Bring contemplation to life | Sunday Observer

Bring contemplation to life

We were having a chit-chat after the New Year day’s lunch, when one of my grandchildren made a sharp comment on the celebrated incident of Isaac Newton and the apple.

The story says that Newton was sitting in his garden when an apple fell on his head, and in a stroke of brilliant insight, he came up with his theory of gravity. The youth did not challenge the theory. “But,” he added, “the story was too dramatic to believe. I guess it was made-up at a later date.”

That night, I did some contemplation on the youth’s remark and made a little research. The result revealed that the grandson was right. The Royal Society in London has made available in digital form the key original manuscript that describes how Newton devised his theory after witnessing an apple falling from a tree in his mother’s garden in Lincolnshire. There is no evidence to suggest that the apple hit his head or anybody’s head.

As one writer has put it, listening and reading give us information and suggests ideas, but it is in contemplation that we form our judgments.

Routine withdrawal

We’ve been blessed with three very precious gifts: the gift of listening, gift of reading and above all, gift of contemplation. But, alas, as with every gift, under-using them may lead to sad results.

It is for this reason that modern psychologists advise us to allocate a specific slot of time each day to contemplate on what we heard and what we read that day.

I stress the importance of routine because it was my own nature. I wouldn’t have maintained daily periods of contemplation if I had not been brought up in a tradition which made it obligatory. Yet, the benefits have been enormous, and the pleasures so great that I would not exchange these sessions for any number of idle hours.

Business world

I saw how a company in Malaysia has introduced, what they call, ‘meditative study’ into their company work profile. Outside their office complex, there is a row of comfortable small rooms each with a small table and chair. Any senior executive can walk into a room, taking with him a project report or such documents and a laptop, and attend to study and contemplation.

He can have an undisturbed one and a half hours for himself. The remarkable success of this company during the past decade was unquestionably due in no small measure to the fact that the CEO regarded serious study and contemplation as vital, and the time set aside for it as sacred.

In the local business scenario, we do not encourage time for contemplation. We call those who try to do it as ‘day-dreamers’ and push them down. But, our local bosses need to realize the benefits and satisfactions that come from isolated contemplation.

Day-to-day lives

Is it feasible for a busy housewife or a campus student to set aside a time slot for contemplation on a day’s work? Surely, it requires a lot of adjustments and a bit of sacrifice, but in the long run – the benefits are great.

If living arrangements are such that you can’t shut yourself off, fix your schedule so that you will have solitary moments by being up while others are down. Once the place and hour are fixed, there is still the danger of letting the mind wander aimlessly. You might say, “I can’t keep my mind on my mind that long.”

You are not alone. There are many others like you. Take a good book and begin reading. A good book will give you a sense of an inner joy as you feel the presence of another mind of another personality. Read it for half-an hour or so. By that time, your book has become a part of you, and you have become a part of the book. You are now calm and serene. Your worries are no more. Now, close your eyes and contemplate about the book and the day’s work.

Research

Half-an- hour’s quality reading can reduce stress levels by 68 per cent, according to the University of Sussex 6-month research. And it works better and faster than other methods to calm frazzled nerves like listening to music, going for a walk or settling down with a cup of tea, research found.

Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in the muscles and the heart.

The research was carried out on a group of volunteers. Subjects only needed to read silently, for few minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.

The leader of the research team said: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant when your mind is troubled and when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. If the book is related to life experiences, it is better. By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and contemplate a while xploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

Cost angle

And, finally, you might ask, “How about the cost of books?” I suggest you invest on an e-reader, something like Amazon Kindle. There are other good brands as well. Or, even a tablet, which costs less than normal mobile phone, will do.

The advantage of Kindle is that Amazon has a range of thousands of quality e-books to be downloaded at concessional prices and some free. However, there are many good free eBooks online download sites also.For example, I would recommend https://www.free-ebooks.net/ where you can select 5 good books to download every week free of charge. There are a great number of sites, where you can download books at less than half-price of printed version.

One good reason to own an e-Reader (whatever model or cost) is that you can take your entire collection of books everywhere you go and refer them as and when needed. Isn’t that really great? 

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