Here's what the American Heritage Dictionary says about it:
1.The act or state of contemplating.
2.Thoughtful observation or study.
3.Meditation on spiritual matters, especially as a form of devotion.
4.Intention or expectation: sought further information in contemplation of a career change.
And here's part of what Wikipedia says:
Contemplation comes from the latin root templus, and means to enter an open or consecrated place. In a religious sense it is type of prayer or meditation. Within Christianity it is related to mysticism, and portrayed by the works of authors such as Teresa of Avila, Margery Kempe, Augustine Baker and Thomas Merton. Many religions share the concept of contemplation. Naropa University, for example, offers a Master's program in contemplative education in the context of Buddhism.
In a non-religious sense, contemplation can also mean:
*an act of considering with attention
*the act of regarding steadily.
Try a contemplation exercise today. Select an object - perhaps a shell or a leaf. Give it relaxed but thoughtful attention. Study every detail. Ponder any symbolic meanings that come to mind. Notice the issues of your own life that the contemplative exercise causes to bubble up. Notice all the associations you have with the object and gently, non-judgmentally consider them. If you want to write some of these reflections down in your journal, that's fine. Or you can just let the awarenesses be part of your ongoing consciousness.