The Stillness of Today
Today by Mary Oliver
Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.
But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.
Each day has a stillness of its own. The stillness of today tells a uniquely personal story. We listen to sacred stillness and remind ourselves to be open for what today’s stillness has for us.
On our own and together with others we listen to the stillness of today.
Some of us need to work hard to set aside everyday distractions. The voices of friends and family, ideas and words challenge our ability to listen to stillness. We become lost in our memories of the past or plans for the future.
Our minds and hearts are often pulled in competing directions. It may be our own fatigue which keeps us from listening.
Are we able to tune into the stillness of today? How can we find the stillness of today in all the echoing noises and distractions of our world? When will we take time to listen to the stillness of today?
Is the stillness of today one of the doors into our temple?
We may experience the stillness of today as elusive or difficult to hear. As we practice listening to sacred stillness we hear more deeply, more completely. The stillness of today draws us in today and paves our way for tomorrow.
Listening to the Stillness of Today
What qualities are characteristic of the stillness of today?
Each day has its own combination of herbs and spices which give it a unique flavor. Some days are made sharper with a dash of frustration or even anger. Other days taste smoother. We remind ourselves each day has the ingredients and flavorings we add to it ourselves.
We listen to sacred stillness by filtering out what distracts us from hearing each day’s stillness. Our practice may be a set period of time on a certain schedule each day. We practice being open to stillness and helping ourselves become better listeners.
There are days when a regularly scheduled practice of listening to sacred stillness is not enough for me.
Some days I am trying to discern wisdom for myself or for someone else. I need to spend more time listening to stillness and what it has to say to me. There are days when I am tired. Soaking in stillness is the closest I can get to taking a nap. On other days it feels like I am wrestling with stillness, struggling to hear what it wants to tell me.
There are days when it takes me longer to clear away all the distracting thoughts, words, and feelings.
I have a time when I sit in my regular chair and begin listening. Closing my eyes I begin to breathe more deeply. There is a word I use to remind myself I intend to consent to the life and action of spiritual life within me.
My listening to the stillness of today is not about how much I hear or how often I get distracted. It makes no difference how much I remember or whether I think I do a good job.
The Stillness of Today Opens the Door
Like any contemplative practice, listening to sacred stillness is not magic. While stillness may be full of mystical power, there is no magical formula or word to put it to work.
We sit in stillness and allow all the distractions of the world to float past us. Some of them move faster than others and some have lights and sound to help them distract us.
There may be ideas or feelings which try to distract us every day. Some distractions will be new in the stillness of today.
No matter what we encounter, what we hear, we sit still and listen to sacred stillness.
Some of us work hard trying to gain entry into the temple wherever we find an opportunity. We rattle all the windows and doors we find. Sometimes we discover a way to enter we had not experienced before.
Listening to sacred stillness requires a little patience and some practice. It is a dependable and reliable door into a sacred place.
We do not need to climb a wall or find a way to force our way inside. The stillness of today opens the door and allows us in each day.
Being Open to the Stillness of Today
Stillness is not a generic experience. Each day, each moment we spend listening to stillness is unique. The stillness of today, the stillness of each moment, has its own qualities.
When we practice listening to sacred stillness we practice becoming open to stillness. We do not listen by becoming more tightly focused or concentrating, but by becoming more open.
By listening to the stillness of today we allow stillness to fill us and bathe us each day. The sacred stillness in the world around us recognizes the stillness within us because it is the same stillness.
Stillness opens the door for us. With so many ideas and feelings and sounds competing for our attention, stillness is our path through them.
Listening to the stillness of today reminds us it is our openness which opens the door for us. Our listening is not about how much we know or how right our answers are.
As we practice being open to the stillness of today we realize we cannot hoard stillness overnight. Each day is a new opportunity for us to listen to its sacred stillness.
When will we take time to listen to the stillness of today?
How will we practice being open and attentive to the stillness of today?
[Image by debs-eye]
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.