The Lost Art of Contemplation

How to digest a dharma talk and meditate on its wisdom

By Andrew Holecek [@Andrew ]

In the breakneck speed of this modern age, slowing down to contemplate and meditate is increasingly difficult. But to fully incorporate the dharma we need to step on the brakes. The dharma is not fast food. It’s slow food. To ingest, digest, and metabolize the teachings properly we have to take our time and chew on things. The three prajnas , or “wisdom tools,” of hearing , contemplating , and meditating are designed to facilitate this embodiment of the dharma.

Hearing is when we listen to or read the teachings, and it’s where the metabolic process begins—your first bite. Meditating is when we sit with what we have heard and metabolize the teachings. Eager practitioners often race from a dharma talk to the meditation cushion to begin the “real” spiritual practice and end up skipping or rushing through the crucial intermediate step of contemplating . But would a runner gobble down a big meal moments before a race? Of course not—because rather than give them energy, the food would make them sick. Likewise, if we don’t give ourselves time to properly chew on and digest the teachings, we won’t fully absorb their wisdom, and instead of getting spiritually nourished we will end up intellectually bloated.

I love nothing more than to read a profound text and reflect deeply on its meaning. I then look around at the world and notice that it has changed. The contemplation has altered the way I perceive things; it has talked me into a different reality .

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