One definition of contemplation is simply resting in the presence of God. One of the first steps in the contemplative life is learning to cultivate the inner witness, the neutral, non-judgmental observational awareness of our inner state.
The affect this process has on us is an awareness of the way in which we (and everything else around us) is held in this kind of loving gaze. It’s as if, magically, detaching from the judgmental, evaluative tapes we usually have running allows a wellspring of gracious acceptance to bubble up.
Entering the silence and resting is the discipline, what happens after is pure grace.But maybe the true value is what happens next. We become beings of acceptance. Beings of gracious observation. We bring that non-judgmental, loving gaze into the world.Instead of filtering the people we meet in our day through our judgmental grid, we give both ourselves and them freedom. We give ourselves freedom to experience. We give them freedom to be who they are.
We’re free to simply behold. It can be healing to simply be seen, or to have a kind word extended, a simple smile. Some of us are preoccupied, of course, but other times we are receptive to that gaze.Notice the movement: resting, witnessing, accepting, beholding.Caught in this flow, where is there room for being offended? Where is there room for a victim mentality? Where is there room for fear?
We use terms like divine union, which may call to mind states of rapture, ecstasy, of levitating yea-high off the ground, and I do believe there’s room in the spiritual path for those peak experiences.But what if divine union also means simply seeing with this healing gaze? A gaze that truly sees with no part excluded, but a gaze that also floods those places with love, a gaze that wants to connect, that wants communion.
And what if in so doing we learn something of how God looks at creation, waiting for us to not be so preoccupied, to meet a gaze, to rest in it, to be held by it? What would we be capable of after that?
Richard Rohr on The Inner Witness