Beyond Thoughts, Words, and Feelings
We live our lives surrounded and inundated by thoughts, words, and feelings. Whenever we find a moment of peace we immediately fill it with thinking and feeling.
There is something deep within us which believes in the power of words. We live in a culture of articulation. Our way of understanding and controlling the world around us is by using words.
We put thoughts and feelings into words the same way we put animals into cages.
Each of us is striving to find the words we want to express what we hope to say. The resulting tsunami of words washes over us and sweeps us away.
We become entangled in the thoughts, words, and feelings being generated all around us. The web of words, as well as thoughts and feelings, wraps us up and binds us. The harder we struggle to free ourselves the more it wraps around and restricts us.
Where can we find freedom from the thoughts, words, and feelings which hold us? Is it even possible for us to get beyond these thoughts, words, and feelings? How can we find our way out and release ourselves?
Listening to sacred stillness is often described as praying beyond thoughts, words, and feelings. The challenge for us is to find a path we can follow which will take us to freedom.
How can we get from where we are to where we want to go?
Thoughts, Words, and Feelings: Going Beyond Our Thoughts
I have a friend who calls listening to sacred stillness “not thinking about our thoughts.”
It seems like we are always thinking about something. We may be analyzing or evaluating how we have done today or so far this week. It could be something we did a long time ago we regret or are proud of which captures our thoughts. We might be thinking about the future.
Even our times of reflection fill our minds with thoughts which distract us from the present moment.
Our minds function as thinking tools. We realize we are awake and alive when we are thinking about something.
Our thoughts seem to have lives of their own, carrying our attention away. We climb aboard a train of thought and soon that train has left the station.
How do we go beyond our thoughts? We need some practical steps to leave our thoughts behind, not allow them to capture our attention.
Our thoughts and ideas engage our attention and we want them to do that. The key to going beyond thoughts words, and feelings is to be able to disengage when we want to.
We want to be able to choose, and even control, when and how our thoughts engage us.
Thoughts, Words, and Feelings: Going Beyond Words
We live in a world which believes in the power of words. We trust words can persuade us, teach us, inform us as well as form and shape us. Words can express much of the depth and power of our thoughts and our feelings.
I have learned most of what I know through words. In fact, we are not really convinced we know anything until we can put it into words. Words are part of the fabric and structure of how we experience the world.
We all know what it is like when words fail us. There are limitations to what words can express. We say a picture is worth a thousand words.
We appreciate some relationships are intimate enough to go beyond words. There comes a point where everything which needs to be said has been said. We can sit together without speaking and rest in the relationship which connects us.
Listening to sacred stillness is a relationship which goes beyond words.
We sit in sacred stillness listening to its echoes. Deep truths surround us and fill us with their wisdom.
Thoughts, Words, and Feelings: Going Beyond Our Feelings
I often need to think about how I feel. When someone asks me how I feel it takes me some time to sort out my real feelings.
There were times when I was not particularly interested in my feelings. Feelings and emotions just seemed to be obstacles which slowed me down or got in my way.
That is not the way I approach going beyond feelings anymore.
Part of listening to sacred stillness is making peace with our feelings. We need to become friends with our thoughts, words, and feelings to be effective listeners.
I spend time reflecting to clarify and understand my feelings. Feelings and emotions are powerful clues to our deepest selves. The challenge is to be able to let go of them as we listen to sacred stillness.
Like our thoughts and words, our honest friendships with our feelings allow us to practice going beyond them. We need to be able to disengage from our most engaging feelings without being carried away.
Going Beyond Thoughts, Words, and Feelings
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness helps us develop the ability to go beyond thoughts, words, and feelings.
We choose a symbol as our touchstone to remind us of our intention. As we give our consent to the presence and action of spiritual life within us, we become more open.
When we find ourselves becoming distracted by thoughts, words, or feelings we gently return to our symbol. Reminding ourselves of our intention helps us remain open to the present.
Listening to sacred stillness is not about riveting our focused attention. We are not trying to listen perfectly without distraction. Our intention is to open our lives to the presence and action of spiritual life.
We practice opening our minds and hearts each day. Letting go of distracting thoughts, words, and feelings, we are free to go beyond them.
How will we go beyond thoughts, words, and feelings today?
Where will we reach as we stretch beyond thoughts, words, and feelings this week?
[Image by Nancy A. McDonough Geschke Library]
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.