When You Pause

The Big Meadow, Laguna Mountains, San Diego County, where we camped this August.

In the labors and burdens of life we at one moment or another sigh, “God.” If we let that sigh extend beyond the moment, we can discover new expanse in our universe, new capacity to rest and be renewed. Focusing and simplifying help to pursue that expansion and the ways to do that are as varied as people are.

I will attempt to put into words some of my own ways to pursue that expansion beyond just a sigh. You can apply the principles that ring true for your own pursuit. The important thing is to choose to proceed in courage and faith to grow in spirit.

I call this example “contemplative communion with God in Creation.” Though I highly recommend getting out beyond the city, this process can be experienced with scenes such as in a park, art gallery, zoo, some well-designed architectural spaces, or sitting with your potted plants. I will use the photo above as the place where I contemplate in this example.

1. Arrange

I engage with the logistics and arrangements of arriving at the location where I will contemplate. The discipline of the labor in pursuit of that “God sigh” is to avail myself of the time, place, and circumstances.

a. Quiet

b. Natural (not dominated by other people)

c. Minimizing my personal distractions such as physical demands, suitable clothes, lodging, meal preparation, comfortable seating, etc.

d. Taking the time without pressure or obligation to “accomplish” something

2. Be Still

Rest with the scene before me until I feel as still as the boulders which have been sitting there for thousands or millions of years through countless seasonal changes.

3. Thank

Sense the thankfulness within me for all I observe

a. The light and shade

b. The scents. Forest and countryside scents remind me of past experiences of spiritual renewal in these settings since early childhood.

c. The temperature

d. The sounds, or absence thereof. This is one good reason to go outside the city since city sounds can draw my attention away so invasively. Such sounds as the call of the Steller’s Blue Jay, the woodpecker and the hawk, welcome me to this sanctuary.

e. The birds and other wildlife going about their routines so different from mine

f. The contrasts between the members of the scene such as the surface of the boulders beside the minute needles of the pine trees and grasses

g. The indications of human care and nurturing of this place

4. Connect

Sense my personal connection with each member of the scene.

a. I agree with the nods and sways of the trees

b. I embrace the solidity of the boulders

c. I am glad for the lizards observing their world and the birds foraging with frequent pauses to sit

d. I relax with the grasses bending in the breeze

e. I feel the love that wants to hug the members of this scene and I sometimes do hug the trees and boulders. I often put my hand on a tree branch as I would a beloved companion.

5. Mindful of the Moment

Contemplate the history and community of this place

a. How much longer than my presence in the world these boulders have been a place

b. The community of the insects and their perspective of this scene

c. The lives of these trees
i. Some are young, small and delicate
ii. Others are extremely tall and shading the young
iii. Some are approaching the end of life with dead branches at their feet
iv. Some have left their forms gray and minimalistic against the backdrop of their community.

6. Commune

Drawing the leaves, shadows and light is a help to meditating on and communing with other members of the place about me. I drew these at another campsite in Laguna last year.

Drawing and photographing significant details helps meditate upon the reality of the place and my relations with it. The drawings and photos are reminders of the experience long after I leave but this is not just documenting the place.

The actions and thinking involved in the drawing and photographing bring me further into “conversation” with members of the scene. On some level I am communing, fellowshipping, with the other members. Knowledge, such as my training in art principles of line, shape, composition, and attention to detail enhance the experience but every experience causes growth in my sense of companionship with Creation, my sense of being a fellow member of that scene which is also connected with the whole world.

7. Receive

The effects of this experience include an increase of understanding my personal direction in living to the fullest, to do good and be good in all that I am created to be. It increases my ability to fulfill my part as one of the many which make the Whole. I am reassured of being in community, of having a place and value, part of a family that receives my presence and contributions. Love is manifested to me.

How Often?

Many people experience some kind of contemplative time like I describe only once a year on “vacation.” But the benefits are less sustainable with so infrequent a retreat. Even once a week is too limiting. I have found that contemplative experiences are essential to a complete and integrated life and as such are needed every day.

Years ago I established a pattern of rising early in the morning so that I had plenty of time for contemplation before the activities of the day. But the attitude in the contemplative pause can be carried over into the active times and with more frequent contemplative pauses it is not hard to remember during activity the reality I discover there. Indeed, the contemplative pause is a primary time to receive the inspiration and wisdom for everything else in my life.

2 Responses

  1. Barry

    Mark, thank you for your remarkable meditation on contemplative seeing. The creation all about us is a lens to glimpse the presence, beauty and majesty of God. Yes, we need to move toward this kind of seeing everyday and enter into creation of which we are a part, as you made the point. I hope many will read this, that it may help us go deeper into the life given us this short time.

  2. markart

    Thanks, Barry — It is helpful to have others confirm what each of us is experiencing and help build our understanding of our common participation in the Greater Life.