Listening to Sacred Stillness: Listening to Stillness in the Hospital

Listening to Sacred Stillness: Listening to Stillness in the Hospital April 25, 2019

Stillness in the Hospital

When I go to the hospital to pray it is often for someone else. People ask me to pray for them and together we listen to the sacred stillness in the hospital.

This week I spent some time listening to the stillness in the hospital as a patient.

It was not a surprise or an emergency. I had plenty of time to plan and prepare, for all those preliminary appointments. There was blood work and a CT scan and a preoperative appointment. Everything was ready.

We got to the hospital just after noon, which meant I had nothing to eat or drink for 18 hours.

At first there was more listening than stillness. Different nurses asked me the same questions several times. I think they are evaluating my cognitive thinking by checking how my responses change over time. They drew blood and checked my vital signs.

I saw the surgeon. The anesthesiologist explained several options to me.

After a few hours of getting ready my wife went to the waiting room and they took me to the operating room. They rolled me into the operation room and I met some new people. The last thing I remember was talking to the anesthesiologist again.

From the time I went into surgery to when I got out of recovery was about five hours. I spent most of that time either asleep or drowsy, so I was not ready to go to sleep.

Again there was more listening than stillness for a little while. Once I was settled into my room my wife went home for the night and the stillness in the hospital wrapped itself around me.

Overnight Stillness in the Hospital

It was unlikely I was going to fall asleep sitting propped up in bed holding an ice pack on my surgical scar. I sat listening to the stillness in the hospital, filled with sacred depth and truth.

There are plenty of people and situations for prayer overnight in the hospital. With some practice, listening to sacred stillness opens us to the voices in the stillness.

I remembered each of the people I had met that day. There was the person at the front desk who directed us where to go. Each of the nurses and physician’s assistants, each of the doctors. There were all the patients in the hospital that day and all of the members of their families. I prayed for the people who had wheeled me into the operating room and the people who were waiting for me there.

It was easy to pray for the people who were trying to sleep and the people taking care of them.

There were people working in the cafeteria and people working in the emergency room.

Listening to sacred stillness in the hospital, I could have been going from room to room.

There was plenty of sacred stillness in the hospital that night. Praying for friends and family, and for people I have not yet met. Remembering the families touched by violence in Sri Lanka and new Zealand and Pittsburgh and around the world.

I also listening to the stillness in the hospital with myself in mind. Grateful for a safe, successful procedure and the knowledge and skill of the doctors and nurses. I was thankful for the icepack and for the nurses who helped me back and forth to the restroom all night.

The overnight stillness in the hospital invites us to listen for the sacred.

Listening to Stillness in the Hospital

It seems to me, after my night of stillness in the hospital, we are all in the same bed.

Some of us have been in accidents and others have exerted ourselves too much. We may need help or we may be caring for others, or both.

It is as if we cannot sleep and sit listening to sacred stillness in the hospital.

Some of us are straining forward to see where we will go next. Others of us just want to be able to put one foot down in front of the other again.

We may be preparing for surgery or in the recovery room. People are caring for each other and listening for the healing in the stillness all around us.

There is a quality unique to the stillness in the hospital. Underneath the sirens and warnings and bells the stillness in the hospital holds us together.

We rest and listen, closing our eyes and breathing deeply. Past the point of deadlines and appointments, we stop and listen to the stillness.

It is the stillness in the hospital which helps us heal and recover.

Remembering in gratitude each of the people who has cared for us and helped us, we listen.

Healing Stillness in the Hospital

My night listening to sacred stillness in the hospital reminded me how many people have helped ne heal. Even the surgeons who open me up to find out what is inside are helping me heal.

Each of us is a patient with our own chronic problems. Some we have inherited and some we bring on ourselves. Each of us is also caring for others.

Spiritual life can be simple, but it is not easy. We are connected by a network of relationships which can be easy to miss, tempting to forget.

Every one of us is in recovery and we all need more treatment. We may want to walk out the front door of the hospital, but the only way out is in a wheelchair. No one leaves forever.

I believe my surgery this week will help me be healthier. The benefits, though, may be hidden. My surgical scars will heal and fade away. I will remember my night of healing stillness in the hospital.

Each of the people with us in the hospital is here to help us heal. Together we listen to sacred stillness in the hospital.

What do we hear in the stillness in the hospital today?

Where will we find sacred stillness in the hospital this week?

[Image by Dr. Eduardo García Cruz]

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, and his email address is

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