“The human heart is full of longing. We long to discover who we are. The voices of longing keep our lives alert and urgent. Yet, if we cannot discover a shelter of belonging within our lives, we could become a victim and target of our longing.” John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Exploring our Hunger to Belong
We experience personal spiritual wellbeing through an inner shelter of belonging. Spiritual wellbeing can take the form of: personal wholeness; authentic communal belonging and response-ability; and joyful humility and reverence for the mystery that we each participate in Life’s enduring, creative dance of being and becoming. As such, spiritual wellbeing does not depend on any one belief system. Even so, personal spiritual wellbeing requires a belief system which responds coherently to our personal questions around meaning and belonging in the world. How can we discern our personal inner shelter of belonging? Engaging in contemplative practices is one way.
In light of the above, contemplative inner exploration involves a gentle, yet courageous, process of self discovery, towards an inner shelter of belonging. At the heart of the contemplative process is posing our personal open ended questions regarding meaning and belonging, and discovering responses which hold true. . . for now. A contemplative orientation involves two particular elements. The first element is: relinquishing the desire to control the process of self discovery. The second element is: the choice to attune to, and take the time to discern, whatever inner wisdom is inviting us to see, or see afresh, in the present moment. Therefore, rather than intense excavation of our inner landscape, inner exploration via a contemplative orientation turns on: becoming quiet enough to notice inner wisdom’s present moment stirrings.
In terms of contemplative inner exploration, Trappist monk, poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion, the late Thomas Merton wrote:
“Our greatest journey in life is interior. It is a matter of growth, deepening and an ever greater surrender to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts”
We cannot embark on such an inner journey unprepared, or we may find we become lost in the cave; the cave of the heart. We need to engage in contemplative practices which will nurture, sustain, challenge and pave the way for us to continue to engage in the ongoing life adventure of contemplative inner exploration.
A philosophy without practice is like reading a menu without ever tasting the food. (As quoted in Awakening the Energies of Love, by Anne Hillman)
Read more about contemplative practices: