Actively contemplating our life and the world around us helps us create more Areté and brings us personal strength.
As a humanist religion, Aretéanism does not instruct its adherents to pray to unseen beings, or to find a supposed harmony with an unquantifiable soul through meditation. However, taking time to calmly think about the values of Aretéanism can provide insights that make our direction more clear or our resolve more steady.
Aretéans practice contemplation as an active method to increase our consciousness, and develop our attributes. Contemplation is similar to prayer or meditation in that it can vary in length, can be done individually or as a group, and can be done with or without vocal expression. Somewhat similar to prayer, mealtimes and bedtimes are convenient and useful opportunities to make time for this activity. Before significant events like sports games, major projects, or travel may also present good timing for contemplation. In our convocations we always open and close our events with brief, vocally expressed contemplations.
what it looks like
While there is no single "right" way to contemplate, generally Aretéans will select one of The Six Qualities of Areté or one of The Thirty Aims of Areté and then spend between twenty seconds to a couple of minutes actively thinking about that aim, and how it applies in their life. They might think about how they have done well in developing that attribute, or how they need to improve in it. They might spend some time simply remembering an event related to that aim, or communicating a previously private or subconscious thought. It doesn't need to be long, and it doesn't need to be fancy.
When contemplating by oneself, it simply means being in a comfortable position, and patiently avoiding distraction for the short time taken to contemplate. For example, it is probably best to not watch television or eat while contemplating, as active contemplation is different from allowing one's mind to wander: contemplation has a purpose, and that purpose is best achieved when we remain focused. You might see an Aretéan wait for a brief moment before diving into a meal- they're probably taking just a few seconds to consider one of the Thirty Aims important to them. Some Aretéans even do things like have special places in or near their home that they set aside for contemplation, like a rug or chair to kneel or sit on.
When in a group setting, one person can vocally contemplate for the whole group, or each member of the group can contribute a thought on one agreed upon topic, or on an aim of their choosing. While contemplating in a group setting, we should be mindful of the other members of the group, and not take too much of their time, nor deny them the good insights we might have ourselves. When the speaker or the last speaker has finished, we usually finish with our traditional call and response: "Be excellent to each other..." to which the others reply, "...and party on!"
Selecting aims of Areté can be done by whatever feels appropriate in the moment, systematically working through all of them over a period of time, or even at random to see what information lurks just below our conscious awareness. Some Aretéans choose to wear necklaces or other jewelry with the letters of each of The Thirty Aims of Areté inscribed on them, so that they can be counted through when attempting to systematically contemplate all the values.
Aretéans occasionally make time to contemplate all thirty of the aims in a single sitting; this is referred to as "deep contemplation" by our members. The Assemblage of Areté encourages all to make time for deep contemplation at least once a week, perhaps on Sunday after a convocation, in the privacy of your own home.