Listening to Sacred Stillness: Hope and Despair in the Stillness

Listening to Sacred Stillness: Hope and Despair in the Stillness September 10, 2019

Hope and Despair in the Stillness

Stillness is inextricably linked to hope and despair for me.

Sometimes stillness takes me to the edge of despair. It is the stillness of me reaching the end of my rope, my last resort, my worst case scenario. My brain has been running as fast as it can when it arrives at the end of my ideas.

Words seem to turn to ash in my mouth, in my mind, and there is nothing more to say.

I feel like I have run into a stone wall and there is no way to go any further. We have reached the end.

Experiencing despair leads me to turn to stillness.

When there are no more words to say and no more steps to take it makes sense to be still.

Stillness is the place where we can allow all the words and decisions and feelings to flow over us. We stop and listen, take deep breaths, and close our eyes and let go.

Many of us spend time in stillness to remember or reacquaint ourselves with hope.

We remember we are open and listening to what stillness has to tell us. Stillness is where we are reintroduced to the fact we are not solely responsible for everything.

There are times when we need to be still and recognize we are not totally alone.

Stillness is not only where we go when we experience despair. It is also where we go to experience hope.

We know there are times when the people we love and the work we love to do are slowly driving us crazy. There are days when we become too much even for ourselves and we need to spend time in stillness.

Stillness is how we restore the balance we need which includes both hope and despair.

Our Balance of Hope and Despair

Many of us live in a world which slides back and forth from hope to despair.

Some of us believe hope is essentially an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves to keep going.

Others of us do not really believe in despair. They are convinced the rest of us need to simply pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and get back to work.

I find I most often experience despair when I am tired. My hope is often linked to my desire to complete work and get things done. When things go smoothly and results fall into place I feel hopeful. The times when each task seems to take enormous effort can lead me to despair.

When I experience the despair of hopelessness I find stillness comforts me.

It is not only a matter of getting physical rest for me, though it does help. My struggle and persistence are emotional and spiritual efforts as well as physical ones.

My contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness reminds me to be open to spiritual life. I experience my hands opening and releasing what I am grasping.

Listening to sacred stillness allows me to remember I am not at the center of my own universe.

It can seem to us hope and despair are battling within us. We can feel like our entire lives hang in the balance. It is easy for us to see our lives as always being one thing or another.

Taking time to listen to sacred stillness helps us appreciate things differently.

As we sit quietly, listening, we remember we do not hold the balance of the world in our hands.

We listen and find the balance in the stillness. It is not something we impose or maintain from outside ourselves.

Stillness Speaks to Us of Hope and Despair

We bring all of ourselves with us when we step into sacred stillness. There is no way for us to hold parts of ourselves at a distance beyond the power of stillness.

Sacred stillness is alive and at work in us whether we acknowledge it or not. There is no place for us to keep small pieces of our lives in reserve.

When we sit still and close our eyes we are open to the presence and action of sacred stillness within us. The stillness within us and the stillness all around us are one.

Sacred stillness speaks to us of hope and despair.

Sometimes we depend on our own skills and abilities for our joy. Stillness reminds us the weight of the world is not sitting on our shoulders. Our hope and joy do not depend on our performance or perseverance.

There are other times when we are tempted to give up hope. We despair we will ever be able to make a lasting difference. Sometimes we feel we have wasted everything we have ever been given.

Stillness tells us there is hope in our despair. It may not be the end of our world after all.

Everyday Hope and Despair

Each of our days is filled with opportunities for hope and despair.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to be tossed around by waves of hope and despair. We may feel events or other people are living our lives for us.

When we practice listening to sacred stillness we hear it speak to us of hope and despair. We practice listening and stillness reassures us, restoring our balance of hope and despair.

Our everyday lives are like burning a candle. The flame gives us light in the darkness, but the candle disappears as it burns. While a candle’s light may give us hope, there is despair in the fact it will eventually burn itself out.

There are dancing lights in our everyday lives. At times, though, we reach the point where we are burned out.

We sit still and listen to what stillness has to tell us about hope and despair.

A contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness shows us the beauty of dancing in the dark.

When will we balance hope and despair in sacred stillness today?

Where will we go to find a candle of hope and despair this week?

[Image by deeps.adhi]

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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