Walking Gently in the World
Some of us resolve to make this year different from last year.
We promise ourselves we will regularly take time to listen to sacred stillness this year. Our organized schedules include appointments dedicated to listening to sacred stillness. There is time in our calendars to pause, take a breath, and listen amid the distractions which fill our lives.
It helps us to be focused and intentional about listening. These structured times of stillness, surrounded by fences, are only the beginning of our contemplative practice.
Contemplative life is not about interrupting our frenzied activity to catch out breath. We do not finish our time of sacred stillness only to jump back into the maelstrom.
Listening to sacred stillness is not about temporarily relieving the stresses and strains of everyday life. We put our contemplative practices into practice by walking gently in the world.
The powerful wisdom of contemplative life is in the ways it shapes how we live each day. Listening to sacred stillness is not a way to make ourselves feel better, though it can do that. As we listen to sacred stillness it draws us in and fills us with spiritual life.
Our contemplative practices do not simply help us relax spiritually. Yes, we may experience, maybe for the first time, the rest and calm spiritual life has to offer us. Spiritual life does not draw us into its embrace simply to allow us to feel all warm and fuzzy.
We listen to sacred stillness and the vast universe all around us throws its arms around us. The life within us responds to what and who we find.
Contemplative life is about walking gently in the world.
How do we translate what we hear listening to sacred stillness into walking gently in the world?
What is Walking Gently in the World?
We sit and listen to sacred stillness, together or on our own, then we stand and step into the world.
Each of us steps in the world in our own way. We may stride forward confidently or take one hesitant step after another. Do our steps march to the beat of a drum or waltz to our own melody?
Some of us are encouraged to sit and allow our listening to spread into the rest of our lives. We do not jump up at the sound of our timer and head into the next challenge on our agenda. Just a minute or two more allows us to luxuriate in the stillness and carry it with us into our everyday lives.
Our first step after listening to sacred stillness is a step toward walking gently in the world.
The first way of walking gently my contemplative practices showed me is being gentle with myself. Some of us have unreasonable expectations for ourselves. We may learn them from others, but we enforce them on ourselves.
Spending time listening to sacred stillness reminds me spiritual life is not as hard on me as I am on myself.
Listening to sacred stillness helps me remember how to listen to other people well.
We practice walking gently in the world as we allow ourselves, other people, and other living things to be themselves.
Our contemplative practices give the world around us room to listen to sacred stillness on its own.
When We Are Walking Gently in the World
How can we tell when we are walking gently in the world? What is the experience of walking gently in the world like and how do we feel when we are doing it?
I do not believe walking gently in the world is something we accomplish. There are no measurable steps we need to monitor to make sure we are doing it right.
As we practice listen to sacred stillness our contemplation shapes how we walk in the world. We become more open to spiritual life and less interested in imposing our will on the people around us.
I have been a person of strong opinions and I still hold some of them. Studying political science and law and working as a lawyer, I enjoyed a good argument.
Walking gently in the world is not about pushing forward and shaping the world into what I want it to be. When we are walking gently we can feel the warmth of the sun on our face and the sand between our toes. Walking gently in the world is about inviting others to join in our dance.
As We Practice Walking Gently in the World
There are times when walking gently in the world can be a challenge.
Not everyone we meet will be practicing walking gently. Some people are trying to rush past us or not paying attention to the people around them. They may not be listening to sacred stillness, ignoring spiritual life.
We meet people who see our walking gently as a weakness, not a strength into which we are growing.
As much as we might want to prove the rightness of our practice, we are learning how to walk gently. We cannot convince anyone else of how right we are, only demonstrate the strength of our practice.
Our contemplative practice grows in our listening to sacred stillness. We learn to listen and apply what we learn as we practice walking gently in the world.
Other people cannot experience the depth of our listening, only the gentleness of our walking in the world.
Our listening helps us become more open and more gentle with ourselves, each other, and the world. Spiritual life embraces us and we embrace those around us.
Are we walking gently in the world today?
How can we practice walking gently in the world this week, this month?
[Image by telkin]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney 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.