Words have a peculiar function. They are meant to be useful for us to both process our thoughts and communicate them with others. But they also seem have a flexibility with them. As a word becomes more widely used it seems to inevitably gain connotations to it. The meaning of word changes as it is used. We attempt to define words with our dictionaries; however, the words we use to define them are as flexibly shifting as the word we are attempting to define.
The word “practice” for example, might inspire the thought of an athlete who spends a particular amount of time working to improve a particular skill. Or when we say that a doctor practices medicine. The practice of a doctor is seen as one aspect of the human being who is a doctor who practices medicine.
I would like to offer what may be a deeper use of the word “practice.” I would like to investigate the meaning of the word practice in the sense of what it means to practice life itself. It is not as though at one moment we are practicing life and then we take a break. We are always a practitioner of life. The practice of life, I think, is what is also meant by “live life to the fullest.” In the way that the character of an athlete cannot be more than an athlete; the character of a living being cannot be more than a living being. That is the character, role, or persona we are playing and practicing.
Contemplation, and I use this word in the deepest sense possible, is the practice of deeply considering thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and concepts which shape our view of who we are and how we live and experience life with one another. The ultimate goal of contemplation is to see beyond thoughts themselves. Beliefs we have act as tunnels. When we have accepted a particular idea as absolute truth – an absolute belief – our vision can become that of tunnel vision and other beliefs that are not included in our tunnel are seen as dangerous. We see our own tunnel as the one that has light and the others as dark.
Contemplation is meant to bring us out the tunnels we have created with our thoughts that we might see that in reality, there are no tunnels. To practice contemplation is to see beyond the connotations and definitions of words as though they are complete. The connotations that words have are perhaps as widespread as there are people who use them. And so the investigation into the meanings of words is one that never truly reaches completion but is a mechanism for deepening relationships with one another through contemplative discussion.
Contemplation is a practice of finding contentment in a place beyond words, ideas, and beliefs. It is the ultimate letting go of our attachments that confine us within limited perspectives of reality.