By Brother Richard Simonelli
Order of Sarada in America
As a contemplative who interacts with ordinary worldly life, I’ve noticed what interferes with or blocks my contemplative spirit. I fell like I’m riding a very spirited horse, frisky enough to throw me over and over again. But she’s not a mean-spirited horse. After I’m thrown out of contemplation, the horse is usually waiting quietly for me to mount once again. I gradually begin to notice what can throw me.
Distraction is the first challenge to contemplation that I notice. Distraction means that the focus of my faith gets pushed aside by the speed and intensity of the world, or even by my own thoughts and emotions. The strong, simple sense of presence gets diverted by other calls on my attention.
Occupation is yet another challenge to contemplation. Occupation means that my inner
life is taken over or occupied by concerns other than contemplation. I may be occupied by work-related issues, or by media reports of suffering and war. The many forms of occupation have one thing in common: I am taken over and lose the simple focus that brings joy, love, peace and clarity
Drama is a third impediment to the contemplative life. When I let drama enter my psyche, I feel taken over by a kind of excitement that obscures the deep flow of contemplation. In drama, the mind and heart become possessed by a story line. It might be the drama of a personal relationship, or of personal issues. In any case, a dramatic mindset takes me away from the simple truth of contemplation.
Intrigue often does the same thing. An inner condition of intrigue is full of cunning schemes to accomplish one thing or another. When intrigue blocks the state of contemplation life becomes devious and labyrinthine. The quality of simplicity is lost. In a mindset of intrigue deception and trickery are present.
Indulging the brilliant mind is also a detour to contemplation. In this case we get lost in the thinking process even though it is sharp and brilliant. We get diverted by an endless stream of thoughts, even though they are good and perhaps even productive thoughts. The contemplative then finds the self always thinking. Where, then, is the quality of contemplation?
The passionate heart is also another challenge to a life of true contemplation. The passionate heart is occupied with intense emotions or feelings. One passion after another pulls us in contradictory directions, leaving the one-pointed quality of contemplation nowhere to be found.
Now, it’s not that we should not have brilliant minds or passionate hearts, but they can be so seductive that they replace the single-mindedness of contemplation with an endless rush of thoughts and feelings. They must be used in service to our deepest faith and not become a faith in and of themselves.
These six diversions are not insurmountable problems for those committed to contemplation. In fact, awareness of any one of these six conditions can be a sign of the contemplative’s diligence. Rather than seeing these lapses as problems or enemies, they can be seen as reminders and messages. When this happens, these diversions will be taken in stride, contributing tour living peace. Contemplation is a commitment to simplicity. It is a stabilizing influence needed more than ever in busy, turbulent times. We need to become better, more alert riders of our inner horse of spirit and awareness.