Committing yourself to “contemplation in action” or, rather, becoming a “contemplative in action” is a challenging undertaking and, like all things related to the Divine, depends far more on God’s love and grace than it does on any decision or action I might make. Eastern traditions talk about “mindfulness” and it is a valuable concept, but I think the “contemplative in action” is more concerned with “Godfulness.” There is, of course, a tension in the phrase “contemplation in action” for our normal view of contemplatives is that they sit stock still, (the perfect Mary as opposed to the imperfect Martha), while all around them daily life surges forth. What Ignatius of Loyola meant by the phrase, I believe, is that contemplatives in action are as recollected and prayerful as any monks or enclosed nuns but are, at the same time, actively involved in the world around them. When my life is held in God’s hands and I am in an intimate relationship with Christ, I am capable of approaching all of reality from a contemplative’s perspective, no matter how many things I have to work on during the day. When I am in harmony with the Lord, I start to see the world as God’s wondrous creation and I am given the gift of finding God in all things and in all things to find God. Action for action’s sake is mere busyness and prayer, (of whatever kind), divorced from the realities of God’s creation is, at best, imperfect.
and the first comment was great:
The word we translate as “still” in the Psalms (Ps 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”) might be more sharply translated as “let go your grasp” — Ignatius’ contemplative stance seems to taste more of that sort of stillness, in which we are called to let go of our grasp on those things that do not help us to know God. Or there is T.S. Eliot’s attempt to capture the tension Burnt Norton “…at the still point, there the dance is, but neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity…”
I am a contemplative that would prefer to do contemplative things– read books, write, paint, draw, listen to music, play music, pray, and sit in silence. But I have four children, so contemplation is necessarily, contemplation in action 99% of the time. So for me, being still is ‘letting go’ and allowing God’s grace to come to me in those moments.