By Gerald May*
*Excerpted from his article, “Simple Contemplative Presence” from Shalem’s News, Volume 28, No. 1-Winter, 2004. The full issue may be viewed here.
We at Shalem approach the spiritual life from what we call a contemplative perspective. Sometimes we call it contemplative life or living. It doesn’t have to do with any particular state of mind or experience (like “contemplation”). Instead, it’s an attitude or orientation that recognizes that our spiritual growth and deepening is God’s business, not our own achievement or accomplishment. Our “yes” to God, our willingness for God’s grace, is very important, but we don’t “do” it on our own. At best we willingly join God’s dance with us–without knowing the steps!
So there’s a reverence for God’s mystery in this kind of presence, a willingness to let God be God as God is, and to let ourselves be ourselves as we are. In that sense, it is a very easy, relaxed practice. The only time it becomes difficult is when we think we should be doing something more–then it is simply time to trust back into God’s presence in the moment again.
Maybe you will experience something of the same kind of freedom in your simple presence. But whatever you experience I hope you’ll remember that it is God’s work and in fact it is God’s experience.
In truth, I think this spiritual life is ALL about God; God’s “doing” it with us and in us and as us, and eventually it’s all one thing, all God. Which, to my mind, is very, very cool.