Stillness When Times Are Turbulent
We live in turbulent times. We wake up each morning to wonder whether we will be pulled under and washed down the drain. Many of us are filled with fear, foreboding, and the feeling we are struggling against the tide.
Some of us struggle to establish and follow practices which feed our souls. How can we open ourselves to spiritual life within us and in the world around us when we feel lost?
We have heard about the value of listening to sacred stillness, of taking time to pay attention. Is it possible to find time to listen to sacred stillness when times are turbulent? How do we listen when we are fighting to see our heads above water?
Many of us would like to find time to listen, but feel overwhelmed by the waves of new challenges we face each day.
The noise and anxieties of our turbulent lives get in our way and distract us from paying attention.
We focus our attention on dealing with the past or anticipating the challenges of the future. Who has time to listen in this present moment?
When are we supposed to contemplatively listen to sacred stillness when times are turbulent? It may have been possible a long time ago, or for monks in a monastery. How do we, with our lives tossed around by so many concerns, learn how to listen and pay attention?
And our apparent inability to practice listening only makes it worse for us. Why should we even try now, when we have not been able to listen before?
It is almost as if we have spent our lives practicing not listening, not paying attention. Listening to stillness seems to become even harder for us as we continue to practice not listening.
Finding Stillness When Times Are Turbulent
In my experience, it is rare for sitting still and listening to sacred stillness to fit easily into our schedules.
Our brains are effective machines for solving problems. Some of us may approach them more analytically and others more intuitively, but all of us solve problems. For me, it is almost as if my brain needs a problem to feel alive.
We have created a culture which gives our brains constant problems to consider and solve.
The underlying challenge of listening to sacred stillness when times are turbulent is getting our brains to pause.
When I decide to practice listening to sacred stillness I seem to remember all the problems I need to solve. It is almost as if my brain reads stillness as a problem, the need to for a new problem to solve. The more I try to listen well the harder my brain works too generate new ideas to consider. I remember whose calls and emails I meant to return. Some my best work ideas pop into my mind. My mind relays conversations I have had so I flern what to regret or remember or celebrate.
Listening to sacred stillness is a practice because it does not come to us automatically or naturally. We practice because we need to learn how to overcome the tendencies of society and our own minds.
We practice listening to stillness so we learn how to persist without fighting. Each day we sit still, take deep breaths, and practice listening to sacred stillness when times are turbulent. We do not wait for the perfect opportunity, because it does not arrive.
Each moment is filled with sacred stillness to which we can listen. Spiritual life is within us and all around us. We practice and we learn to pay attention.
Deeper Stillness When Times Are Turbulent
Some of us do not feel satisfied with our experiences of sacred stillness. We may find it frustrating when we cannot repeat the realizations or epiphanies we may have experienced before. Some of us begin to feel our listening practices become routine or boring.
We approach our practice of listening to stillness when times are turbulent with a desire to feel comforted. Some of us begin to feel stuck as we repeat our regular practice day after day.
Many of us expect a practice of listening to sacred stillness to be a form of magic. Our expectation is to receive instantaneous results. If we are spending twenty minutes listening twice each day, we believe we should probably experience some changes after a few days.
It is easy for us to forget how the turbulence of our times, and our own minds, has shaped us.
When we practice for a performance or for a competition, we are learning how to overcome obstacles. The time we spend practicing helps us become aware of the nuanced layers of the part we will play.
A practice of listening to stillness helps us recognize how deeply the stillness runs through the turbulence.
Listening to Stillness When Times Are Turbulent
It is not because listening to sacred stillness will solve all of our problems. Listening well is a skill we must develop over time. We will not sit down and settle into an experience which will immediately change our lives.
Listening to stillness when times are turbulent is a step we take to explore where it takes us.
A practice of listening is one way we can build openness into our schedules. It may seem irresponsible at first, as if we are taking time we do not have. I prefer to see my practice as seeking a necessary balance.
We spend so much time thinking, analyzing, and solving problems for ourselves and for other people. It is easy for us to begin to assume life is one big set of problems.
We forget to depend on spiritual life in the world around us and within us.
My practice of listening reminds me to stay open to what spiritual life is doing.
What will listening to stillness when times are turbulent remind us about today?
How can we remember to listen to sacred stillness when times are turbulent this week?
[Image by tolomea]
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.