More Than Just Sitting Quietly
When you see someone listening to sacred stillness they can look like they are just sitting quietly.
Contemplation does not appear to be a particularly exciting or stimulating practice from the outside. Many people who practice listening to sacred stillness look like they might be asleep.
They find their inner balance, close their eyes, breathe deeply, and let go of distractions. None of those actions look dramatic or even interesting from the outside. Few of us get caught up in watching people listen to sacred stillness.
Why do people practice listening to sacred stillness, and how do they find it helpful? There must be more to it than is readily evident from outside. It must be more than just sitting quietly.
There are some beneficial aspects to just sitting quietly.
Just sitting quietly can help us relax, calm down, and lower our blood pressure. It can be good for our hearts and our circulation. Some of us believe sitting quietly after we eat helps us digest our food and keeps us from getting cramps.
For many of us just sitting quietly is a precursor to taking a nap or falling asleep.
It can be good for us to let our minds wander, read a book, or do something which taps into our creativity.
None of these, though, is listening to sacred stillness. While they all have benefits, they are not contemplative practices.
There is more going on in contemplative practices than just sitting quietly.
My contemplative practices begin with my giving permission. I recognize spiritual life living within me, being present and active in my life. The time I spend practicing is an intentional step of giving my consent for spiritual life to live in me.
I intentionally recognize the power of spiritual life in me.
Deeper Than Just Sitting Quietly
We close our eyes, breathing deeply, and sit quietly so we do not get in the way.
It is a challenge for us to give our consent to the presence and action of spiritual life within us and to mean it. Our typical response, when we realize something powerful is alive in us, is to be afraid. We grab at our lives, eager to protect them from outside influence.
The powerful part of contemplative practices is when we give our consent, our permission. We are practicing letting go and allowing spiritual life to live in us. Our practice is about getting out of our own way and remembering we consent.
We are easily distracted. In the heat of each present moment we forget what we intend to do.
Why is it important for us to give spiritual life permission to live within us?
Part of the reason is we are incredibly good at holding onto control. We have grown comfortable trying to control our own lives, regardless of what sort of job we have done. It is easy for us to assert what we want, where we have decided to go, how we will behave.
One of the essential lessons spiritual life has for us is we may not be able to see every aspect of the big picture. We are caught up in seeing things from our own perspective. Spiritual life shows us there is always something bigger and deeper than what we see.
Our contemplative practices are about more than just sitting quietly. We are intentionally consenting to spiritual life living within us.
Growing Beyond Just Sitting Quietly
Listening to sacred stillness helps us become part of something stronger and more significant than we are.
We are gifted, talented people with an amazing array of skills, strengths, and potential. Many of us appreciate and enjoy our ability to solve problems and make things better. Our contemplative practices help us recognize not all the weight of responsibility is on our shoulders.
There are points, once or twice a day, when we give our permission for life to be greater than we are.
It is not a matter of just sitting quietly looking rested. We acknowledge the power of spiritual life to help us become more than who we have been.
Listening to sacred stillness is not about analyzing or understanding how spiritual life works. We bring our questions and insights to our contemplative practices and they remain with us. Our practice is not about finding answers, but about sitting with our questions.
We do not need to solve or answer everything. Spiritual life is doing its work within us and in the world around us. Our everyday lives are intertwined with something larger and deeper than we understand.
Spiritual life is not about being confused and bewildered. It is often, though, beyond our understanding. Working in us, spiritual life expands what we recognize and understand.
We are growing and moving beyond what we know and what we can imagine. Spiritual life is infinitely more than just sitting quietly.
We Begin By Just Sitting Quietly
Our first step is to begin practicing each day. We start by just sitting quietly and listening to sacred stillness.
As we listen spiritual life draws us beyond what we know, beyond the questions we can answer. The working of spiritual life within us may not be something we understand. We may not recognize what is happening each moment we spend just sitting quietly.
Listening to sacred stillness is how we remember we give our consent to the work of spiritual life in us. It is our intention to step out of our own way by just sitting quietly.
We begin with that one step. Spiritual life, with our consent, is at work in us. The work may not always be something we can see or understand, but it is being done.
When do our contemplative practices take us beyond just sitting quietly?
How will listening to sacred stillness be more than just sitting quietly for us this week?
[Image by handheld heartbeats]
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.