More thoughts on contemplation – its nature, its association with the womb, and other aspects associated with it

I’ve spoken of contemplation before.  I’m not sure if I have already spoken of these things below.  At any rate, these are some more thoughts on it:

HOW IT BEGAN FOR ME

The phenomena of contemplation has always mystified me.  To me, it is something that came naturally without much prompting.  I did not read or learn about it.  I also didn’t know about it.

My involvement in contemplation started when I took a walk in the woods in about 1990 or so.  As I walked I began to feel something which I described as a “presence”.  There was “something” about this presence that I could not define.  It had a quality that I seemed to yearn for but which I could not determine what it was.

It remained on my mind the next day and I went up there again as if to relive it.  I could still feel the presence but seemed unable to “grasp” it.  Eventually, my trying to “grasp” it would turn into contemplation.

Looking back on it now, it was as if my normal state of mind was not sufficient to “grasp” the presence.  This would mean that contemplation is a result of a failure or inability of the normal mind and awareness. Because of this, it took on a quality of a “rediscovering”. In contemplation we are really rediscovering an older way of being and awareness, one that was lost as we began to live life and develop a self.

MY INITIAL ACT OF CONTEMPLATION

I found I did a number of things in my first attempts at grasping the presence:

  • I closed my eyes
  • I blanked my mind
  • I put my mind on the presence
  • I felt the yearning for the presence
  • I immersed myself in the yearning
  • I seem to lose a sense of myself
  • All that exists is the presence and the yearning

Later, I would find this to be similar to Christian contemplation particularly as spoken by Pseudo-Dionysius.  He called it Mystical Theology.  Basically, it amounts to:

  • Become dumb (unknowing)
  • Feel only love of God

I basically replicated his Mystical Theology, discovering it on my own.  This shows that contemplation is an innate phenomenon that comes out in some people.

Contemplation would be the basis of the monastic life and the base of monasteries all over the world.  In addition, we would see similar forms of contemplation, in different ways and forms, all over the world.  Some good examples include Neoplatonism, some forms of shamanism, yoga, and Buddhism.

For me, contemplation is something that I often feel compelled to do.  That is to say, I seek it out . . . but I have no idea why exactly . . . something just moves me in that direction.  I sometimes think that if I didn’t do it I’d have a hard time in life.  I also think I would of become more of a shallow and worse person.  I’ve often said that contemplation has “saved” me.  I’ve also said that it has surpassed any learning, any knowledge, and any instruction I have ever received.

ITS MYSTIFYING QUALITY

But, overall, it mystifies me.  There are a number of causes for this:

  • It has no apparent purpose
  • I am seeking something I can’t “grasp”
  • There are times when I have profound success and times I fail horribly
  • I never seem to know what I’m doing, exactly, or what its all about . . . I feel like I’m walking in the dark
  • I seem to understand it, for a while, then the explanation cease to work and I don’t understand it anymore

Both the act and explanation of contemplation I can’t quite “grasp”.  This gives it a quality of “trying to grasp smoke”, as I always say.  Despite this, I am drawn toward it.  It is a strange phenomena I can’t fully explain.

THREE QUALITIES

On the second day after I took the walk, and felt the presence, I defined these things:

  1. Presence 
  2. Passion
  3. Yearning

1-Presence

This is a sense of “something” about you that you cannot see, hear, smell, etc.  You feel it is “there” but you don’t know what it is.  I originally envisioned it as an old man but it now is more like an “energy”, like a “life force”, or something similar.  It seems to be everywhere and in all things.  I often speak of it as the “all”.

It seems that there is a life in the presence.  I often call this sense of life in the presence “livingness”.  In this way, the sense of life is not in an object, tangible thing, thought, image, etc.  It just “is”, an entity that transcends everything.

I’ve also compared the presence to a fluid.  I call it the “primal fluid” (see below).

2-Passion

This is a sense of an “energy”.  Some qualities it has include:

  • Passion flows.  It has movement.
  • It may have traits or qualities but not necessarily.

I’ve often said that “presence is static passion that does not flow . . . it is the passion of the all”.  In other words, presence is a “greater passion” and passion is a “lesser passion”.

3-Yearning

This is the desire for the presence and passion.  It comes from within.  I feel it as originating in ones chest.

One could say that yearning is ones personal passion seeking the presence.

THE QUESTION OF “CONTEMPLATIVE LOVE”

In Christianity, and other religions, love is associated with contemplation.  I actually seldom use the word and look at it more as a condition consisting of many things:

  • Of being “open” and relaxed . . . not frightened, threatened, etc.
  • An awareness of the presence and all
  • An openness of self and being to the presence and all
  • A sense of unity with the presence and all

In this way, “contemplative love” is a complete openness to the presence and all.  Its like an exposing of ones self.  This takes faith.  Because of this, I don’t really see it as an emotion nor as something directed toward something.

A RETURNING TO AN INFANT STATE OF MIND – THE “PRE-SELF”

It seems, to me, that contemplation is a “returning” to when one was an infant, to that state of mind.  In this way, its a regression.  There are a number of forms of this regression:

  • Of mind . . . one must become dumb
  • Of self . . . one must have no self as one does not have a self as an infant
  • Of spirit . . . one must be of simple outlook
  • Of body . . . one must relax and let go tensions that life has created

To truly contemplate is to go back to the state of an infant.

I tend to believe that much of the senses of contemplation, such as presence, is a reflection of an infantile awareness of life.  In a way, its a reliving of that time.

This infantile state of mind has qualities such as:

  • It is without self
  • A person and the world are perceived as one
  • There is no thought
  • There is no tension or bad feelings
  • There is no sense of time
  • “Life” seems all around you

Much of the infantile state of mind is a reflection of what I often call the “pre-self”.  I’ve written a number of articles on it such as Thoughts on the pre-self, primal self, world self, post-self, and the greater self.  I also often spoke of the infantile state of mind as the “is”.  See article Thoughts on ‘primal awareness’: the “is”.

REASONS FOR DOING CONTEMPLATION

People don’t contemplate for the same reasons.  It seems that there are a number of different reasons, such as:

  • It is innate and naturally appearing – little or no learning
  • It is done for some personal motive, such as a desire to be spiritual – usually learned
  • It is done for religious reasons, such as part of ones religious belief –  learned
  • It is done for social reasons, such as following social trend – learned

I tend to believe that if a person has to learn contemplation then it tends to not be as deep.  Sometimes, though, learning contemplation can bring out a natural ability in it.

Also, people naturally do a casual or mild form of contemplation or have perceptions originating from it.

THE BENEFIT OF CONTEMPLATION???

I seem to think that a lot of the people who are impelled to do contemplation do it because of a character trait.  Personally, I think it is more to “hold oneself together as a whole”.  In other words, some people need to feel, and sense, their whole being.  Contemplation allows these people to go back to their earliest years and regain that old self.  This then becomes part of their current self so that they have a more whole self.  In other words, contemplation brings the entire self together and unites it.  I often all this united self the “greater self”.

At this time, I do not believe that contemplation:

  • Makes people happier
  • Makes better people
  • Makes one closer to god
  • Makes people saints
  • Makes one connect with spirits and other holy things
  • Makes one have supernatural powers or abilities
  • Makes one immortal

I don’t see any evidence of these.

Contemplation, by its nature, gives a different view on life.  Because it entails qualities from when were were “purer”, before we are influenced by the world, it often creates things like:

  • A healthier view of life
  • A sense and appreciation of life
  • A contentment in life
  • An insight into life

In these ways, it can be benefiting.

It seems, to me, that contemplation, by itself, doesn’t necessarily do these things but it can be an avenue for them.  In the end, it seems that contemplation is only a medium for beneficial qualities.  The traits must originate from within the person.  This means that contemplation helps them come out.  

I tend to think that its not good to do too much contemplation.  It seems, to me, that contemplation is a small part of the greater experience of living.

PERCEPTIONS OF WHAT CONTEMPLATION DOES

There are many perceptions what contemplation does, such as:

  • That it makes one close to the Holy or Divine
  • That it makes one enlightened
  • That it makes one close to the eternal
  • That it makes one close to heaven
  • That it makes one a saint
  • That it makes one immortal
  • That it “leads one to paradise”

Its no wonder that contemplation is so associated with religion.  In my opinion, it shows that much of religion is based in the infantile state of mind and variations of contemplation and the awareness it creates.

I often think that there is a deceptive side to contemplation.  It gives the illusion that it does the qualities described above, which it really doesn’t necessarily do, or at least I have no reason to believe it does at this time anyways.  It is my impression that contemplation, by itself, doesn’t do these things but it can foster the belief in them, and what they represent, and that’s its real power.  Contemplation makes them all the more real and it is the belief that is what matters.  This, again, shows that contemplation is a medium for the “greater self”.

ASPECTS OF CONTEMPLATION

It seems that there are a number of aspects that make up contemplation:

  1. Stillness/relax
  2. Self/extended
  3. Ember/expansion
  4. Eternal/divine
  5. One/all

These are all qualities of what the normal state of mind must do to rediscover the infantile state of mind in contemplation.

1-Stillness/relax

A person must find a stillness.  There must be a relaxing of:

  • Body
  • Mind
  • Spirit

To relax means to let go of tension.  The infantile state of mind has no tension as tension is a product of living.

In many ways, this is at the base of contemplation.  It is the foundation that it rests upon.  If you do not find stillness, and relax, then contemplation really doesn’t work.

Another aspect of relaxation is that, by letting go of tension, we actually release passion that is bound up in a “passion knot”.  Its as if locked up passion in a knot.  This released passion can create a sense that is easily confused with tension.  As a result, we are trying to “relax a relaxed state”.  What one should do with the released passion is to go to ember/extension.  The passion released tends to have the qualities described in that entry below, instead of a knot, a tight feeling, a pain, or discomfort.

2-Self/extended

Contemplation is a seeking to be before the self.  As a result, one must lose a sense of self.  The self then becomes the “all”.  In achieving this “all, the self is “extended” beyond itself.

The loss of self is a form of death.  As a result, contemplation is often associated with a death.

Losing the self can be a difficult thing to do.  My experience is that you can’t just will it to happen but it tends to come at certain times.  Sometimes, one has to cease contemplation because the “self is too strong” and wait for another day.

3-Ember/expansion

These refer to an awareness of ones yearning or passion.  It often has qualities such as:

  • It feels like a heat or a burn
  • It feels like a movement within me
  • It feels like a force or longing or desire

I’ve always felt that, when a person feels this, one should “sit in it” and as if immerse oneself in it.  This is the expansion or, as I sometimes say,”steaming”.

4-Eternal/divine

This is a deeper sense of the presence, of things like:

  • The “livingness” within the presence
  • A timelessness
  • It is beyond human

To me, this sense is the hardest to achieve.  It seems to originate from without me.  This means that I have no real control over it.  Because of this a person must:

  • Be aware of it
  • Be open to it

A person doesn’t instigate it or force the eternal/divine to appear.  In some respects, a person must wait for it.

5-One/all

This is a sense that there is an “all” to everything, that everything is one.  To me, this is an awareness, and tends to have no passion or emotion.

One could say that all these really reflect two things:

  1. A “shedding”.   This is a shedding by relaxing body, mind, and soul as well as shedding of self.
  2. Embracing.   The “steam”/ember refers to embracing personal passion, the eternal/divine is the embracing of the passion side of presence, and one/all is embracing the awareness of the presence.

An “act” of contemplation consists of all these combined.  I find, though, that one often tends to focus on one or the other, almost as if to develop each one individually.  This gives great variety in contemplation.

Earlier I said that at the end of contemplation one feels “all that exists is the presence and the yearning”.  In actuality, this only happens sometimes, and often momentarily.  Much of contemplation is spent in:

  • Struggling with ones self
  • Dealing with one of the aspects described above

I would say that one truly contemplates when all the five aspects above are as if balanced and in harmony.  This is not easy to do.  I think it is something that is sporadic no matter who you are or how well practiced you are.

But when they are balanced there is often a deep profoundness.  This generally motivates me to contemplate further.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ASPECTS OF CONTEMPLATION

Much of contemplation involve the aspects described above.  There are different reasons why this is so:

  • Remember that, for contemplation to work, the aspects of contemplation have to be combined and blended together in the correct way.  This is one of the great struggles of contemplation.  Typically, they are not combined adequately or one aspect is too weak or too strong.
  • The emphasizing of one or several aspects of contemplation can create a whole different form of contemplation.  In this way, many forms and varieties of contemplation can and have been created.  Some examples are:  Buddhism tends to emphasize relaxation and the self, Neoplatonism tends to emphasize the one or all, Christian monasticism tends to emphasize the Divine, etc.  Not only that, as one contemplates one does different varieties and forms.

RETURNING TO THE WOMB

I have found that breathing has had a major impact on contemplation.  In fact, I would say that the discovery of “breathing” has had great impact on me.  By “breathing” I mean being aware of ones breathing, but its more than that.  I would actually say that “breathing” is an awareness of breathing that leads you to the infantile state.  But this doesn’t mean that contemplation is nothing but watching ones breathing.  A number of things have to happen before breathing becomes that impactful:

  • One must relax be still
  • One must be aware of the “all”, the presence, the “primal fluid” (see below)
  • One must feel a “livingness” or passion
  • One must feel a loss of self

In other words, a person must already have a base in many other aspects of contemplation already.

One of the reasons why I think breathing is important is that it may be one of the first sensations we ever feel, and that’s in the womb!  In other words, breathing may bring us back to the womb.  The reason why this is important is that I tend to feel that the womb is where the infantile state of mind, or pre-self, is the most “pure” . . . before we even know the world.  This would mean that contemplation is a returning to state of mind found in the womb.  

It seems that there are two forms of awareness in the womb:

  1. “Womb Breathing” – active sense
  2. “Primal Fluid” – passive sense

1-“Womb Breathing”

I cannot say what sensation is usually felt in the womb (I’m sure it varies with each person) but breathing would probably be the most consistent active sensation we feel in the womb.  Using breathing as a means to return to the womb, and pre-self, I call “womb breathing”.  This is an active sense with something in fluctuation.

Some interesting aspects of the breathing for the fetus in the womb are:

  • The fetus does not breath air, but fluid
  • It only consists of the motions of breathing by the muscles
  • Breathing can begin as early as 10 weeks!
  • It consists of breathing with the diaphragm
  • Breathing is not constant throughout gestation . . . there are periods where there is no breathing
  • The breathing is erratic and intensity varies

I tend to think a number of things about breathing in the womb:

  • That some people are more conscious in the womb than others
  • That consciousness probably primarily centers around breathing
  • I also seem to think that people who are conscious in the womb tend to be more “spiritual” in orientation
  • I also tend to think that this consciousness of breathing may be the first form of consciousness we have
  • Because its the first form of consciousness there may be a horror associated with it in some people . . . the “horror of being aware” . . . as being aware is like a shock to the system
  • That this consciousness of breathing isn’t constant and may even last a fraction of a second
  • That this consciousness of breathing is sporadic
  • That this consciousness of breathing also causes an awareness of the mouth area, as fluid is passing back and forth through the mouth during breathing
  • This emphasis on the mouth may promote the growth of language and emphasis on eating
  • The cyclic pattern of breathing gives a sense of “movement” which may be the origin of “passion”

What all this seems, to me, is that breathing in the womb is closely associated with contemplation and the infantile pre-self state of mind.

2-“Primal Fluid”

I believe another sense in the womb is a sense that displays qualities such as:

  • Of “being in something”
  • Of “being surrounded by something”

In contemplation this is what I call the “primal fluid”.  To me, it feels like a fluid.  This is a passive sense meaning that it is something that has no fluctuation.  In that way, it is a constant sense.  I seem to think that this sense has a number of origins:

  • A tactile sense (such as touch and temperature)
  • A spatial sense

This tactile sense involves the sense of things like:

  • Skin
  • Muscles

I tend to feel that spatial sense plays a very important role in contemplation (see my article Thoughts on the importance of spatial relations and the self – the creation of a “self-space” and its effects).  The spatial sense is the origin of the “presence”.  I seem to think it has a number of origins:

  • We are “wired” for spatial sense, which means we can sense it before we experience it
  • The movement of muscles

I seem to think that we must experience the “primal fluid” – the presence – before we can get much out of “womb breathing”.  

Overall, “womb breathing” causes a regression to the infantile state, which tends to create a stillness and calm.  But breathing can go further . . .

THE “YEARNING OF THE PRIMITIVE GUT TUBE”

It seems, to me, that the yearning is associated with the “primitive gut tube” in embryology.  This is a tube that develops in the early stages of embryo development.  From this tube originate the intestinal system, the lungs, and bladder as well as some other things, like the liver and pancreas.  Its basically a tube going from the mouth to the anus.

I seem to think that the yearning originates here, as a sensation, because I seem to feel that there was something in my chest and abdomen that “tingled” or “vibrated’ when feeling the yearning.  It seemed to make sense that it was the intestines/lungs.

Why is this?

Because the intestines/lungs are the physical part of the body that “yearns”, so to speak.  They want something that is without it (air and food).  Could we not then say that the intestines/lungs are the physical version of the yearning?

Since I knew that contemplation is a returning to the womb could we not then say that we are “remembering” the physical conditions and realities within the womb?  This means that, in contemplation, we are really “remembering” the embryo and fetus stages of life, however odd that may sound.  I seem to think that we feel the “yearning of the primitive gut tube” in the womb as a sensation.

This would mean that another sense we “remember” in the womb, in addition to “womb breathing” and “primal fluid”, is the “yearning of the primitive gut tube”.  This is a sensation of want or need that centers on the “primitive gut tube” and its derivatives (lungs and intestines).

“Torso Breathing”

The “yearning of the primitive gut tube”, it seems to me, gives breathing a whole new dimension.  Basically, one “breaths” with ones whole torso with the diaphragm in the center, lungs on the top, intestines down below.  Your not just watching one breath but breathing with ones body.  Its really a “torso breathing”.  In this breathing the act of breathing becomes particularly important.  Yearning, and passion, is experienced through the breathing.  In this way, it makes “torso breathing” a manifestation of yearning.  So we see two forms of breathing in contemplation:

  1. “Womb breathing” – watching ones breathing to return to the womb
  2. “Torso breathing” – a manifestation of yearning

“Womb breathing” tends to be mental in orientation.  “Torso breathing” tends to be mental/physical in orientation.  Because of this, I tend to view “torso breathing” as being more deeper and affecting ones being more.

I see a number of forms of “torso breathing”:

  1. With the muscles of the ribcage alone . . . only the chest expands
  2. With the ribcage and diaphragm . . . on the inhale the chest expands and diaphragm moves downward
  3. With the ribcage and diaphragm, reversed . . . on the inhale the chest expands and diaphragm moves upward
  4.  With the diaphragm alone . . . on the inhale the diaphragm moves downward, chest does not expand

At this time, I do not see any preference or importance in one or the other.  I do notice that mood changes which form you use.  Some things I’ve noticed in me include:

  • It seems that when I think a lot I tend to use the first form.
  • Most of my breathing seems to be the second form.  This seems to be the best as it uses all the muscles to expand the lungs . . . ribcage and diaphragm.
  • It seems that I tend to use the third form when I am stressed or worried.
  • It seems that when I am more aware of my body I use the fourth form.

It seems, to me, that when breathing is more with the chest it means that you are more “cranial” (like thinking) and when you breath with the abdomen you are more “physical” in orientation (aware of body).

The experience of the two forms of breathing changes during contemplation . . . they alternate and there are times when they are the same.

To me, “torso breathing” tends to unify ones whole being, mental and physical.

The Creation of the “Bellows”, “Ember”, and “Steaming”

To me, “torso breathing”, as a manifestation of yearning, takes on a quality of a “bellows”.  The breathing behaves like a bellows fanning a fire.  The fire being passion.  As a result, passion grows in power, often feeling like a “tingling” or “burning” but not necessarily.  This condition I call the “ember” because we are like an ember glowing with passion.

Embracing the “ember” makes the passion seem to spread throughout the body.  I call this the “steaming” as its like steam cooking vegetables in a steam cooker.  The entire body as if “tingles” or “burns” oftentimes.

This process tends to focus on the body alone.  If one only focuses on this sense alone the body just “tingles” or “burns”.  But, remember that to truly contemplate, one needs to combine all the aspects of contemplation described above, not just the “ember” or “steaming”.  When this happens, the “ember” and “steaming” progress even further . . .

THE “AWARENESS YEARNING” – EXTENSION OF THE SELF TO THE “ALL”

The “ember” and “steaming” end with the body.  But with the sense of “all” the borders of the body must be destroyed.  That is to say, the self must be lost.  The world and self must be united in the pre-self.  The passion, “ember”, and “steaming” expands outward to the “all”.

But there is another physical part of the body that “yearns”:  awareness.  One could say that awareness is the preparation for sensory stimulation.  but its more.  It yearns to sense stimuli, to interpret it, and to make sense of it.  In many ways, this form of yearning is the beginnings of the sense of self.  I call it the “awareness yearning”.

To me, awareness seems to be centered in the head.  What this means is that, in awareness, I tend to see things in relation to the head.  My feelings is that this sense of awareness being in the head originates after birth and primarily comes things like:

  • Sight, where we “see the rest of our body making our head the center of awareness”
  • Speech, where we “feel our communication coming from our head”

These give us a strong sense of our head as being center of awareness and sensation.

I seem to think that, in the womb, “awareness yearning” is perceived as an overall sense with no center.  As a result, in the lower stages of contemplation, awareness is felt in the head but in the later stages it becomes part of the “all”.

Through the “awareness yearning” these things become united:

  • The self
  • The passion
  • The presence

These create senses that can be described as:

  • An “all”
  • A oneness
  • An emptiness
  • Stillness
  • Holiness
  • Profoundness

In this state the mind has been regressed to the state in the womb.  In many ways, this is the “high” state of contemplation.

It seems that this sense of the “all” requires a very balanced and unified sense of the aspects of contemplation.  To me, this phase feels like a balancing oneself on a tight rope.  If one quality is lacking, or excessive, than you lose balance.  As a result, this sense of “all” often becomes a means that forces one to “go back” to develop the aspect that is lacking or excessive.  In other words, one reaches this phase only to go back oftentimes.  In fact, I often feel that one of the great benefits of contemplation is not the sense of the “all” but, rather, the continual having to go back, develop and refine traits, and in learning how to balance it all.  In many ways, that is more important than the sense of “all”.

SENSATIONS IN THE WOMB

Looking at the above there it seems to show that there are a number of sensations we feel in the womb that appear in contemplation.

These are sensations of something:

  • Breathing – sensation of act of breathing
  • The primal fluid – sense of something around us

These are sensations of yearning:

  • The primitive gut tube – the physical body
  • Awareness – the self

Perhaps one could call these the “primal sensations” or “original sensations”?

Contemplation seems to bring these sensations back into a unified whole as it was felt in the womb.  It seems that, once the self is developed, and one deals with the world, these sensations become:

  • Lost and forgotten
  • Mixed with other sensations
  • Overshadowed by other sensations
  • Overwhelmed

They basically are pushed back into the recesses of the mind.

THE VARIED CONDITION OF CONTEMPLATION

I should point out that contemplation is a varied and fluid situation.  This means that each contemplation session is different.  This means that the balancing act is in continual fluctuation.  You don’t just find a “balancing formula”, adhere to it, and it works day after day.  In actuality, a condition that is “balanced” one day won’t work the next day.  Even during the contemplation session the requirements for balancing changes, perhaps second to second.  In this way, contemplation is a continual balancing act that never ends.

DIFFERENT ORIENTATIONS IN CONTEMPLATION

It seems that there are different orientations in contemplation:

  • Philosophical – thinking about what it means, its significance, etc.
  • Abstract – emphasis on “not knowing”, loving, presence, and such
  • Awareness – “womb breathing” and “primal fluid”
  • Unified self – “torso breathing”, mind/body connection
  • Extended self – sense of all

To me, these are like levels, beginning from shallow to a deeper contemplation.  But, for many people, they are specific orientations or points of view.

THE QUESTION OF RETURNING TO THE WOMB

Since contemplation is a returning to the womb it brings out the question of what the significance of this is.  That is to say, why does it matter?  Why worry about aspects of our self from long ago and which are forgotten?

In many ways, this tendency shows that the world turns us away from our self and as if contaminates us.  In so doing, we lose a sense of who we are as well as our center.  In short, it shows that the world deceives us.  Returning to the womb is like a cleansing, a centering, and a rediscovering of forgotten things.  To me, it has a quality of cleaning the oxidation off of silver so that it will shine.

THE QUESTION OF THE SACRED

To me, to truly contemplate means that one must have a sense of the sacred.  The “all”, the presence, and “livingness” are all a form of the sacred.  Without the sacred element contemplation is just a mechanical act.  In this way, one could say that contemplation is a seeking for the sacred. 

To me, the sacred has qualities such as:

  • It is beyond human
  • It is unknowable
  • It is eternal
  • It is filled with a deeper form of life

In this way, one could say that the sacred is a deeper form of livingness in the all.  It is more than an awareness but a sense of life.

THE “SEPARATION OF SELF PHENOMENA”

Because contemplation is associated with a loss of self there often appears what can be called a “separation of self phenomena”.  This can create a whole new form of contemplation.  This is a phenomena that is most bizarre.  There are really two forms:

  1. Experiential – a feeling that one has separated from self
  2. Journeying – a feeling where one has separated from self and is in another world

I tend to feel that, in both cases, it is a reflection of the process of returning to the womb but that one “stops” between the self/pre-self state.  That is to say, the separation of self originates from a person who has a self.  They then begin to go through a contemplative experience where they begin to return to the womb.  This brings them to a condition where they sense the pre-self but they don’t go into it, so to speak.  Their self remains very strong and prevents the sinking into the pre-self.  As a result, they have a self while sensing the pre-self.  This gives a sensation of “separation of self”.  This is the “self/pre-self borderland”.  In some ways, this is halfway to the “all”.  This makes it associated with contemplation but not quite the same.

In the experiential form one just feels separated from ones self.  This is often a sense one gets as one is on the way to the “all”.

In the journeying form a fascinating phenomena takes place:  you feel as if a separated part of you is in another world.  This is seen a lot with shamanism and is often called “shamanistic journeying” (I’ve written many articles on it in this blog).  I would describe it as having a number of qualities:

  • One is removed from ones self
  • One is in a world that is very real
  • One participates in the world
  • A person has some control in the dream
  • It is like a “waking dream”
  • There is a lot of symbology in it

In other words, there is a close association between separation from self and dreams in journeying.  I tend to think that the “self/pre-self borderland” is basically “dreamland”.  In a night dream our mind is there but we have no self.  It then appears as a night dream in which we have no control.  In “journeying” we go to “dreamland” but with a self.  We then have a waking active dream.

The dream seems to be an imitation of the world that the “self/pre-self borderland” creates.  Its reality/imagery is a result of the characteristics and association between the self and pre-self:

  • The “pre-self” has no imagery
  • The imagery originates from the experience of the self in the real world
  • The passion of the imagery originates from the “pre-self”

In these ways, the unique quality of dreams are created, a blending of the self and “pre-self”.  The power of the “pre-self” passion, which does not conform to real world reality, distorts the real world imagery originating from the self creating the unique imagery of dreams and why they don’t quite fit world reality as well as tend to be symbolic in orientation.

I have always felt that the “other world” sense is a result of the “primal fluid” sense.  To me, the “other world” sense is not an abstract idea or philosophical speculation.  It has a reality, almost as if you can reach out and touch it.  In the “journeying” it feels like I’m in a fluid, oftentimes.  I always felt that this is one of the main qualities of the “other world”.

The shamans process of having to go into “journeying” often takes quite a feat and can be quite difficult.  A lot of this is because he has a self and is trying to go into the “pre-self”.  In contemplation, one usually has problems because one is trying to go further and lose the self completely.  So, going into the “pre-self” is difficult with or without a self.

I have no reason to believe that the self actually separates from ones body.  Often, it is said that “ones soul leaves ones body”.  To me, it is only a sensation of separation of self . . . it doesn’t really happen.

“PLAYING CONTEMPLATION”

To me, normally contemplation begins in several ways:

  • It is deliberate.
  • It happens spontaneously.  This, to me, is the best way.

I find that it primarily begins in this way:

  • Relaxation or calming down.  I silence my mind.
  • Watching breath.  I become aware of my breathing.

From here it can go in many directions.

A common form involves trying to “wake up” the “embers”.  This is because, in the course of life, we tend to forget the ember.  As a result, we need to “relight” it.  This is how its often done.

It begins by having both relaxing and watching breath become the same.  In trying to relax, there is always some form of “tension” that I feel.  This can appear a number of ways:

  • As some physical tension within me
  • As thoughts that I usually can’t silence
  • As emotions that keep coming up

Some tension is a “knot” and these you want to let go.  But many tensions are not “knots”.  They are expressions of passion that remain like a flame within one self.  The idea is to embrace the passion and let go of what its associated with.  This is really the “ember” as the passion, devoid of its representation, becomes passion which is much like a glowing ember.

As I said above, there are two passions felt in the womb:

  • The physical body.  These are sensations in the body.  They are felt in the “primitive gut tube”
  • The self.  This is awareness and is centered in the head.  It often appears as thoughts and emotions.

Depending on the situation the ember may be stronger in one or the other.  In either case, one should “hold the ember” which is like an energy.

As part of contemplation, the return to the womb, one must not just experience the “ember” but the other sensations as well.  In other words, in contemplation a person must experience all these sensations:

  • The sensation of breathing
  • The sensation of the “presence”
  • The “ember” of the physical body
  • The “ember” of the self

All these must be combined to make up contemplation.  As this happens the sense of self is decreasing, as it becomes an “ember”, and the body becomes like a flame, tingles, or is hot, and the presence becomes very alive and prominent.

Sometimes, the ember becomes very hard and difficult to handle.  It seems to want to expand beyond the body but has difficulty.  This is because we have a sense of self-as-removed-from-presence.  That is to say, we sense our body and the world as different.  What is trying to happen is the destruction of self and body perception so they unite.  This is like a further regression to the womb where there is no difference between world and self.

The next step can be difficult because it requires a greater separation of self.  Several things can happen:

  • The self and body disappears and the “all” tends to be aflame.
  • The self as if separates from ones body.  At this point I as if see myself, as if in a dream, separate from myself who remains sitting there.  I then can go anywhere I want while myself remains sitting.  This becomes like a dream and is really “journeying”.

In both cases, its hard to remain in these conditions for very long.

I should point out that seldom does it just happen in order as I’ve described:

  • It seems that, normally, one bounces around in contemplation, literally going from one stage to another.  One may, for example, go to the end and then a tension appears and your right back at the beginning.
  • Not only that, it can go in many different directions and paths.  One may become, for example, particularly aware of breathing and starts to preoccupy you.

In these ways, I often compare the different stages of contemplation to a piano keyboard and contemplation is playing a tune on the keyboard.  One goes from one key to another.  I speak of this as “playing contemplation”.  In this way, there is great art in contemplation, in going from stage to stage in a harmonic way.  Normally contemplation is taking a point of view where one goes from stage to stage but I want to emphasize that contemplation must be done with harmony.

Oftentimes, the benefit of contemplation isn’t in going through all the stages, and reaching the end, but its effects on ones self and mind.  This means, more or less, that the effects of contemplation is its power.  Even after contemplation its effects seems to be lasting.  In this way, contemplation effects a person overall or, rather, that’s what one should try to achieve.  

THE “CONTEMPLATIVE CHARACTER”

I seem to think that contemplation is a phenomena that reflects a specific character type.  In other words, it only appears in some people.  My general feelings is that the “contemplative character” tends to be someone with an “unstable mental disposition” . . . their self isn’t all together but somewhat fragmented.  As I said above, contemplation seems to be a way to “hold oneself together”, to unite ones whole being and self.  This means that the person must have a fragmented being and self.  But, more importantly, the “contemplative character” must have an impulse to unite being and self.  That’s probably its greatest quality.  Anybody can have a fragmented self but not everyone wants to unite it again.

CONTEMPLATION AS A HUMAN EXPERIENCE

All over the world contemplation is looked at from a religious and spiritual perspective.  I tend to view it a little differently, more as a human experience first and foremost, and not in the context of any religion or spirituality.  In this way, I tend to see it in a “practical” way.  To me, it is a deeper experience of life.

THE CONTINUAL MYSTERY

Contemplation is such a mystery that, even with what I have said above, I will most likely perceive it different later and have another explanation for it.  Every time I turn around I see it in a new light.  It is endlessly changing.  That’s one of its appeals but also its frustration.

For some additional thoughts see:

Thoughts on relaxation . . . to rejuvenation . . . to contemplation


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Contemplation, monastacism, shamanism, spirituality, prayer, and such, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Religion and religious stuff, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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