What Gliders Can Teach Us About Spiritual Contemplation

Copyright 2006 Tom Russell

The glider has a fascinating parallel to the practice of contemplation. A glider is carried aloft by a tow plane. The tow plane can only go so high. At a certain point the lever is pulled and the glider soars.

Contemplation is the use of a single word, a concise sentence or perhaps a mental picture or parable. This is the tow plane. We focus in and allow the tow plane to carry us up to a higher altitude. It’s good to probe with questions, for example, “What is here that I have yet to detect? What connections does this idea have to other ideas?” Here’s a good one, “What am I afraid to see? What would disturb me?”

Then, when it has carried us as high as possible, we let go of the tow plane and transition to silence. Author Vernon Howard said once, “Learn from books and classes, but most of all learn from mental silence.” Just as the wind under the glider’s wings lifts it higher, so does the silence of the Heart take the original concept and transform it into wisdom.

SUMMARY: Select a single word, sentence or illustration, and focus your attention for awhile, then pull the connection from the tow plane (the idea) and soar alone (in silence). Two steps: Focus and Release. Like the glider’s tow lever, we release the source that brought us up to a certain height. We transcend the word, concept or sentence, moving from theory to direct experience and revelation.

You may wish to keep a card or computer file of ideas you’ve used for contemplation. Note ideas with a special feeling for you, then retain these cards and revisit them from time to time. This can be a bounty in the garden! We find the seeds we planted, perhaps years ago, continue to unfold; they mature on their own to greater fruit.

Contemplation can be done for extended periods when you’re alone, but it is also a perfect use of time when there’s a few spare minutes.