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Frequently Asked Questions

Contemplative practices come from practices and traditions all over the world. Although the practices vary widely they have a few things in common. For instance, they all cultivate a first-person focus that emphasizes direct experience, even when the subject is a complex idea or situation. Contemplation places us at the heart of our own education, helping us discover greater purpose, meaning and values.

Contemplative methods act as a reminder to connect to what we find most meaningful. Consistent practice helps to quiet our minds in the midst of action and distraction, a valuable tool in a world that is increasingly fragile, volatile and overstressed. Recent research confirms that contemplative practices can develop capacities for deep concentration, greater empathy, improved focus and attention, reduced stress, enhanced creativity, and better communication skills.

Contemplative practices include various forms of meditation, focused thought, time in nature, writing, artistic expression and creative movement.

Some people find that active, physical practices, like yoga or tai chi work best for them. Others find nourishment in still and silent practices like mindfulness meditation. Rituals rooted in religious or cultural traditions are also beneficial and soothing to the soul. Not all practices are done in solitude – groups and communities can engage in practices that support reflection in a social context.

We encourage you to discover for yourself how contemplative practice, in any form, can enrich your life and work.

We use contemplation as a general, broad category description of first-person practices. Meditation is one among many practices.

We are fortunate to live in a time when a wide variety of study and resources are available. Follow your instincts and explore one or two practices that you find intellectually interesting, creatively stimulating, and spiritually comfortable.

If you are not sure how to begin, it may be helpful to explore several traditions. You may also want to locate a qualified teacher or spiritual advisor whom you trust.

Contemplative practices are not always peaceful and stress-free. In fact, while some may be more gentle and others more rigorous, all practices are intended to be somewhat challenging. Learning often happens through coping with difficulties, and the contemplative path can be intense, radically transforming your sense of self and identity.

While this could be a largely peaceful and pleasant process, it is quite common to experience periodic ups and downs, and most contemplative traditions recognize that difficult periods may need to be worked through. While books and the Internet do provide a lot of helpful information, it can be especially helpful to have someone to talk to — a teacher, spiritual advisor, counselor or other guide — for individualized instruction or support.

If you have deeper questions than is covered by the information provided, or if you need personal guidance with your practice, it may be helpful to schedule a session with a qualified teacher or spiritual advisor whom you trust.

"What you struggle with today you will look back upon in sweet nostalgia."

~ Gaia