I thought I’d kick this off by saying a little bit about what it means to be a contemplative.
Contemplative is not the same as introvert–it’s not simply loving to be quiet! As Richard Rohr says, if that were true then all of us extroverts would be in deep trouble.
But to practice a contemplative stance means that we work to see the world in a different manner than “everyday reality” seems to dictate: that we attempt, over and over, to see past the external hoo-hah and the internal psychic noise to the place where everything just IS. We look past our judgments. It’s not that we lose the capacity to discern between what is good and bad; we just drop the emotional investment (aka ego) in being right or wrong that usually stands in the way of seeing things as they are.
To be a contemplative is to develop a capacity that is not automatically tuned to the ego and its wants/needs. This capacity is a kind of receptivity that opens out into the “suchness” of the world. It simply sees. You can call it being present, you can call it being aware of the Holy in every moment, you can call it open awareness, you can call it putting on the mind of Christ. But to develop this capacity, we have to go of the ego and its concerns, conceits, preferences; and to let go over and over and over.
This is one reason why meditation (aka Centering Prayer) is such a helpful thing. That practice of repeatedly surrendering those interesting ideas that the mind throws in our path is the ultimate way to grow a contemplative heart. Centering Prayer isn’t contemplation per se; it’s our invitation, our way of opening or inviting the experience of oneness with all of life. Unitive experience is a gift that we can’t simply reach out and pluck; but we can make ourselves ready to receive it.