Our Natural Stillness
Many of us lead lives in which it is challenging to experience natural stillness.
We surround ourselves with the sounds of other people and other things. Some of us cannot remember the last time we heard natural stillness. We fill our nights with artificial light and our lives with artificial noise.
I know people who spend all their waking hours with a soundtrack of background music. They surround themselves with walls of music and words, never listening to any natural stillness.
Some of us practice listening to sacred stillness. We focus on the stillness we carry around within us. Our contemplative practice of listening helps us live into sacred stillness no matter what noise might distract us.
People often find an experience of natural stillness disconcerting or even intimidating. We spend our lives surrounded by the sounds of other people and the noises of cars and trucks and airplanes. I know people who find natural stillness a little too quiet. It makes them nervous.
Other people develop a thirst for stillness from being inundated with sound so much of the time. They need to take time regularly to explore natural stillness.
Each of us seeks our own balance of stillness in our lives.
A Balance of Natural Stillness
I grew up in a place of natural stillness and put a lot of energy into looking forward to living somewhere else.
Cities have always attracted me. Each time I have moved, there is only once when I moved to a smaller city, from Chicago back to Washington, DC. I enjoy the excitement and culture, the history and energy of the cities where I have lived and visited.
It was easy for me to understand what cities had to offer, though it took me some time to appreciate the value of stillness.
My focus was on what I could accomplish, on making a difference. I was focused on accomplishing things and my life was out of balance.
Working as hard as I could I would drive myself until I was exhausted. When I had no other choice I would take a break. Every time I took time off from work I would become ill. I began each week away from work in bed for a few days. It was like I was allergic to the stillness of taking time for myself.
Even when I did not see my need for stillness I was still drawn to nature. I lived in places with green spaces and nearby natural stillness.
Each of the cities where I have lived, no matter what attracted me there, I found the stillness I needed.
I eventually recognized my need for stillness and contemplation. As I explored contemplative practices I began to discover what balance and stillness could be.
Now I seek out opportunities to allow natural stillness to wash over me and fill me. I still enjoy cities and appreciate the balance I have found so far while continuing to explore.
Listening to Natural Stillness
No matter where we live each of us has opportunities to practice listening to natural stillness.
For some of us our experience of natural stillness may be concentrated on only one or two things. It may be a specific tree or particular birds in the air. We may only be able to see the moon in the night sky.
When our ability to be in contact with nature is limited we need to pay attention well.
Our attention must take us beyond an effort to analyze or study what we experience. Natural stillness is deeper than what we can learn about our natural world.
As we open ourselves to natural stillness we begin to appreciate it in more depth.
A few days ago I spent some contemplative time listening to the rain. Where I live it has been a long time since we had a good rain. We have been living in a drought with little rain for several years. Taking time to listen to a steady rain was a particularly rewarding experience.
The natural stillness of falling rain filled me with hope for the future. It reminded me of stillness I heard when I was young. Rain always seems to clean things off and wash things away.
When we have opportunities we can explore natural stillness in greater depth.
Many of us live close enough to natural stillness to be able to visit for a day. I do not live at the beach but take every chance I can to visit the ocean. We may not live in the mountains or a forest but we are close enough to take a break there.
Visiting a monastery or retreat center for a few hours can open us to natural stillness.
Almost all of us have access to natural stillness.
Benefits of Natural Stillness
Each of us can take time to find and listen to natural stillness.
The stillness we find in nature has insights to show us about listening to sacred stillness. It is the same stillness within us and in the world around us.
We listen to the sound of steady rain or the waves of the ocean. The wind blowing through tall trees or across a mountain reminds us.
There is a particular stillness as snow falls through the air.
The stillness we hear in nature helps us listen to the sacred stillness we seek within ourselves. We learn to listen to birds or breezes, to rain or waves and sacred stillness becomes clearer to us.
Listening to the natural world helps us remember to take time and listen to sacred stillness no matter where we are.
The stillness in nature reminds us we are part of nature. The spiritual life flowing through nature flows through and fills us as well. Listening well helps us learn to share.
The stillness is the same and the spiritual life is the same and the listening is the same.
Where will we find natural stillness today?
When will we listen to natural stillness this week?
[Image by bobbyhiltz]
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.