Contemplation: Approaching the Still Point

The basic belief in the practice of contemplation is that God is already present within us.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
That I will seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
And to inquire in his temple.             -- Psalm 27, 4


Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.     – John 15:4-5  

A commonly used expression to capture this divine indwelling is often called “the still point” of our being:

“At the still point of the turning world, there the dance is… Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance. – T. S. Eliot (Burnt Norton).

 “…for the author (from the Cloud of Unknowing) has said that there is a still point of the spirit to which no man, no devil, no angel can penetrate: it is the preserve of God alone.” (William Johnston, The Mysticism of the Cloud of Unknowing.”

“The constant in life, was that still point within us where the presence of Christ resides.” (Thomas Merton)

So where is this “still point where God dwells? How do we approach and respond to such a profound presence?

Our presence and God’s presence in becoming one:

Our Presence:

1.      Be still in the body: posture, breathing (aim for oneness or whole body stillness)

“The body’s physical stillness facilitates interior stillness, alertness, and calm.” (Martin Laird: A Sunlit absence: Silence, Awareness, and Contemplation, p16.)

2.   Be still in the mind: allow thoughts to come and go not to dwell on them, return to breathing or sacred word.

“When the mind comes into its own stillness and enters the silent land, the sense of separation goes.”. (Martin Laird: Into the Silent Land, p10)

God’s Presence:

3.     Analogy in reading a book. We get ourselves ready to receive the book but we cannot control what comes to us.

“Be aware of little, quiet things, you need to be quiet inside. A high degree of alertness is required. Be still. Listen. Be present.” Eckhart Tolle: Guardians of Being, p14.

 We allow God to speak to us (or not to speak to us). We dispose or ready ourselves to receive God’s grace. Remember: “All that I am, I am by the grace of God,” (1 Cor. 15:10).

In closing: “Contemplation is also a response to a call: a call from Him who has no voice, and yet Who speaks in everything that is, and Who, most of all, speaks in the depths of our own being: for we ourselves are words of His. But we are words that are meant to respond to Him, to answer to Him, to echo Him, and even in some way to contain Him and signify Him. Contemplation is this echo. It is a deep resonance in the inmost center of our spirit in which our very life loses its separate voice and resounds with the majesty and the mercy of the Hidden and Loving One.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p.3)