In an age of sound bites, contemplation is becoming a lost art. Attention spans grow shorter and the soul suffers. To contemplate, as defined by Webster, is "to look at with continued attention, to meditate on." It comes from the root contemplari, which means "to mark out a temple" (con, "with"; templum, "temple") or "to gaze attentively."

Choose any question from the previous exercises-for example: What people, places, and activities allow me to feel most fully myself?-and hold it in your mind for a sustained period, at least ten minutes at a time. A good way to do this is to take a large sheet of paper and write the question out in big, bold letters. Then:

Find a quiet, private place and hang it on the wall in front of you.

Relax, breathe deeply, allowing extended exhalations.

Just sit with your question.

When your mind starts to wander, bring it back by reading the question again, out loud.

It is particularly valuable to do this contemplation exercise before going to sleep, and again upon waking. You will find that if you practice it sincerely, your mind will "incubate" insights overnight.


A powerful complement to contemplation, stream of consciousness writing is a marvelous tool for plumbing
the depths of your questions. Choose any question, and working in your notebook, write your thoughts and associations as they occur, without editing.

Devote at least ten minutes to writing your responses. The secret of effective stream of consciousness writing is tokeep your pen moving, -- don't lift it away from the paper or stop to correct your spelling and grammar-just write continuously.

Stream of consciousness writing yields lots of nonsense and redundancy but can lead to profound insight and understanding. Don't worry if you seem to be writing pure gibberish-, this is actually a sign that you are overriding the habitual, superficial aspects of your thought process. As you persevere, keeping your pen on the paper and moving it continuously, you'll eventually open a window through which your intuitive intelligence will shine.

Take a break after each stream of consciousness session.

Go back to your notebook and read aloud what you have written.

Highlight the words or phrases that speak to you most strongly.

Again, look for themes, the beginnings of poems, and more questions.

Contemplate the metaphor of the poet's motto: "Write drunk, revise sober."

The contemplation and stream of consciousness exercises are excellent tools for personal and professional problem solving.
For an example of the stream of conciousness technique, read "Mrs. Dalloway" by Virginia Wolfe.

Also see The Seven Da Vincian Principles.

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