Contemplative Counseling

Have you ever felt…

a desire for unconditional love

a need for belonging and union

or a deep hunger to “just be?”

The form of contemplative counseling described here is based on the work of Dr. Gerald May.  It has its foundations in contemplative spirituality.  In his book Will & Spirit, Dr. May states:

“Contemplation implies a totally uncluttered appreciation of existence, a state of mind or a condition of the soul that is simultaneously wide-awake and free from all preoccupation, preconception, and interpretation.  It is a wonder-filled yet utterly simple experience.”

In the 12th century, Hugh of Saint Victor defined it as “the alertness of the understanding which, finding everything plain, grasps it clearly with entire apprehension.”

Contemplative counseling incorporates all ways of knowing including the traditional psychological approaches of observation, logical inference and behavioral learning, with the addition of intuition.  “Intuition” as it is used in this sense is a pure way of knowing that is beyond facts and tangibles, a knowing that emanates from the soul. Dr. May states “its resources lie in the comparison of modern psychological understandings with the insights of ancient spiritual traditions of both East and West.  And its laboratory is the stillness of the human mind in silence.”

Contemplative counseling creates the opportunity to explore themes of surrender, openness, silence, awareness, longing, unity, hope and love.


Dr. May defines the goal as “not the separate autonomy of the individual but the realization of one’s essential rootedness in God and relatedness in creation.” (Will & Spirit)

This rootedness or union has the potential to fulfill our deepest desires and longings.  Those longings have three dimensions:

  • a desire for unconditional love
  • a need for belonging and union
  • and a deep hunger to “just be”

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis also describes our longing for union:

“Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.  And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honor beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”

In his book Desire, John Eldredge calls this “a union that we crave:”

“There is an aloneness, an incompleteness that we experience every day of our lives.  How often do you feel deeply and truly known?…This is our inconsolable longing – to know and to be known.  It is our deepest ache, which we feel to be healed only in our union with another.”

If you are aware that something is missing from your life and have felt that inconsolable longing and yearning for something more, then the path of contemplation may be calling you.

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