Time Alone With Stillness
It is a challenge for us to find opportunities to spend time alone with stillness.
Most of us live our lives filled with intrusions. We get phone calls and emails from machines trying to sell us something. There seems to be a constant background noise of music and television and people talking. Even when we sit in a room by ourselves there is almost always a book or a computer demanding our attention.
We are preoccupied with work and other people and everything we expect ourselves to be accomplishing. Many of us feel spending time alone with stillness is wasting it. There are other things we could be doing.
For a long time, my relationship to work was unhealthy. There was nothing quite like the feeling of working really well on something I believed was important, accomplishing a goal. It was like a drug or anything else which can be addictive.
Work was how I controlled my life. By working harder, longer, even smarter than anyone else, I was turning life into what I wanted it to be.
For years I worked as hard as I could. When I took time off, I got sick. It was like going through withdrawal.
It eventually dawned on me all my work was not transforming my life into what I wanted it to become. A friend of mine suggested I learn how to spend time doing nothing, and I began to practice not doing anything.
I started learning how to spend time alone with stillness.
It takes discipline to listen to sacred stillness. We need to separate ourselves from the distractions and noises which have become familiar. Some of us are afraid of what is waiting for us in the stillness.
Each of us faces our own challenges in listening to sacred stillness.
Spending Time Alone With Stillness
Some of us find the idea of listening to sacred stillness intimidating.
We do not know what we will hear when we spend time alone with stillness. Some of us are nervous about whether stillness can be sacred. We may not enjoy being alone.
Taking time to listen to sacred stillness can feel like we are being lazy, squandering our time and energy.
I began listening to sacred stillness as a way to practice not being distracted. Listening to stillness was how I learned, for a certain period of time twice each day, to spend time being open to spiritual life.
There is nothing we can do to earn or deserve more spiritual life. Being open and listening is how we pay attention to spiritual life within us and all around us.
We have become accustomed to being interrupted by life’s intrusions and expectations. All the things which distract us stop us from paying attention to spiritual life in the stillness.
Spending time alone with stillness is how we practice listening.
Our own minds try to distract us. People tell me how difficult it is to sit and listen to stillness. It seems as though our minds wait for us to start trying to practice listening, and then remind us of other things to do. In fact, we have trained our minds to solve problems, and they feel anxious if we do not give them problems to solve.
Our minds read our practice of listening and being open as a problem, which they try to solve by giving us things to consider.
One of the challenges of spending time alone with stillness is retraining our minds to listen, to stop solving problems.
We sit still and sacred stillness helps our minds learn to listen.
Time Alone With Stillness is Not Wasted
The time we spend listening to sacred stillness is not wasted. It may look like nothing is happening because the stillness is beyond our control.
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness begins when we realize our efforts to transform our lives are not working. We recognize spiritual life is not about working hard or earning a reward.
As we begin a practice of doing nothing, we realize we have been getting in our own way. All our efforts have nothing to do with spiritual life and sacred stillness. Stillness is speaking to us, spiritual life is alive in us, whether we acknowledge it or not.
We begin to learn how to spend time doing nothing, to practice not doing anything. When we practice quieting our minds we help ourselves learn how to listen to stillness.
The more we get out of our own way, the more we learn to listen to sacred stillness, the more we relax and let go.
Our practice of spending time alone with stillness shows us who we are and who we can become.
We take time to listen to sacred stillness and hear what it tells us.
When We Spend Time Alone With Stillness
Our practice of listening to sacred stillness does more than train our minds to find rest. It is about more than taking a mental nap.
We practice doing nothing because we recognize our lives are more than the sum of our attempts to control ourselves. When we spend time alone with stillness we begin to appreciate the power of spiritual life.
Spiritual life does not exist to make my life easier or help me be more comfortable. Listening to sacred stillness transforms the ways we understand spiritual life. We are not praying to ask for special favors or privileges. Prayer becomes something more powerful, something more significant, something more intimate.
We spend time alone with stillness and sacred stillness fills us. As we listen we realize there is more to life than what we understand.
Some of us begin to appreciate spiritual life is not about doing things for God, but about being united with God.
Spending time alone with stillness opens us in new ways. We become more open to being alive.
When will we take time to be alone with stillness today?
How will we spend time alone with stillness this week?
[Image by Andrei!]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and 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.