Clinging to the Icy Edge of Stillness
Some of us like to believe listening to sacred stillness should be warm and comforting. We like to think we settle into stillness for a nice, quiet rest. Sitting still we close our eyes, taker a deep breath, and spiritual life wraps us in its arms.
There can be days like that. We find a rhythm in our contemplative practices and grow accustomed to how they feel. Spiritual life seems to welcome us into deeper listening.
Most of us, sooner or later, find ourselves in a place where we are clinging to stillness. Sacred stillness seems to be trying to slip out of our grasp.
Listening to sacred stillness no longer feels welcoming or comforting. It is a challenge for us to remember the warmth we have felt in the past. We find ourselves clinging to hold onto icicles hanging on the edge of stillness. They are slippery as they seem to slowly melt away in our hands.
Where are the warmth and rest we felt when we first began listening to sacred stillness?How much longer will we need to spend clinging to the icy edge of stillness? Why are we here?
We can feel the cold edge of stillness slowly slipping out of our hands.
It becomes more and more challenging for us to follow our contemplative practices. We may begin to question how or why we ever started theses practices in the first place.
Many of us begin to feel like a climber trying to traverse an icy crevasse. We remember why we started on this path but are not sure we know how we will take our next step. Some of us see neither how we can continue forward nor how we can turn back.
We stop where we are, clinging to the icy edge of stillness.
Clinging to the Edge of Sacred Stillness
Our relationship to spiritual life is more complicated than we like to think it is.
Many of us would like to think spiritual life is all about sorting things out and putting things in order. We like to assume we are getting spiritual life organized, mastering the lessons we need to learn.
Spiritual life is not about having a place for everything and putting everything in its place. Listening to sacred stillness is not about imposing what we believe on stillness.
We listen to sacred stillness to allow it to master us.
There are times when we realize we are clinging to the edge of sacred stillness because it is stronger than we are. Some of us like to believe we are making our mark on spiritual life. It is spiritual life which is putting its mark on us.
We like to assume we can sit in a comfortable chair next to a fireplace and listen to sacred stillness. The fact is we are often not paying attention when we are comfortable and warm. It is easy for us to get distracted or fall asleep when we are wrapped in blankets.
Sacred stillness has our full attention when we are clinging to its icy edge. We grasp the melting icicles of stillness with all our strength and listen as well as we can. It is stillness which is holding us up, keeping us there. Without the edge of sacred stillness we would fall.
Clinging to the edge of stillness is not about comfort, but about clarity.
It can be easy for us to get confused when we are holding onto so many things. We assume things are necessities when they are luxuries.
Clinging to sacred stillness helps us appreciate the difference.
Clinging to the Edge of Stillness in the Night Sky
I spent several days last week at New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California. The hermitage is in a beautiful part of the California coast with a driveway on Highway 1. The physical beauty can be breathtaking, especially watching the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean each evening.
As attractive as the days at New Camaldoli are, I love getting up for the first service of the day at 5:30 AM. I walk out of my trailer and am inspired by the canopy of stars in the night sky.
Living in the city it can be a challenge to remember there are stars in the sky.
I stood with my eyes on the heavens recognizing childhood friends like Orion and Cassiopeia. There was at least one shooting star and a sliver of moon.
Standing alone in the dark looking up at the stars, I was clinging to the edge of stillness.
After the prayer service the Eastern sky was pink with the dawning of a new day. My feet could find the ground again.
We are clinging to the edge of sacred stillness, trusting it will hold us up.
Clinging to the Cold, Sharp Edge of Stillness
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness is not about making ourselves feel comfortable. We do not pay attention to stillness because it makes us all warm and fuzzy.
When we listen to sacred stillness we are clinging to what is real in our lives.
Clinging to the edge of stillness is like remembering there are stars in the sky even when we cannot see them. We sit still and take deep breaths because we know the edge of stillness is there.
Our lives are filled with transitory distractions. Clinging to the cold edge of sacred stillness is how we remember what is real, what outlasts us.
We release our grasp on everything we do not need so we can continue clinging to stillness. Clinging to the icy edge of sacred stillness, we trust it to hold us up.
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness is about clarity, not comfort.
We hold onto the icy edge of stillness and allow it to master us.
When will we spend time clinging to the hard edge of stillness today?
How long will we continue clinging to the icy edge of sacred stillness this week?
[Image by Shyn Darkly]
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.