Creating Opportunities for Stillness
I know people who say they would like their lives to be more contemplative but they do not have time.
Contemplative practices are not easy. They require us to invest time and effort in taking the first steps on the path toward contemplative life. It can be a challenge for us to appreciate whether the benefits sacred stillness offers us are worth what it takes.
We live in a world which does not particularly value stillness and contemplation. Some of us are surrounded by sound from the time we wake up in the morning. The distractions continue until we try to fall asleep each night.
It seems as if the noises of the world permeate our lives. We are immersed in distracting sounds until we become as distracted within as we are from outside.
Some of us feel uncomfortable unless we are distracted by noises.
Creating opportunities for stillness can be a challenge for us.
There are people who experience spiritual practices as how we listen to sacred stillness. They believe we practice specific disciplines to teach ourselves how to recognize sacred stillness.
It is almost as if our practices were like vaccines to inject contemplative life into us.
If we can spend twenty minutes or so each day in a contemplative practice we can check sacred stillness off our list.
I do not believe we practice listening to sacred stillness as a way to ensure we have done our duty. Our practice is a way to introduce ourselves to sacred stillness. We listen as a way to create more opportunities for stillness.
A daily contemplative practice is not a way to meet our responsibilities. We practice because it opens us to more opportunities for stillness.
How can we create new opportunities for stillness each day?
New Opportunities for Stillness
We do not practice listening to sacred stillness because we have entered into some form of a contract. It is not about how we have promised to practice for so many minutes each and every day.
Our practices are not a form of obligation or duty. There are no rules we are following or requirements we must meet.
A practice of listening to sacred stillness, in any form, is about becoming open to spiritual life. We are drawn into deeper listening because it is how we experience and are embraced by spiritual life.
When we develop a practice which includes a particular time or place, those are not limitations. Listening to sacred stillness at a specific time does not mean we must stop when the time has passed.
Like people who practice a sport or a musical instrument, our practice allows us to play more artfully. We spend time and effort practicing to create new opportunities for stillness in our lives.
Our practice is about becoming more open to what sacred stillness has to share with us. We listen not by straining to hear every syllable but by being open to what sacred stillness has for us.
The more we practice the more opportunities for stillness we help create. As we practice listening we realize sacred stillness is all around us and within us. We listen because the noises are a distraction and we hope to hear what the stillness has for us.
Listening to sacred stillness can be a challenge for us. We are surrounded by a world which has forgotten how to pay attention. The voices in our own minds distract us from listening to sacred stillness.
Our entertainments drown out the truths of spiritual life. It is a challenge for us to learn to be open again.
Recognizing Opportunities for Stillness
When is the last time we took time to allow ourselves to take opportunities for stillness?
Many of us do not allow ourselves to practice listening to sacred stillness because we see it as a form of rest. We are convinced rest is something we need to earn by completing all our work. Once we have been productive and finished everything which need to be done we can take time for stillness.
Opportunities for stillness, in fact, are significant steps in being effective.
We seem to assume we can push ourselves as hard as we can and we will always respond with greater effort. In my experience the harder I push myself the more tired I become. My fatigue can affect my judgment. I may believe I am being productive and effective, but I am actually getting more and more tired.
It has taken me years of experience and learning through trial and error to appreciate stillness.
Taking opportunities for stillness helps me understand things more clearly. I might like to believe I can power my way through a project. My work will probably be better if take time to listen to sacred stillness.
Appreciating Opportunities for Stillness
As we practice listening to sacred stillness we start to realize spiritual life is all around us and within us.
We do not control sacred stillness by deciding we will practice listening each day. There is am endless supply of sacred stillness.
We may be tempted to approach our practice of listening to sacred stillness as if we are studying it. Some of us try to measure or analyze it, assessing the relative quality of the stillness each day.
My own practices of listening to sacred stillness each day show me it is not a subject to be studied. I listen to sacred stillness as I listen to people with whom I hope to become good friends.
There is wisdom in sacred stillness along with deep spiritual truths. It can be a challenge to become open, to overcome the obstacles within us. Each day can be filled with new challenges as well as new opportunities for stillness to speak to us.
Contemplative practices may not be easy. They are opportunities for stillness.
When can we create opportunities for stillness in our lives today?
How will we recognize opportunities for stillness when they present themselves this week?
[Image by bixentro]
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.