My framework for discussions about a contemplative life come from the Cistercian tradition of monasticism. Their foundational text is the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Rules outline behavior expected of a monk to draw closer to God and maintain harmony in the community. How does a 6th century rule for Catholic monks apply to a 21st century Mormon? Central to both faiths is seeking God. Seeking union or communion with God is no greater joy.
The prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon sent an epistle to his son, Helaman, who was admonished, “Counsel with the Lord in all they doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God…” (Alma 37:37) One’s daily life begins and ends with supplication and praise to the Lord. Prayer and praise are the cadence of a monastic life…the cadence of a follower of Christ outside a monastery as well.
So, a contemplative life is a life centered on prayer and praise. God is the object of this worship and adoration. Such a life can be achieved even if pain, fatigue, loneliness, or physical limitations keep us away from practicing our religion in person. When I am in the throes of pain and fatigue which severely limit all activity, I can still pray. I can pour out my soul to God not just in a series of petitions but in adoration for what Christ has done for me personally, for humanity, for eternity. With praise comes joy. Maybe because I deflect attention from my own needs and tune into the Will of the Father. Indeed, for a contemplative, one’s life acquires a Divine Centeredness.