Winter serves as a magnificent time to look through a deeper, more contemplative lens and delve into the inner meanings of our lives. The work world quiets a bit and the undercurrents of life surface. The cold, the snow, the bleak cycle of nature’s demise help us raise the existential questions: Why am I here? Does my life have a larger purpose? Why this universe, this time and place? We all need some sense of deeper meaning to sustain our lives. Deep down we all ask these questions no matter what our faith presupposes. Contemplative time in our lives gives us a chance to reflect upon the larger meaning of our life journeys, so often taken up with mundane lists of things to do.
The writers, poets, theologians and artists I have enjoyed have all accessed this inner life. The writer, Robert Walser wrote: “Upon the edge of the rock he sits and lets his soul fly out and down through the shining holy silent.” It takes the time of reflection to get to that deeper place — or as Walser calls it, “the shining holy silent.” One way to start developing a contemplative practice would be through reading writers who delve into these larger questions. They teach us to see anew, how to reach our own cores. Stephen Hawkings tells us: “It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.” Anais Nin teaches us: “I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.”
Another path to contemplative time is finding a daily spiritual practice anything as simple as a walk through the forest my own practice to time for meditation, reflection, yoga, tai chi or a jog. Robinson Jeffers summons us into such meditation and connection with the physical world: “ Love your eyes that you can see, your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.” And one of my great spiritual teachers, Abraham Joshua Heschel also celebrates a spiritual practice which hinges on seeing: “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
There are other “ways in” to a contemplative moment. Pablo Picasso tells us: “ The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Take a very slow, reflective walk at a Museum Gallery and allow the great artists El Greco, Goya, Matisse, Renoir, Kandinsky, and Gauguin to tap your soul. Great artists have always delved deep and used their color, vision and own artistic intuition for reflection.
Diverse theaters also tap the soul. Most cities offer engaging performances of everything from Ibsen to Sondheim. Playwrights reach into our souls in provocative ways and stir things up for deeper reflection. If you enjoy music as much as I do, perhaps you will take time to reflect on a Bach cello etude or a mystic Scriabin prelude, jazz fusion or an evening of modern dance performances, symphony or a chamber performance. If you play an instrument, take time to use it as a vehicle for renewal. While we are listening our deeper psyche takes us to places beyond our knowing. Such is contemplation. The deepest places of our life needs to be nurtured in the same way that our extraordinary dreams gives us sustenance within our daily ordinary lives.
Daily spiritual practice and the arts help us to tap our souls, give us hope in the human spirit and connects us with the human family and all creation. Most of all the arts and spiritual life help us connect with ourselves as we continue our life journey, hopefully with an open face and a sense of well-being deep within.
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