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The Art Of Representation (Part II): Contemplation

Sometimes when I sit down to meditate I find that the same thought comes up, again and again. What's up with that? And how best to deal with it? The mind can be a stubborn thing!

Well, for starters, I let the thought come, observe it without attaching a particular outcome or significance, and let it pass--returning to my breath (which is typically the chosen anchor, upon which I rest my attention). If the same thought recurs, I again remember not to get caught up in the thought, returning to my anchor--knowing that each time I let a thought pass and return to my anchor, it's like a bicep curl for my brain (credit Dan Harris for that analogy).

And if the same thought returns again, I accept the fact that there's something my mind needs chew on, and settle in for a session of contemplation, as opposed to meditation. They're not the same thing, but they both serve an important purpose--which is, getting to know your mind.

Sometimes, it is entirely predictable that a particular person, place or predicament will predominate my thoughts. Sometimes my mind is still, and it is possible to observe thought, neutrally and without attachment. I never really know until I still myself, close my eyes and find my breath--that's just the way it goes!

Contemplation has a rich tradition in all of the world's major religions, most often involving an internal communication with a divinity or a higher power. That's not me, but I honor and recognize those for whom contemplation is that kind of thing. For me, contemplation is a secular exercise--of this world and usually related to myself, my family, or a client.

Contemplation is about harnessing thought and focusing on a particular outcome--that's the lawyer part of me, and it's hard-wired. Meditation, on the other hand, is about observing thought neutrally, without being attached to a particular outcome. It's a different kind of wiring, to be sure. Contemplation and meditation are not at all the same, but they  can both play an important role in sharpening the effectiveness of the other.

Contemplation thrives in the space that meditation helps to create, and meditation boosts the emotional skills that bring contemplation to its highest and best use--deep and deliberate thought, directed toward reaching a particular resolution. And all in service of the art of preparation!


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