Words have a peculiar and multifaceted function. They are meant to be useful for us to both process our thoughts, and to communicate them with others. Words are fluid; always changing, evolving and their meanings substantiate within our minds across a spectrum of perception as wide and deep as humanity’s lineage from the past into our future.
As a word becomes more widely used it inevitably has connotations attached, and if we are not aware of how words change we may say things believing we mean one thing, while the world hears something very different. We attempt to define words with our dictionaries; however, the words we use to define them are as flexibly shifting (and subject to individual perceptions) as the word we are attempting to define. This is one of the great challenges in being assured we have a complete purity of communication with others: we can only define words by using other words, which themselves require definitions to be fully understood.
The word “practice” for example, might inspire the thought of an athlete who spends a particular amount of time working to improve a particular skill and become a master-level in their sport. Or when we say that a doctor practices medicine, what we mean is there is a person we call a doctor who practices the art of healing in order to see people who are ill made well.
What would the word practice mean in the sense of practicing life?
It is not as though at one moment we are practicing life and then we take a break. We are always a practitioner of life. The practice of life, I think, is what is also meant by the idea of living life to the fullest.
We can investigate our life, examining our beliefs and perspectives to gain a deeper understanding of who we are and how we are related with the world around us. We can widen our gaze of wonder and seek to learn as much as possible from this gift of life we have all received. We can practice living with the qualities of peace, compassion, generosity, understanding, empathy, freedom and kindness that we might continuously uncover the beauty of what it means to be alive.
My practice for for being in awareness of the qualities listed above is what I call contemplation.
Contemplation, and I use this word in the deepest sense possible, is the practice of deeply considering thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and concepts which shape our view of who we are and how we live and experience life with one another.
The ultimate goal of contemplation is to see beyond thoughts themselves.
Beliefs we hold tightly act as tunnels. When we have accepted a particular idea as absolute truth – an absolute belief – our vision can become that of tunnel vision and other beliefs that are not included in our tunnel are seen as threats and dangerous. We see our own tunnel as the one that has light and the others as dark; thus closing ourselves off to the light of the world outside the tunnel we have embraced and resigned ourselves to comfort.
Contemplation is meant to bring us out the tunnels we have created with our thoughts that we might see that in reality, there are no tunnels.
To practice contemplation is to see beyond the connotations and definitions of words as though they are complete and concrete. The connotations that words have are perhaps as widespread as there are people who use them. And so the investigation into the meanings of words is one that never truly reaches completion but is a mechanism for deepening relationships with one another through contemplative discussion.
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Contemplation is a practice of finding contentment in a place beyond words, ideas, and beliefs. It is the ultimate letting go of our attachments that confine us within limited perspectives of reality.