagerly look forward to the unfolding of everything as nature comes alive and offers many new things for serious and quiet thought. My running friends and Facebook friends in New Brunswick are eagerly awaiting spring and its promise of new life .... which reminds me of Easter and the resurrection of Christ .... opps, my mind is getting in gear, so I'd better stop.
~ the running rev!