In many religions and especially in Christianity, meditation and contemplation are both part of spiritual elevation. But there are certainly differences, especially between different religions.
In this article we’ll analyze the main differences between the two. So that you can figure out which approach to communing with a higher force would suit you the best at this moment of your spiritual journey.
The main difference is that meditation doesn’t involve any thoughts while contemplation does. The great sage Jiddu Krishnamurti stated that “meditation is the action of silence”.
In other words, it is the cessation of all thoughts and actions, so that our innermost Self can emerge undisturbed. For those who believe in God, this can be a way of conversing with the deity in an experiential or direct, rather than discursive level (through thoughts and ideas).
Pros of meditation:
- direct experience of God or Higher Self
- may reduce anxiety, depression, improve sleep and provide many other physical and mental benefits
Contemplation on the other hand is a more discursive spiritual activity. Instead of sinking into the feeling of mindfulness from which we can experience God’s love in its purest form or meet the Self directly, contemplation involves thinking about the nature of God or whatever is troubling us. In contemplation we do so in a respectful but personal level.
This is what separates it from prayer. Prayer is a more official way of approaching a deity or our Higher Self (depending on your personal beliefs). Prayer is already set in stone, you are simply reciting it. Contemplation is like having a conversation with a friend. Theresa of Avila states in Way of Perfection that contemplation is:
“..nothing but friendly intercourse, and frequent solitary converse with Him Who we know loves us.”
Pros of contemplation:
- Easier to establish a connection with a deity because you are proactive, instead of waiting for a response in silence
- Meditation only provides experiential knowledge. Contemplation can provide both experiential and discursive knowledge and insights. In other words, we can feel the moment of spiritual elevation, but also gain insights through worded thoughts during our “conversation” with the deity.
Final Thoughts: Meditation vs. Contemplation
So there you go. If you wish to experience God or the higher Self directly, perform meditation. The idea being shutting off the chattering mind and allowing this higher force to emerge from within your deeper consciousness. If you wish to converse with God on a more superficial and discursive level, contemplation is the way to go.
Also consider that contemplation is something we do all the time to some degree. We are constantly having internal monologues, or perhaps dialogues depending on how you approach it. The difference with contemplation as mental prayer is that we concentrate on our thoughts more directly instead of letting them flow in the background.
So it’s important to be in a quiet and preferably solitary environment to perform contemplation as well as meditation. This way we can receive the best results from these spiritual practices.