Contemplation comes from the Greek word theoria, which means a passion for and dedication to understanding the nature of reality. Contemplative practices are practical yet transformative methods that can help us to:
- gain deeper awareness and understanding of our own inner experience
- engage the world around us with greater presence and authenticity
- rise above our own experience and connect with a transcendent reality
Historically, contemplative practices have been taught by the world’s spiritual traditions. However, in the last three decades, the fields of psychology and medicine have recognized that contemplative practices contribute to our health and well-being. Health care professionals have been researching and teaching contemplative practices in ‘non-religious forms’ that can be employed by all people, regardless of their religious or spiritual worldview.
With contemplative practices, people can learn how to calm the body and mind, improve focus and attention, regulate difficult or painful emotions, make thoughtful and intentional decisions, expand capacity for empathy and compassion, promote inner peace and contentment, and perceive life’s transcendent beauty and mystery.
For those who identify with a religious or spiritual tradition, contemplative practices also can facilitate and deepen their relationship with God. They offer an opportunity to invite God into all areas of their lives, giving them the “eyes to see and the ears to hear” God’s invitation to a life of abundance and significance.
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society compiled a list of some of the contemplative practices currently in use in various settings, as summarized in their Tree of Contemplative Practices. They also published practical suggestions on how to begin a contemplative practice.
This page divides contemplative practices in mind-body practices that have been researched and taught by health care professionals and faith-based practices that are rooted in the Christian religious tradition. Practices from other religious and spiritual traditions will be added in the future.