A delineation must be made between contemplative practice and contemplation of life. To think that we don’t spend much of our lives contemplating our immediate situations is misguided. Humans today are incessantly focused on themselves, their friends, money, careers, looks and trends. We contemplate how others see us, what grades we will need to achieve which goals, our lives are plenty reflected on. My form of contemplative practice, and the one that Karen leads us in, seeks spaciousness from one’s own life in order to understand someone else’s. Imagining what it might be like to taste chocolate for the very first time, after growing cacao your entire life, gets you further from you typical frame of reference, further from your own sphere of thought, away from you average contemplations.
These contemplative practices offer an alternate form of reflection. Not how do we perceive our own understanding of the world? but what does the world look like from other eyes? In what ways are our perceptions simplistic? Could our concerns be assessed as trivial? The beauty of these practices is that when you get the furthest away from your personal situation, you become the closest to the world. You are able to realize that life goes on even when you don’t think about it constantly.
Thinking of others has lead to doing for others in my life. During my first contemplative practice with Karen in the fall, I walked into her classroom stressed out with a lack of focus. I had just arrived at the UW and was already lost in the fog of grades, credit and success. These moments in her class, simple seconds of sitting with an intention, to realign with the importance of education, did just that. I was moved by the capacity my mind had to clear out when I gave it a chance. In the mess of moving everything out of my conscious stream of thought, the dust settled. The people that live on this earth are what matter to me. It is not how those people see me, not how much money I could accumulate or the type of house I will own, but how will my actions affect people. This focus makes depressing articles of wealth inequality, burning forest videos and dying birds livable. This attention to helping something outside of myself makes living worth it. These practices gave me the space to find that truth.
Thank you Karen for everything you do for us.