Sitting in Stillness Together
I enjoy listening to sacred stillness together with other people.
Sometimes it seems a little ironic to listen to stillness together with other people. Anyone who sees us might find it a little strange to observe a group of people sitting in stillness together.
Does it really make a difference whether we are still by ourselves or with people? If we close our eyes and practice being open, what does it matter whether anyone else is around?
We might find other people to be a distraction even when we are all listening to sacred stillness.
I spend time listening to sacred stillness on my own as well as together with other people. Some of my experiences of listening to sacred stillness together with others have been with one other person. There have been times in small groups and times with more people, indoors and outdoors.
A group I help facilitate on Monday evenings has been meeting regularly more than ten years. Often new people come. Some people have been introduced to stillness through our group. People have moved away and some regular participants have died.
We begin each week with one of the psalms. When it is my turn I often play a recording of the monks at New Camaldoli chanting a psalm. After that first reading we sit for thirty minutes listening to sacred stillness together. We close our time of stillness by praying the Lord’s Prayer together. There is a second reading and then we leave.
We spend time listening to sacred stillness together and we carry our stillness with us back into the world.
The stillness we share supports each of our own individual practices of listening to sacred stillness. We remind each other through the examples of the stillness within each of us.
Why Do We Listen to Sacred Stillness Together?
It seems counterintuitive to some of us to practice listening to sacred stillness together.
We may understand any of our contemplative practices as a direct connection between us and God. Our practice is focused on being open to spiritual life and letting go of what distracts us. It is easy for us to see other people as among those distractions.
I understand sacred stillness and contemplative practices differently.
As we practice we become more open to spiritual life within us and in the world around us. We let go of what distracts us so we can take our time and pay attention.
Our contemplative practices are not intended to create an exclusive direct line to God. We are not trying to uncover or decode some sacred secret messages meant only for us.
As we listen to sacred stillness we begin to recognize spiritual life which fills and surrounds us.
Sitting in stillness together allows us to encourage and support each other without depending on words. Taking time to listen and reflect in stillness together helps us grow stronger.
Each of us becomes a supporting presence for the rest of us. We protect and hold the stillness together, sharing the depth of our listening.
I learned how to listen to sacred stillness by exploring stillness together with other people. I heard a little explanation and description, but my understanding came in practicing stillness together. It was one thing to sort through information and have an opportunity to ask questions. Like in almost all practices, contemplative life reveals itself as we practice listening to sacred stillness together.
We take time to open ourselves to stillness and sacred stillness opens itself to us.
It is less intimidating, less daunting, to begin our listening together.
How Do We Listen to Sacred Stillness Together?
The first time I tried to practice listening to sacred stillness I had the wrong idea of what I was doing.
I had been told we were taking time to listen to the deep spiritual truths all around us and within us. As we began our time of listening my mind was constantly shifting as I tried to find those truths. I began in a swirl of Was that it? What about that? There seemed to be so many directions in which to focus my attention.
During that first attempt to listen to sacred stillness together I started to understand this was different. Spiritual life in me and in the world and the people around me embraced me. The other people with me, without words or actions, supported me and helped me get out of my own way.
We do not need to talk or even think to listen to sacred stillness together. Our practice of listening goes beyond thoughts, words, and feelings. We practice listening together by being present for each other.
Listening to Stillness Together
Before I was received as a lay Oblate at New Camaldoli I spent a year discerning whether it was a good fit. The year was my opportunity to try some new practices on for size.
During my year I experienced the truths embedded in these practices in new ways. When I listened to sacred stillness I was not on my own by myself. My practices showed me I was becoming part of a network of spiritual life which stretches around the world. Not only do we listen to sacred stillness together across distances, but also across time.
When I listen to sacred stillness I am joining an ongoing group of people which reaches back for centuries. We take time to listen to stillness together beyond the boundaries of past, present, and future.
My practices of listening support them and their practices support me. We open ourselves to sacred stillness together and continue an emerging contemplative tradition.
Our practice brings us together and encourages us to open ourselves to sacred stillness. I am with the monks at New Camaldoli as we listen to sacred stillness.
We are not alone in a global community of listening to sacred stillness together.
When will we sit in stillness together today?
How will listening to sacred stillness together begin to transform us this week?
[Image by Peg Syverson]
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.