by Siphamandla Ngwenya
I’ve always found it hard to express my thoughts, be it in writing or properly articulating what I’m thinking. As hard as my honour’s year has been, I have to say it has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my life because it has allowed to me to grow as an individual. One of the major practices that has given me the mental capacity to surpass my limits this year is contemplating about all the things that have happened to get me to where I am today, and what the future holds for me based on the choices I make.
I would define contemplation as the act of continuously pondering over a question in the mind without bias to investigate the nature, the truth, or the very essence of the thing in question. Contemplation techniques in my eyes are a fundamental requirement of any individual who aims to improve their way of living, emotional intelligence, learning abilities and overall, their mental well-being.
When I was younger, there was a moment when I wondered how I was breathing and I had a brief panic phase because of the series of questions I asked myself – “How am I breathing?”, “How am I thinking?”, “Why am I me?”, “Am I inhabiting the brain?”, or “Am I the brain?”. Children are naturally curious but when we grow, our curiosity is drained out and these reflective questions broadened my horizon and re-ignited my curiosity to all my surroundings. Indeed, there is so much to unearth from the path taken by a curious mind.
The state of the school system these days rewards standardization and adherence to rules, rather than rewarding exploration, which has led to a lot of students losing curiosity. I am fortunate enough in the sense that when I look back at the schools I studied in – from primary school to the tertiary institution, they played a significant role in preserving my curiosity. Over time, my imagination and curiosity expanded and at present, I’m in the field of infectious diseases and immunology, because I’m overly curious of how the body interacts with microorganisms and how it influences the onset of diseases.
Through my honours journey, what I’ve found particularly interesting is the relationship between contemplative practises and critical thinking. As scientists to be, it is crucial that we improve our critical thinking. Contemplation plays a crucial role in this because science itself is an art of deep thought based on questions that keep us awake at night and conducting experiments to answer those burning questions. In essence, the best scientific innovations were born out of great minds, who were not confined to a narrow thought process.
Contemplation especially this year has been a cornerstone in creating meaning to my life in a world that is pointless, but at the same time not pointless. I find comfort in that because I know that I can create my own meaning of life, while other people may feel an empty void. Considering this, I would challenge the latter to put down their expectations of what the world should be and unlearn the negative assumptions of meaninglessness. I ask you to take a moment and reflect on this – If you do see your life as not having a purpose, exit that mind space, contemplate, and try to see your life’s worth as part of a puzzle that would be incomplete without you.