Stillness Full of Frozen Words
I was born and raised in a place where January was invariably a frozen time.
The air was so cold our breath would condense and freeze as we exhaled. It was difficult to breathe in because of the air temperature.
Now I live in a place where people do not believe the stories I tell of the frozen words in January when I was a child.
I remember the last time I visited the place where I grew up, one year during January. It was 80 degrees when we left LAX in Los Angeles and 20 degrees below zero when we landed in Wisconsin. The wind chill made it feel like 40 degrees below zero.
Water does not freeze where I live now. There are lakes and ponds, fountains and rivers, and the ocean. They do not freeze, even in January.
It is going to be warm here this week, as warm as it was that January when we flew to Wisconsin.
The air is full of words and other sounds here. They are not frozen in stillness, but buzz around us flying in every direction. Some people believe there is no escape from words where I live.
Some of us who live here are searching for places of stillness and quiet. We seek relief from the noise and busyness of our everyday lives. Many of us feel our days distract us from the meaning and purpose we wish we could find.
When we develop a contemplative practice we intentionally try to find a place of frozen words.
We do not want to be cold or uncomfortable, or to struggle for survival. It is the words and the noise we would like to be frozen.
Where can we find stillness full of frozen words?
When Frozen Words Melt Away
Contemplative spirituality and practices are all about being open. We take time to be open to the stillness in the world around us and the stillness within us.
Our practices help us learn how to pay attention to each present moment. We give our consent to the ways spiritual life is alive and active in our lives.
Spiritual life is beyond our ability to control it. Contemplative practices help us realize and remember we live in a world where spiritual life is powerful.
No matter how powerful words can be, stillness can be more powerful.
Part of our difficulty with words is we believe we know what they mean. When we grow familiar with a word the meaning we believe it conveys becomes frozen for us. We are convinced we know what those words mean.
Many of us stop listening to what words, and the people who speak them, say. We stop exploring and discovering and concentrate on defending what we think they mean.
Our lives become about explaining and arguing more than exploring or discovering something new.
Frozen words lose their ability to surprise or inspire us. We begin to repeat the same frozen words over and over. Soon we are not listening.
Our contemplative practices help us escape these frozen words and find places of stillness. We begin to recognize our lives are about more than arguing, more than debating.
Some of us begin to learn how to listen.
The frozen words which have been piling up all around us, and within us, start to melt away.
Our lives are about more than hoarding and defending frozen words. We are free to listen to sacred stillness.
Listening to stillness allows us to appreciate its sacred significance.
Sacred Stillness of Frozen Words
Snow and ice typically do not melt during the winter where I was raised. Streets and highways are cleared by pushing snow and ice which accumulate off to the side of the road.
As each winter continues the snow on a country road grows taller than the cars which drive on that road. It can make coming to an intersection a challenging situation.
Many of us have used a similar method to push the frozen words in our lives out of our way.
Over time the frozen words we have pushed to the side of the road block our perspective. We need some sacred stillness to help melt the accumulated piles of frozen words.
Fortunately we do not need special equipment to clear our path. It is not a matter of plowing or blowing our snow out of the way.
We sit still, closing our eyes and breathing deeply, and open ourselves to the life and action of spiritual life. Listening to sacred stillness allows us to get out of our own way.
Spiritual life clears away the frozen words which block our path. Sacred stillness helps us listen in new ways. Frozen words melt away.
Freedom From Frozen Words
I believe spiritual life is at work in us freeing us from frozen words.
Our contemplative practices help us learn to listen to sacred stillness. We listen in stillness and allow spiritual life to continue its work in us and in the world around us.
The words we are convinced we understand become obstacles in our path. Practicing stillness shows us how to stay out of our own way.
Listening to sacred stillness helps us avoid the accumulation of frozen words and ideas. It is noise which distracts us from spiritual life.
Practicing stillness helps us recognize the peace and quiet which already exist. We breathe in the stillness in the world around us and breathe out the stillness which is within us. Iti s the same sacred stillness.
As we release our tight grasp on what we think we already know we begin to see in new ways.
We listen and the frozen words which block our path begin to melt into new understanding.
When will we take the opportunity to listen to sacred stillness and be freed from frozen words today?
How will the frozen words in our path start to be melted for us this week?
[Image by Idibal]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is 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.