"Just as we eat to live, so we contemplate in order to do God's will. Contemplation is not an end in itself, but a means to surrender our whole being and activity into God. We contemplate in order to do God's will. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing says that after penetrating the cloud there is a stirring of love that starts gripping people and will take possession of them. Then he says that if we are supposed to speak and to do anything that any common person does and we refrain from it, then it will also strike us in our heart; we will feel a sharp pain until we do it.
"On the other hand, if we are doing something that we are not supposed to do, it will also strike us. We are left with the near impossibility of doing or not doing anything except through the impulse of love. In one of the most beautiful passages of The Cloud of Unknowing, the author says we are so gripped by this power that it is like a conflagration that devours us. It grips us so that we are possessed. Contemplation leads to the transformation of our whole being, which influences all our actions. It is as though we are doing all our actions freely but we are not free; we are gripped.
"For most people, doing God's will means much intense action. Yet God's will does not always mean action; we can do God's will while being a paralytic and surrendering to God's will. But for most people absorption into God's will means absorption into much activity, and we have to be ready for that. As I mentioned before, the God of the Bible is almost always encountered in a command. Everywhere he says: 'Go, come, do, etc. Come follow me.' God commands things we are supposed to do, and indicates responsibilities we have to take on. We rarely find anyone encountering God by squatting and contemplating; God appears and gets us moving. Of course, Jesus went to the desert, and Paul also: The Bible makes room for contemplation. But it is significant how much stress is laid on activity.
"Now action can be a total escape from oneself. The more we plunge into activity, the less we have to confront ourselves. Yet action can also lead to the total escape of the self; it depends on how we perform the action. Remember the empirical self I was speaking about, the self we try to protect and so on. We can use action to defend it, to protect it, and to escape from deeper issues within ourselves. Or we can use action and wear the self out, just as we can use contemplation to wear it out. When action becomes the attrition of the illusionary self, then all action becomes contemplation, all work becomes worship, and all service of others becomes an adoration of God."