On Contemplation

Inclining the mind to receive the Creator



Let us ponder Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God.

The purpose of “practicing the Presence” or “mindful meditation” is achieving a quiescent mental state. In my experience, rhythmic breath control for 20 minutes daily, AM and PM, provides good training for contemplation. The human respiratory system is the only autonomic function that we can control voluntarily. If done properly, breath control has a profoundly tranquilizing effect.

Contemplation has played a crucial role in most religions from ancient times. Looking at the Eastern cultures, Tai Chi is a perfect example of focusing on sedate, repetitive body movements in order to still the mind. The Buddhist “mindful walk” is a measured pace in a labyrinthine circle that focuses on every purposeful step in a journey to one’s central being and back to the world. Likewise, the Jewish hitbodedu is walking softly in the woods for communion with God.

My paternal aunt Florence, as a novice Carmelite nun, managed to “enjoy” her menial convent chores by an altered state of consciousness. Of course, renowned Catholic mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila have written of divine union with God. Teresa stunned onlookers by levitating to the ceiling. In Rome’s Cornaro Chapel, Bernini’s exquisite sculpture captures the emotion of her rapt ecstasy in contemplation, described in Teresa’s Interior Castle.

Contemplative Outreach is now a worldwide ecumenical movement started by three Trappist monks in 1983. It teaches single-pointed focus on a burning candle while inwardly chanting a phrase like Agnus Dei, to which one gently returns if thoughts wander. Practicing twice daily is simple (but not easy if one is burdened with theological degrees).

Contemplation inclines the human mind to embrace its Creator, not in a cold intellectual way but with intimate experience of Love’s splendor.


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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