Listening to Sacred Stillness: When Stillness is Reluctant to Talk

Listening to Sacred Stillness: When Stillness is Reluctant to Talk July 3, 2018

When Stillness Seems Reluctant to Talk 

Listening to sacred stillness is not always the most comfortable way to spend our time. There are days when sacred stillness just seems reluctant to talk.

We can feel like we are looking out the window on a foggy, overcast day. Even familiar landmarks are difficult to see in the gloom.

It is like those mornings when we wake up before the sun and cannot get back to sleep. We may toss and turn for a while but eventually give in and get up to make some coffee.

There are times when sacred stillness seems to be just like those people who refuse to tell us what is wrong. They are apparently upset about something but unwilling to put it into words.

Our experience with spiritual life may create expectations for the time we spend listening to sacred stillness. We may have been given such tremendous insights or important questions and we expect more. There may be times when sacred stillness has wrapped us in its arms and comforted us, and we long for more.

Some of us have grown used to the emotional benefits spiritual life has offered in the past. We may be tempted to depend on our relationship to them more than on our relationship to God.

Others of us may be skeptical about spiritual life and not inclined to listen to stillness. We may question just how sacred stillness can actually be. The foggy mornings when sacred stillness seems reluctant to talk to us do not reassure us.

Why do these times when sacred stillness is reluctant to talk happen? What do they mean?

We may have been told spiritual life is constant and loving. Why do we experience these times when it appears to be inconsistent and reluctant to talk to us?

Why Would Sacred Stillness Be Reluctant to Talk?

Some of us believe sacred stillness is reluctant to talk to us because we are not perfect. They seem to think we have fallen below the standards spiritual life has for its relationships. Some people are afraid we have done something so bad sacred stillness has nothing more to say to us.

Other people think sacred stillness is not reluctant to talk to us, but we are not listening well enough.

There are people who ask me questions about listening to sacred stillness and other contemplative practices. They want to know what comes next, after they have mastered this practice or that.

It is as if they are reading a book, climbing a mountain, or working on some other task. Listening to sacred stillness is one of many things on their list of things to do. Once they have done it, what comes next?

They approach spiritual life like something they are earning, like a college degree. But spiritual life is not the degree we receive as the result of our effort. Spiritual life is the way we learn which does not end when we finish school. It is more like a friendship we are given along the way than the degree at the end.

The best friendships are not like steps going up a staircase. They grow and develop and have a life of their own. There are times when things are happening I do not really understand.

All I can really do is keep listening and wait to see what happens.

Listening to sacred stillness is not an orderly progression toward deeper spiritual life. It is more about learning to listen, and continue listening, than accomplishing goals.

Listening to sacred stillness is not a way for us to have our expectations met.

What Do We Do When Sacred Stillness Seems Reluctant to Talk?

Listening to sacred stillness is not a method for squeezing wisdom out of the stillness around us. We are not trying to force or trick spiritual life into a relationship.

There is no checklist of steps to take when stillness seems reluctant to talk. Like with anyone else, we do not want to force something out of the stillness.

Part of listening to sacred stillness is learning to listen even when we are not hearing anything.

It is not the purpose of spiritual life to give us warm, comforting messages. The support we receive from spiritual life can easily become an obstacle which comes between us. We approach spiritual expecting to be supported. Our expectations get in the way of a real relationship.

Our relationship to spiritual life grows in trust and depth as our willingness to listen grows.

We learn to listen to sacred stillness even when we might not hear anything.

It is not that sacred stillness is reluctant to talk to us. We are learning to listen in deeper ways and to deeper truths.

We explore our relationship in more depth and discover there is so much more.

Does Sacred Stillness Seem Reluctant to Talk?

Our practice of listening to sacred stillness shapes how we listen and how we live. We learn our listening is not limited to concentrated sessions when we strain to hear something.

Often we find we hear something after our specific listening time. Spiritual life is not merely sharpening our skills or teaching us to pay attention. We are open and listening even when we think we are doing something else.

Even when we are distracted, we are open and listening to spiritual life.

Our relationship of listening to sacred stillness is not something we can control. Spiritual life does not exist to meet our expectations. Our expectations are far too low.

We practice being open to the depth and truth of sacred stillness. We are not seeking specific answers to particular questions, but a relationship.

Like on those foggy mornings, it can be difficult for us to see clearly. Distinct images begin to emerge and draw us in as we open ourselves and listen.

When does sacred stillness seem reluctant to talk to you?

How will we continue listening when stillness seems reluctant to talk this week?

[Image by zerojay]

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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