Aleteia

Contemplation for beginners: How to calm your thoughts

CONTEMPLATE
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When you are new to the art of contemplation, begin by closing your eyes and using your imagination to see Jesus at your side.

Contemplation is a form of Christian prayer that seeks as its end to grow in deeper love with God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterates this theme when it defines contemplation.

Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery. (CCC 2724)

However, this type of prayer is often hindered by distractions and our wayward thoughts. It can be difficult to contemplate in prayer when various thoughts keep on crowding our mind!

One way to calm your thoughts is to take the advice of St. Ignatius Loyola, whose simple advice can put us in the presence of God.

“A step or two before the place where I am to contemplate or meditate, I will stand for the space of an Our Father and, with my consciousness raised on high, consider how the Lord my God looks upon me. Then I will make an act of reverence or humility” (Spiritual Exercises, #75).

St. Francis de Sales had a similar method that he describes in his Introduction to the Devout Life.

[S]imply to exercise your ordinary imagination, picturing the Savior to yourself in His Sacred Humanity as if He were beside you just as we are wont to think of our friends, and fancy that we see or hear them at our side.

When we occupy our imagination with the presence of God, we will be surprised at how our other thoughts will calm down as we gaze into the face of Jesus!

The next time you set aside time for contemplation, try this exercise and see if your prayer improves.

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