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Sunday, July 1, 2007

What is A Contemplative?

I have been thinking recently about ways to highlight the personal introspective and spiritual, if you will, in Humanism. I call this the Humanist contemplative thought. The first step was forming a club within my local Humanist group called the Humanist Contemplative Club, which has been active at a modest level just over a year now. I have also been making contact with several people who have a similar vision for the expansion of Humanism into a more robust and person living philosophy. Recently, I've come across a nice website and organization called The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. Their classes seem quite pricey and I couldn't, of course, vouch for them personally as I don't know a lot about them. But their website seems to have distilled the essence of the 'contemplative life' which may be of great use:

LINK: The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

LINK: The Tree of Contemplative Practices

Their list of contemplative practices is excellent and would be worthy of a Humanist Contemplatives time to investigate. Some of them, of course, involve supernatural concepts which are irrelevant to Humanists, but most do not. The video that plays automatically on their home page is nice, but I really recommend the second part of Dan Kowalski's film introducing the work of the center:

LINK: "Part 2: Application"

This video really sums up nicely the essence of contemplative thought and practice. In it, several good points are listed, paraphrased below:

1) Working to integrate contemplative awareness and contemporary life to help create a more just, compassionate, and reflective society.

2) Contemplative practices have been developed over centuries in both secular and religious traditions.

3) They include meditation and yoga, other movement forms like Tai Chi or Qi Gong, contemplative dance, silent reading, times in nature - any activity in which you regularly engage which helps you increase your awareness and compassion can be a contemplative practice.

4) Contemplative practice is designed to help us be more effective in life and integrate our 'hearts' with our 'heads'.

5) As you practice and apply what you learn to your daily life, you being to develop what could be called a 'contemplative perspective', which includes many enhanced qualities, skills, and values:
- Calmness, which allows stability in life;
- The ability to be 'in silence' and learn from that;
- Clarity and spaciousness of mind, which helps us to see things as they are rather than as we want them to be (I and Buddhists would call this mindfulness);
- The ability to act from passion rather than anger;
- Increased kindness and compassion
- The ability to hold two conflicting ideas in the mind at the same time;
- The ability to act from an ethical understanding;
- To be non-judgmental but still hold a discriminating awareness for making decisions;
- The ability to appreciate the interconnection of all people and all life.


  1. Thank you for this clear summary and overview of contemplative living. I will check out the site. I like the Tree of Contemplation they created.

    I am linking to your post on my blog. The article I wrote is not about humanism, but my blog is. I found you in a tag search for humanism.

    Nice to meet you. Would you like to exchange links?


  2. Hi Garnet,

    Thanks for the comment and for your link. Yes, I've added your blog to my Links page. I've also added you to my mental list of folks who are thinking along similar lines regarding Humanist spirituality :)