What Emerges From Our Inner Stillness?
We have grown accustomed to looking at stillness as a form of emptiness. Our assumption is stillness is a vast, open, uncluttered space with no noise.
It is easy for us to just write off stillness as a waste of time and effort. Why would we expect to hear anything when we listen to stillness? We experience stillness as a quiet, empty expanse.
What makes stillness sacred, anyway?
Some of us approach stillness as a goal. We work hard to make ourselves as still as we can be. Somehow we feel, if we could only be still enough, we would be able to “do” stillness.
We may practice listening to sacred stillness, trying to extend the amount of stillness we can survive.
Growing up, time in church was an example of that kind of stillness. It was almost as if the idea was to be as uncomfortable as long as we could. Being still was something for us to endure. We were expected to sit as still as we could for as long as we could.
While listening to sacred stillness can still be challenging now, it is not an exercise in discomfort. We are not listening to sacred stillness because it is what we have to do. There is not a requirement to listen to stillness, nor rules we are expected to follow.
In fact, one of the guidelines I follow for listening to sacred stillness is to get as comfortable as we can.
Sacred stillness is not an endurance test to see how still we can be for how long. We are listening, opening ourselves to what sacred stillness has to offer us.
Listening to sacred stillness is watching to see what emerges from our inner stillness.
Recognizing What Emerges From Our Inner Stillness
Our first step into watching what emerges from our inner stillness is taking time to pay attention.
Sacred stillness is not something we need to earn or achieve. When we take time to listen we recognize sacred stillness is all around us. We notice all the ways we distract ourselves and all the entertainments we absorb. Stopping long enough to take a deep breath is giving ourselves an opportunity to remember the stillness.
We begin to practice listening to sacred stillness to learn what we might hear. As we set aside distractions and diversions we begin our listening. We listen, straining to recognize what emerges from our inner stillness.
The sacred stillness within us is like a plant or a field covered in cocoons created by caterpillars. We listen to sacred stillness, waiting to see what emerges from our inner stillness.
The sacred stillness within us is the same as the sacred stillness in the world around us.
We sit, listening, as butterflies emerge from the cocoons surrounding us. The stillness is beautiful and can be exciting, and is beyond our ability to control. We cannot help the butterflies emerge. There is nothing we can do to speed things up or slow things down.
What emerges from our inner stillness is not intended to distract or entertain us.
As we listen, the skies around us fill with the color and grace of butterflies.
We put so much time and effort into listening to the world around us. This is different.
What emerges from our inner stillness is not necessarily designed to inform us. We listen to sacred stillness and the stillness in the world flows into the stillness within us.
Responding to What Emerges From Our Inner Stillness
As I practice listening to sacred stillness there are many days when I do not recognize anything emerging. Listening is not like going to a vending machine. I do not receive automatic reinforcement each time I listen.
Receiving what emerges from our inner stillness is not what motivates us to listen.
Whether insights or questions emerge for me is not the essential part of my listening.
My practice of listening to sacred stillness grows as I listen, regardless of what emerges for me. The value of listening does not depend on what I hear.
In fact, things rarely emerge from my inner stillness while I am practicing listening. It is later, during the rest of my day, when I things come into view.
What emerges from our inner stillness changes our lives, but not in the ways we might expect. I am not usually overwhelmed by blinding insights. It is much more likely for me to remember people or experiences I have not been thinking about.
Spiritual life is doing its work within me with grace and mercy. It is beyond my control and I do not even need to be directly aware of what is happening to me. My practice of listening is freeing me from needing to be responsible for every aspect of my own reflection.
Listening to What Emerges From Our Inner Stillness
As we practice listening to sacred stillness insights and questions will emerge for us. For me, my practice is not about cataloging those insights or answering the questions. I practice listening by listening.
What emerges from our inner stillness may be helpful in guiding us, or it may not. Some of what emerges teaches me how to live into spiritual life. It may reassure me or inspire me to continue.
Listening to sacred stillness is not about meeting our expectations or our curiosity. We are not checking it off our list of practices we would like to try.
We listen to the deep, sacred rhythms in the stillness within us and around us. Sacred stillness is with us and is not empty space.
Our practice of listening is about being open to what sacred stillness has for us. What emerges shapes us and draws us.
How are we listening to what emerges from our own inner stillness today?
Where will what emerges from our inner stillness lead us this week?
[Image by gailhampshire]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.