Contemplation: From Distraction To Connection | Dr. Jeannine Goh
Many roads up the mountain
Contemplation is an ancient phenomena that traverses all cultures & moments in history. As our modern-day monastery’s prayer so clearly conveys, we are a place for all and everyone, for the atheist, to the devout Christian, for the agnostic to the Hindu, to the follower of the wild wind and for the children of the universe. We know there are many paths that lead up the mountain and we celebrate and are excited by the uniqueness and individuality of everyone’s path through life.
Whilst we all have our own unique paths, at our modern-day monastery we are fascinated by the commonality within all of our paths. One such commonality which we have found to be central to every path up the mountain and also to living a meaningful and intimate life is one simple concept, and that is connection
Connection is what connects us!
It may come as a surprise to many that the word religion comes from the Latin word religare, which simply means to re-bind, to bond and to connect. Moreover, for many who have found the grand narrative of religion not to resonate, or have feelings of mistrust around organized religion, and have found themselves attracted to the Eastern arts or spiritual practices, it is the same. Central to many practices and the aim of many instruments and tools is connection. For instance, the word yoga, means to yoke which again is to bind or connect. Nature practitioners, ecologists and even end of life experts all talk about the importance of connection. There is an important message here that all the great artists, philosophers, poets, geniuses and spiritual paths all call us to and it is that of connection.
In contrast, if we live a life where we a disconnected, disillusioned and disenchanted we all know what occurs. A depression sets in. We are amazing social animals with an incredible ability to connect on many different levels and if we do not use this skill, this talent, this ability, we do not thrive and it is as simple as that.
Connection is what we are searching for
I would bet, that if you bring to mind a time when you were thriving and joyful and you explore it, you would find a connection with depth and meaning. Times when you have perhaps fallen head over heels in love with another person, or the deep connection of unconditional love as a mother, father or sibling. Perhaps, even times when you have heard music so beautiful, that you are so moved, that you forget you are standing in the cold rain, or you dance freely and wild. These moments of connection can be considered mere emotion but they are much more, they connect us on a deeper level, they enliven our spirit and ignite our souls. It is what we are all ultimately searching for.
Contemplation is the instrument of connection
To be deeply connected in this way is not so easy. We all have moments of it but we are always so easily distracted. How many times have you walked somewhere and been so caught up with thinking about the events of yesterday or your dinner later, that you have failed to notice the stunning rose by the path with its sweet perfume that would light your day?
Often a barrier to connection are the myriad of distractions in our lives. It is so easy to become distracted, to look for distractions yet what we most yearn for is there lying underneath the distractions and our thoughts.
This is what all contemplative practices; meditation, yoga, tai-chi, self reflection, have taught us and it is also why all of these practices are now well-evidenced as being integral to well-being and the ability to thrive in life.
Contemplation is a skill, a capacity, we all have, and for many of us it lies latent. However, if we learn more about it and train our minds it is the key to moving past all the distractions to create much deeper connections in life and ultimately leads us to find the source of all that we seek.
Words | Dr. Jeannine Goh