Where Do We Go to Find Stillness?
We live in a world where stillness is a dwindling resource. Where do we go to find stillness?
More and more of our personal, private space is filled with sound, much less our public space. Our lives are filled with increasing numbers of people, each of whom is entitled to express their own opinions. We live lives immersed in all these expressions.
We read about people who were prompted by spiritual life to seek stillness in the wilderness. The roots of monastic life were sown by people heading into the desert or onto mountains.
The places we can go to find stillness are becoming harder and harder to access.
Most of us do not have the luxury to spend time each day in the desert or the forest. It takes us time and effort to explore the stillness of the beach or the mountains.
Going to a physical place of stillness and reflection each day is unrealistic for us. We need to seek sacred stillness somewhere else, in other ways.
Fortunately, there are places we can go each day to find stillness.
Listening to sacred stillness is not a matter of taking long, challenging trips to sacred places. Each of us is on a journey, a pilgrimage of our own. We do not need to plan our itineraries to find as many sacred sties as we can and squeeze into them.
Spiritual life is not a competitive sport. We are not racing as we continue our journeys. There are no extra points for visiting more sacred places than anyone else.
We can visit places to listen to sacred stillness without going out of our way.
Like many of the resources we need on our pilgrimage, we carry places to find stillness within us.
How Do We Find Stillness?
I know people who have been trying to find stillness for a long time, far longer than I have.
For some time I was skeptical about the value of stillness. My priority was escaping stillness. Rather than heading to the desert or the mountains or the beach, I was going downtown.
I think, as I look back and remember, I was running away from what stillness had for me.
My focus was on solving problems, finding solutions and putting them to work. I believed in the power of making a difference.
It is still important to me to make a difference. What has changed are the ways I understand the differences which need to be made.
I believe in the power of sacred stillness. Listening to sacred stillness is how we restore ourselves, turning back to see in new ways.
There was a time when sacred stillness was barely alive in me. Stillness was nearly choked out of me by the rules and expectations I had internalized. I had never really given stillness a chance to take hold in me. More and more places in me had been structured and oriented away from my true self.
It took the experience of almost losing hope to open me to stillness. The facts and rules and expectations on which I had based my life appeared to be collapsing.
If I could not trust sacred stillness as things were tumbling down, who could I trust?
My practice of listening to sacred stillness began as a way to explore what remained. We find sacred stillness waiting for us when we have swept everything else away.
We Find Stillness in Challenging Places
Our practices of listening to sacred stillness can take us to remote, challenging places. We assume we need to get away, to go to some isolated place to find stillness.
The attraction of the desert or of the beach is we can get alone with our own thoughts. We do not need to spend energy dealing with other noise.
There are places within ourselves which can be just as remote, just as isolated as any desert.
In my experience, it is those places within us we might want to avoid which can help us find stillness.
They include the memories of times when we struggled to fit in even when we did not. The regrets we have about the past and the fears we have about the future help us find stillness.
We leave the familiar places within us and explore these challenging places to find stillness. When we set aside the sounds which comfort us and lull us, we realize we hear the remote places. As hard as we try to keep them at a distance, they are always there.
We stop trying to push them away, stop trying to avoid them. Then we can hear them for what they are.
We Find Stillness in Unexpected Places
We listen to sacred stillness in the remote places within ourselves. Our willingness to listen makes them less painful for us and allows us to explore them.
As we listen, we find stillness and beauty in the places we have worked so hard to avoid. Our work is difficult. We may try and fail to listen well. Each time we try we learn new lessons.
Listening to sacred stillness is, in fact, an act of love. We know what it feels like when someone really listens to us. More than hearing what we say, someone listening well can hear what we cannot put into words.
We listen to sacred stillness as an act of love for the sacred all around us and within us. We learn to listen to the world around us as an act of love. The love we express to the world by listening draws people toward us. Our listening to other people is an act of love for them.
As we listen to the sacred, to the world, and to others, we learn to listen to ourselves. We listen in new ways to the remote, challenging places within us. Listening to ourselves is our act of loving our true selves.
Where will we go to find stillness this week?
What remote places will we visit in ourselves this week?
[Image by marfis75]
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.