Listening to Sacred Stillness: Going Beneath the Surface

Listening to Sacred Stillness: Going Beneath the Surface October 24, 2017


Beneath the Surface

We think listening to sacred stillness is like stretching out and lying on the beach.

With our eyes closed, we try to clear our minds of everything which distracts us. The immense empty stillness spreads out like the ocean stretches from the beach. If only we could let go of our concerns and assumptions, we could look out to the horizon.

But when we stand on the beach looking out over the ocean, we only see the top of the water. There is more power, more life than we can imagine beneath the surface.

We are satisfied to merely skim across the water ignoring the real depth of potential.

Sacred stillness is more immense, more powerful, more filled with life than any ocean.

Our challenge is to be willing to go beneath the surface.

Standing on a California beach it is difficult to believe so much is happening beneath the surface. On a clear day with the sun shining, it is almost as if we could see across the ocean. The warm air and crashing waves fill our vision from our feet all the way to the horizon.

We stand on the beach to be drawn out of our own thinking and reflect on larger things.

It is easy for us to ignore the real action beneath the surface.

Like a visit to the beach, we forget the deep potential of listening to the depth of sacred stillness.

It takes only a few minutes for the surface area of sacred stillness to  overwhelm us. If we can quiet our minds enough to spend ten minutes we feel a sense of accomplishment.

Listening to sacred stillness is not about doing it well, not about floating on the surface. The depth of sacred stillness draws us in to find the treasures waiting for us.

Going Beneath the Surface

Our world does not appear to value real listening. We have grown impatient with listening to other people, ourselves, and sacred stillness. We want fast results and concise answers.

People now are happy with an overview, a summary, a quick glance across the surface. Few of us are comfortable going beneath the surface and we have forgotten how to do it.

We live on the edge of a resource of vast power but are too distracted to appreciate it.

The power of sacred stillness makes us nervous and afraid. We want to be protected as we are drawn into the middle of its depth and life and power.

What is out there lurking in the depths?

Unlike the ocean, we do not need special gear to protect us in the depths of sacred stillness. There is not reason for us to stay on the surface or in the shallows. We can explore beneath the surface without tanks or suits or a protective cage.

We can leave our cages behind as we explore sacred stillness. Our exploration is strengthened more by what we let go than by how much we take with us.

It is a challenge to describe how we go beneath the surface of sacred stillness. Each of us follows our own path and discovers our own deep truths.

Listening to sacred stillness begins to show us how much there is for us to explore. We begin listening across the surface and open ourselves to the depths underneath it.

Going beneath the surface is not drudgery or struggle. Like children on the beach, we are learning how to play in the depths of sacred stillness.

Playing in the Depths Beneath the Surface

We have the opportunity to play beneath the surface of sacred stillness.

As we begin to listen we learn the significance of listening well. We begin to move from sitting at the edge toward playing in the depths.

Spiritual life is more than just sitting still and feeling comfortable. We are not merely customers or clients or patients of sacred stillness. Spiritual life is at work in us, transforming us and freeing us. We are at work, co-creating with spiritual life in the depths of sacred stillness.

How does this happen? What can we do to prepare and get ready? Where is this going to take us?

The fact is there is not a clear, concise plan with measurable objectives. There is more than we can imagine. We may not understand, which is the way it should be.

It is likely we will have more questions than answers.

We may feel we are being taken into depths we do not know how to handle. It may be longer than we have been beneath the surface.

We may get to a point and, looking back, not be sure about how we got there.

There is more to sacred stillness than we can possibly imagine or understand. What we know is that real life is beneath the surface.

How Do We Go Beneath the Surface?

We begin by listening to sacred stillness. Our daily practice can teach us important lessons. Like people learning to swim, we begin by putting our faces in the water.

We break the surface and open our eyes to learn what it is like. Listening each day helps us become comfortable beneath the surface. The depth and power and love of sacred stillness gets our attention and draws us into itself.

We grow accustomed to living in the depth beneath the surface and become thirsty for more.

It may look to others like we are sitting, looking out at the ocean but there is more. We are exploring and discovering, at play in spiritual life.

Our play takes us beyond expectations and demands, beyond rules and responsibilities.

Like children playing on the beach, we are not overwhelmed by the depth beneath the surface. Sacred stillness draws us in and shows us its secrets. We listen, we learn to be comfortable, and we begin to play.

How will you allow sacred stillness to take you into the depth beneath the surface today?

Where will you spend time playing this week?

[Image by shannonkringen]

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, and his email address is

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