"Sometimes I think we don't want to ask any real questions about who we are for fear of discovering there is some other reality than this one. What would this discovery make of how we have lived? How would our friends and colleagues react to what we know now or what we now know? What would we do with the new knowledge? If knowledge comes responsibility. Sometimes even when the cell door is flung open the prisoner chooses not to escape."  001
. The process of contemplation can be defined as that understanding of existence which takes one beyond the limitations of the mind and the narrow range of life experiences. This is to develop an understanding of existence beyond a definite context in which one lives in which nothing is permanent, everything changes. This is a very different understanding from the mental frame that forms modern society, and which has had a very profound effect on the human psyche. This is also a very different understanding of the nature of the Self and of reality. 002.
There are other reasons why one might shy away from the question of contemplation and simply move into "the life of the professional" without questioning. Every time I venture to discuss the subject of a contemplation, I am struck by how hard it is to find in modern culture any example - or permission - to imagine the self as in any way different than the self-created for our working life. It seems that we have no framework in which to comprehend life as a contemplative interval
. The simple mention of a life of contemplation that does not involve work is copiously laughed at. It is as if labour
are seen as the natural condition of the human being, and any mention of humans taking the time for deliberate contemplation is being seen as utopian. 003.
Yet, it was thousands of years ago that Aristotle that said that the purpose of action is contemplation.
In Book X
, of The Nicomachean Ethics
, Aristotle ultimately concludes that contemplation is the highest human activity. In discussing the various intellectual virtues, Aristotle extols wisdom as the highest, since it deals only with unchanging, universal truths and rests on a synthesis of scientific investigation and the intuitive understanding of the first principles of nature. The activity of wisdom is contemplation, so contemplation must be the highest activity of human life.
We need not think of the good life as consisting of pleasure or honor, but as having a certain kind of joy or well-being. Humanity keeps forgetting its own early lessons and this s probably the unhealthiest characteristic of our civilization in the 21st century that we ignore, and many times repress, the reality of who truly are and where we come from. 004.
The fear of contemplation is the fear of self-reflection. The fear of reaching the nature of one's mind and maybe not liking what one finds there. The fear of introspection. The fear of insight and self-examination. And this fear is also related to the fact that in most of our civilization contemplation has been a matter of private meditation on a religious subject. If you wanted to take a spiritual path, you had to learn how to contemplate the nature of your own being, and your own mind, and what that process was like. Or else you had to go somewhere else and find some other way to learn about it. 005.
The fear of recognizing that, despite the long period of work on oneself, one has not gotten that far yet. The fear of finding that the needs and desires have not changed, but one's ideals, which one has invested so much of himself in, have not yet come to pass. The fear of finding that one has spent a lot of time on oneself, not on others. The fear of encountering something in the self that does not coincide with the ideal of the self, the ideal of what one wants to see and feel, not necessarily what is. The fear of discovery that
what is still unreal, impossible. The fear of what this "uncertainty" might be. 006.
Therefore, the fear of contemplation relates to the notion that a spiritual path must have its foundation in a connection between oneself and a higher power. The notion that contemplation is usually very intense and deeply inward-directed, but once again never ends in self-understanding, and self-understanding is what the whole process is about. So the fear of contemplation has nothing to do with the notion of finding meaning, and meaning can arise in the course of such a process without the fear of contemplation at all. 007.
This fear of the unknown is the source of almost all the anxieties, insecurities, obsessions, and desires which I have discovered over the years, in my life of contemplation. Some of these fears I have just named, but the most powerful of them all is the awareness that we do not know what will happen, which results from the awareness of the transcendence of the present moment. 008
. From this recognition comes the urge to "take charge" of the moment and make it "my own", as if one could go back to the moment before it ended and change it. This is the impetus that propels one toward the becoming of a Life. 009.
This apprehension is connected to the idea that insight is a very risky business, and so one is not supposed to risk finding it, because then you are left in total darkness, in darkness beyond darkness. Contemplation is thus associated with the dread of entering that dark passage. 010.
Societally, the fear of contemplation creates a superstructure of thinking and actions that propagate this idea that what we do - in the modern civilization, in our day-to-day existence - is trying to avoid anything that is considered a spiritual subject
. We are not supposed to think about it, think about what we are doing here, think about our own existence, think about existence in general. THE CONTEMPLATIVE INTERVAL 011
. Contemplation is the activity of conceiving ideas about how we ought to live. Many philosophers have debated whether a life of pleasure or happiness is the best life for humans. It is possible to reconcile happiness with virtue; the goal of the good life can be both to live a life of pleasure and to live a life of righteousness. 012.
The hallmark of the artist, the designer, the entrepreneur, or the visionary is action, the making of something tangible. Contemplation is indeed both supremely practical and elevating, not only because it leads one out of the endless loops of habit and convenience that form the basis of human behavior, but also because it provides the best means of escaping the isolation that isolation entails. 013.
Solitude, on the other hand, only allows recognition of others as aggregates and, conversely, accord allows a person to see the individual as such, no matter how much he or she sees all individuals as a single being. Solitude leads to merely what is common, and accord makes each individual unique. Solitude, as Aristotle says, "is loss of pleasure, the loss of that without which one's happiness is impossible." In contrast, recognition, on the contrary, "increases the pleasure and likewise increases the happiness of which it is the cause." 014.
The mere mention of a life of contemplation clashes with the construction of the self as the "working individual" or the "professional self" which is after all just a creation of the Ego. How can one simultaneously envision a life of contemplation and a life of creative professional achievement? I suggest that one must be conscious of the contradiction as one moves between the two states of mind, specifically from "work" into the "life of contemplation". To do something, to know, requires that one starts from within and from the inward (inner) place to grasp what is beyond and not limited by the physical world. This is a step towards life, and not from the "life" of what is "experienced" or the "pursuit of life". An understanding of the word contemplation is thus a recognition that one does not move "through" or toward the inner, but from within the inner to discover the nature of existence. 015.
With the awareness of the transcendence of the present moment, comes the awareness that one is "not there" anymore, and thus the awareness of a future that cannot be changed. The awareness of a transcendent future is an unsatisfactory awareness because it only carries a momentary immediacy, and one knows one is caught in a reality that is already being shaped. Because we are present as we are, there is no contradiction, no force which separates us from the truth. The Ego is wrong to create such illusions as the idea that the future is unknowable, or the idea that there is no transcendence of the mind or Ego. PERCEPTION, PERSPECTIVE AND THE NATURE OF MIND 016
. At the root of the apprehension toward contemplation is the anxiety of looking at your own beliefs, your own reasons, and you having to face the fact that they're probably not worthy or righteous ones. That if we take a serious look at our doubts and the reasons for our doubt, we may have to abandon them and may have to rethink who you are from the ground up, you may have to un-learn and re-educate yourself. Rethinking and reframing one's existence is part of the whole process of spiritual development. 017.
What would we do if we understand the world from this new perspective? Everything we have made and thought all these years are just a road map leading us to the destination. In the end we will see that we can only manifest the material of the consciousness. 018.
Not everything you know is material. There is a spiritual reality. The material is the tool. When you know that it is the tool and not some external reality, you feel the presence of something more. At the end of a journey, you stand there saying, I understand why I am here. What I know has changed my life.
What we perceive is not material. It is a different plane of existence, and when we understand this, we will look at it with a new perspective. 019.
The difficulty is that we are so busy trying to cope with the materiality of the mind that we forget what the true objective is. We are trying to take in and absorb as much as possible in order to get by. This belief comes from a learned behavior because the mind assumes certain things and that automatically implies that these things are real. If I talk, I think that I exist. If I am told about me, then I know that I exist. If somebody sees me then they think I exist. This means that they think that there is a self that exists. The mind is operating on the same assumption. This means that you have been conditioned to operate on a different level, and the ideas are accepted as true. 020.
If you go too far in the direction of contemplation, into it, this is where there is no sense of time. There is no sense of place. There is only a sense of eternity.
 Songyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Harper Collins 1994 . p
 Aristotle. The Nicomachean Ethics. Translated by David Ross. Oxford University Press. 2009. pp.183-203
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