Not Only Just a Place to Rest
Some of us have a hard time seeing how our contemplative practice of listening could be a place to rest. We struggle to maintain a regular practice.
Our time is always in short supply. The idea of scheduling a break to listen to stillness never seems convenient. We have so many other things to do and listening to sacred stillness feels like an interruption.
It is a challenge for us to begin and sustain a contemplative practice.
Others depend on a regular time of sitting and listening to experience a place to rest. With the pressure and stress of everyday life we look forward to an opportunity to sit still.
Many of us are susceptible to the siren call of listening to sacred stillness. We appreciate how it feels to pause for a few minutes and regain our perspective during our active days.
Some of us feel ourselves sinking under everything we have to do each day and each night. We are looking for the reassurance we find in a place to rest.
A contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness can be our mindful version of an afternoon nap. We take time to let go the demands which distract us and allow our souls to rise to the top for a while.
It feels fantastic to emerge from a time of listening to sacred stillness refreshed and restored. Many of us need more physical and spiritual rest and hunger for safe ways to find it.
I am not convinced having a place to rest is the most significant aspect of listening to sacred stillness. The time we spend listening to sacred stillness is not solely intended to help us find rest.
My own contemplative practice gives me more than just a place to rest.
More Than a Place to Rest
Many of us live under the misconception spiritual life is about providing us with what we want.
We expect to be able to share our desires with an all-powerful deity who will shower us with gifts. Some of us believe spiritual life is a short cut, a way to receive gifts and blessings to make our lives better.
I believe prayer, including contemplative prayer, is powerful.
Our contemplative practices are not safe places for us to hide from the demands of everyday life. We do not wrap ourselves in sacred stillness so we have a place to rest and let things fall into our laps.
My spiritual practices draw me more deeply into everyday life.
Listening to sacred stillness connects me to spiritual life in intimate ways. It is not an escape, a way to avoid acting with justice and mercy in everyday life. When we listen to sacred stillness we pay attention to its rhythms within us and in the world.
Contemplative practices shine the light of day on parts of ourselves we would most like to stay hidden.
There are times when we we just want a place to rest. We are tired of learning, tired of growing. Spiritual life can exhaust us as it works in us.
The beauty of contemplative life is we do not need to keep up. Spiritual life is at work in us as we listen to sacred stillness. Whether we know it or not, whether we understand it or not, stillness wraps us in its arms and holds us.
We give our consent to spiritual life working and living within us.
When We Need a Place to Rest
Contemplative practices are not spiritual naps and retreats are not visits to a spiritual spa. We talk about doing inner work or cultivating inner life.
It is difficult for us to relax, take deep breaths, and practice listening to sacred stillness. We do not master contemplative practices; they master us.
Many of us do not experience beginning and growing into contemplative practices as finding a place to rest. Our hearts and minds struggle against openness and listening. We work hard to remain in control.
Listening to sacred stillness can feel like skydiving. We intend to give our consent to spiritual life living in us but it is still a struggle to step toward becoming open. It can feel threatening to do what we say we want to do. Why are we jumping out of a perfectly good airplane?
Many of us begin to find a place to rest only when we grow accustomed to a contemplative practice. Closing our eyes and breathing well we take our first steps into openness. We are floating free, soaring in sacred stillness.
Is our practice a place to rest or an opportunity for exhilaration?
Beyond a Place to Rest
Like young children we often struggle against taking time to rest. We hold onto active life as long and as hard as we can. Our instinct is to keep running and continue pushing until we are completely exhausted.
We trust ourselves to decide things for ourselves.
It is easy for us to miss out on experiencing transcendence. We do not want to take a nap, to rest, to miss anything. Why would we be looking for a place to rest?
Our struggle for autonomy is more about our own insecurities than our insightful reflection. We rush past experiences of transcendence to stay firmly attached to our everyday lives.
Where could spiritual life take us if we were open?
Contemplative practices help us find ways to become more open to spiritual life around us and within us. We are not closing our eyes just to find a place to rest for a few moments. Our feelings of rest are more about the experience of loosening our grasp for a few minutes.
How will we lean into spiritual life which is not merely just a place to rest today?
When will we take our next step into spiritual life beyond a place to rest this week?
[Image by slightlywinded]
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.