Recognizing the Sacred Within Stillness
For many of us the challenge of listening to sacred stillness is recognizing the sacred within stillness.
We have grown unaccustomed to what is sacred and to listening to stillness. Our lives feel focused on the everyday to the exclusion of any sense of anything sacred. We have grown used to distracting ourselves with busyness and the constant internal flow of words.
There is no room in our lives for either stillness or anything else which could be sacred.
Many of us resist the idea of a contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness. We feel uncomfortable with stillness, as if something menacing is out there waiting for us.
Some of us are equally concerned with anything which might be sacred. We do not like the idea of something larger or more significant than we are. Many of us are uncomfortable with attempts to win favor or manipulate the world through religion.
Why on earth would we want to explore whether there is anything sacred within stillness?
We prefer the noisy, practical worlds we have constructed for ourselves in which we are so comfortable.
Most of us prefer to continue living with the assumption we control our own destinies.
Every once in a while, though, we experience something sacred even in our concrete worlds.
There may be something which stands out, something we cannot immediately understand. An anomaly gets our attention and challenges how we experience the world around us. We would have missed it if we had not been paying attention at that moment.
So much of the lives we build for ourselves depends on our own rational analysis, our own perspective.
We are busy mastering the life within us and the life all around us. When will we take time to listen, to recognize the sacred within stillness?
Listening to the Sacred Within Stillness
I was not born with a contemplative spirituality. The truths I learned about spiritual life while I was growing up were all about the importance of words. Words were where the meaning was, meanings which could be looked up in the dictionary.
Spiritual life was about the pleasure of words. Words were how we communicated. Using the right words well, understanding their meanings, knowing lots of words, were all important.
Some words took more work to understand than others. Many words were confusing. They sounded like they meant something else. Some words were important enough to learn by heart, to memorize.
Words were how we explained ourselves and argued for ourselves. Some words were even poetic.
Gradually, over the years, I began to glimpse the limitations of words. Some people can twist words to mean what they want them to mean. Other people can be easily confused by words.
Some things are too significant, too meaningful, too large to be put into words.
There were times when I came to end of what words could do. I began to appreciate the significance of stillness. There were times when I could recognize the sacred within stillness.
I was more comfortable, and had more experience, with words than with stillness. It was a challenge for me to begin practicing contemplative listening.
The time I spent listening to sacred stillness did not immediately reward me. At first, the time I spent listening was primarily a struggle to shut out distractions.
As I practiced I began to recognize the sacred within stillness.
It dawned on me the stillness between the words and distractions had a sacred meaning of its own.
The stillness was at least as full of sacred space as the words.
Being Open to the Sacred Within Stillness
It is unlikely we will recognize the sacred within stillness unless we are open to its possibilities. I am not saying we must renounce our doubts and questions, which can be valuable tools in our exploration.
Being open is not the same as having all our questions answered and all our doubts resolved. The listening of our practice is not the listening of cross-examination or arguing. Our contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness is about meeting and getting to know someone new. Each time we meet is filled with the possibility of deeper understanding.
We listen because we are open to the possibilities of a relationship. It is not about testing or probing, trying to determine what we think or convince ourselves.
If we are not open there is no reason for us to practice listening to sacred stillness.
Our questions and doubts show us we do not have all the answers. We can choose to be open to the possibilities of sacred stillness or we can decide to ignore them. Our curiosity and willingness to listen can take us to new places.
Listening can take us into the sacred within stillness.
Living Into the Sacred Within Stillness
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness draws us into a deeper appreciation for the sacred. As we spend time intentionally being open to the sacred within stillness we will discover our own thirst for it.
Like good coffee or clean water our practice of listening reminds us how much we appreciate it. It does not brainwash us or convince us, but it is a flavor we have been missing.
Our taste for the sacred within stillness grows over time. Listening to sacred stillness works within us and we become more open to the possibilities we find.
We find wisdom in stillness which can surprise us. Recognizing the sacred within stillness unfolds in us over time. It is not about receiving some new message each time we listen. Our practice slowly reveals what is sacred to us in new ways as we continue it.
Even when we were not born into contemplative spirituality we come to recognize the sacred within stillness.
What will the sacred within stillness show us next?
When will we be open to listening to the sacred within stillness today?
Where will the sacred within stillness draw us to go this week?
[Image by Acidland2011]
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.