When Stillness Embraces Us
Most of us feel nervous, or at least a little uncomfortable, about listening to sacred stillness.
Stillness is rare in our world. We say to ourselves, “You want me to listen to something I cannot hear for 20 minutes? What if I do not hear anything? What does stillness sound like?”
Many of us tentatively dip our toe into the edge of the ocean of stillness. We are not certain how wet we want to get and do not want stillness to knock us down.
Twenty minutes can feel like a long time for some of us. Our minds are busy giving us things to think about and reminding us of unmet expectations. We may spend most of our twenty minutes evaluating how we are doing.
The first time we sit and listen to sacred stillness does not feel familiar. We are doing something we have never tried before. Trying to listen to sacred stillness a few times is not a practice of contemplative listening.
Many of us try to listen to sacred stillness and do not feel stillness welcoming us. Our experience is struggling against our own minds, working hard to corral or subdue our thoughts. It feels like we are either falling asleep or fighting to remain sitting still.
Some of us do not see the point and decide to give up. Others of us develop a practice of listening even when we do not feel comfortable.
We settle into a daily practice of contemplative listening. Some of us sense the potential of a practice even when we have not yet experienced it.
As we continue to practice we begin to realize there is a point at which sacred stillness embraces us. We are not listening to meet expectations, but to return the embrace of sacred stillness.
How Sacred Stillness Embraces Us
We have not spent enough time listening to sacred stillness to recognize how it will embrace us. Many of us take uncertain steps toward a contemplative practice of listening. We do not yet have an intimate relationship with stillness and cannot perceive how it is sacred.
Our listening is haphazard and immature. As we practice we begin to experience contemplative listening.
Over time we begin to appreciate listening is more than waiting for when we can speak again. Contemplative listening is not limited to taking a breath or thinking about what we will say next.
We practice listening to sacred stillness and stillness draws us toward itself. Listening allows us to appreciate what is sacred in the stillness. The sacred stillness in the world around us recognizes the sacred stillness within us. Stillness embraces us and draws out the deepest parts of who we are.
When we first meet someone many of us are intentionally gentle. We do not want to overstep our bounds or overwhelm someone who does not know us.
Over time, as we listen to them and get to know them, we become friends and intimacy grows between us.
Each step in the growth of our friendship helps us become more comfortable with each other.
Sacred stillness does not want to force itself on us or intimidate us. We are invited into a significant relationship which grows more meaningful as we continue to step into it.Like in any healthy relationship, we grow more intimate with sacred stillness as we learn to listen. We become open to what is sacred in the stillness within us and stillness embraces us.
Our practice of contemplative listening to sacred stillness is about sitting wrapped in its welcoming arms.
We learn to recognize how it feels when stillness embraces us.
Stillness Embraces Us and Lifts Us Up
Many of us have little experience with sacred stillness. Our lives are starved for stillness. We have forgotten, or never really known, what it is like when stillness embraces us.
Stillness embraces us and lifts us out of our ordinary, everyday routine. We experience new perspectives as we are raised beyond the ways we usually see things. Dropping whatever distracts us we return the embrace of sacred stillness.
Our practice of contemplative listening is lifted past a struggle to avoid thinking our own thoughts. Sacred stillness embraces us and we realize what has distracted us in the past is not particularly distracting.
We sit still with our eyes closed and release ourselves into being embraced by stillness.
Like with any intimate embrace we are no longer interested in anything else while we are in the embrace of stillness.
When stillness embraces us twenty minutes passes quickly. We listen to sacred stillness without worrying about our own mental email, tests, or phone messages. We pay attention to what stillness has to tell us.
What could be more important than sitting in the embrace of sacred stillness?
Paying Attention When Sacred Stillness Embraces Us
A practice of listening to sacred stillness is not about compelling stillness to embrace us. It is not as if we regularly listen to stillness as a way to require it or force it to hold us in its arms.
We practice listening to sacred stillness to open ourselves to its embrace. Stillness is not hiding from us or something we earn. Sacred stillness is all around us and within us, but we are not paying attention.
It is as if sacred stillness is constantly tapping us on the shoulder or touching our arm. Stillness is not reluctant to embrace us. We have forgotten how to be open when stillness embraces us.
It has become easy for us to ignore sacred stillness.
Stillness has not forgotten us. Sacred stillness waits for us to return.
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness can feel like a struggle at first. We have become accustomed to not paying attention.
As we practice listening we remember what it is like when stillness embraces us. We sit still wrapped in the arms of sacred stillness.
How will we feel when sacred stillness embraces us today?
Will we recognize it when stillness embraces us this week?
[Image by marneejill]
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.