CONTEMPLATION AS SERVICE
“They also serve who only stand and waite” (1) wrote the naturally activist poet John Milton. He was coming to terms with his loss of sight and significant worldly defeat. For him, waiting means waiting upon God, as a servant, rather than waiting for an appointment, waiting for salvation, or stuck in the wounded forever-waiting enacted in Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. For Milton, waiting, being available, is a form of engagement and of service.
Contemplative living can be understood as service, even without Milton’s theology or master-servant relationship with the Divine. For contemplative life is more than ‘just being’. It asks us to stay present in the activities of daily life and and in our interactions with others. When present, ideally, we bring spacious stillness into the world. With consciousness comes quality. Every task is sacred. Every event is full of meaning. When we are alive to the experience we are having, we feel our oneness with the whole and the Source. Then we can “affect the world much more deeply than is visible on the surface” of our lives (2).
(1) John Milton When I Consider How My Light Is Spent In Delphi Complete Works of John Milton Delphi Classics, 2012 (e-book)
(2) Eckhart Tolle A New Earth: Create Your Better Life Today London: Penguin Books, 2016 (First Edition 2005). My second paragraph above draws on this source whilst somewhat modifying the message.
“When present, ideally, we bring spacious stillness into the world.” That! I recognise it in others but truly struggle to cultivate it in ‘my’-self. At least in the presence of others. I think this is why I crave solitude frequently and find ‘socialising’ challenging – alone I feel this spaciousness of being. Thank you – thought provoking and focusing for something to work with.
I find it most challenging in company too, especially among people I don’t know very well. When I am able to be truly present, I do notice a difference not only in how I am but also on how interactions develop. As you say, ‘something to work with’!